Hello, Dear Friends.
How have you been since we last spoke? As I write this, it is the one- year anniversary of what will arguably be remembered as the worst election of all time, but to me there seems to be a sense of emptiness instead of sadness, or at least strained hopefulness. Maybe the tides are turning, but they’re turning at a glacial rate, and I am an impatient girl.
Thanksgiving is once again upon as, and I feel it’s necessary to link back to my 2016 column, in which I spoke about how to handle the holidays and protect yourself from exhausting, often abusive behavior. I feel this advice still stands. And I am happy to report that this year I will be getting the pizza-in-bed Thanksgiving I’ve always dreamed of; we can’t afford to fly to Texas because, well, I got married! So, silver linings.
Anyway, let’s begin
Q: I have a friend that I have been close to for over twenty years. But lately, I feel as though we should stop being friends. She has always been self- serving, and is the queen gaslighter. I ask her to come to my events and she never does because she “won’t know anyone” or she’ll “be bored”, even though often she will know people, or maybe she could suck it up for a bit to support me! When I try to bring up feelings about how she makes things all about her, she twists it up and makes it seem like it’s all about me, and I get confused and unable to focus and leave the conversation madder than I was in the first place. We talk to each other every day and I feel there’s no way to gradually ghost on this relationship, though every day it makes me sadder and sadder. I am too scared to tell her she’s really taking a toll on my mental health, since she makes me feel like shit all the time. She’s going to make herself the victim and I am going to have to listen to her list every nice thing she’s done for me as proof she’s not horrible. Please help.
A: Ah yes, the toxic friendship. Everyone has to be familiar with the one friend they just can’t seem to let go of, no matter how much it hurts. I’ve had more friends like this than I can even begin to name, and you know, they all sort of became a non-issue when I moved 3000 miles away from them.
Friendship is definitely a two- way street, unless there are mitigating factors that determine on friend is more extroverted than the other. For instance, I have friends that just need to keep to themselves and lay low a lot, and I don’t begrudge them that. Sometimes my emotions are too much for someone else to handle, so I don’t saddle them with all my woes. You have to be able to know what kind of friend you have, and where your boundaries are.
Perhaps telling them point- blank “I don’t think our friendship is healthy for either one of us and this is why” could be the way, but that may make them offended, defensive, and way more gas-lighty than ever. If this is the route you choose to go, I would suggest writing down specific examples of what has hurt you, so that your friend can’t twist it or confuse you. If they can’t have a rational discussion with you, they’re making your life way easier, because then you can just walk away.
If moving 3000 miles away or just yelling “I HATE YOU” isn’t an option, I would suggest slowly limiting the amount of times you talk during the day. For instance, if you’re like me and you’re on some sort of messenger like FB or Gmail, maybe only check it a few times a day, and respond in a curt but polite manner. Sometimes people just drift away from each other and that is normal. Just slowly cease until you never really talk anymore. Surrounding yourself with healthier friendships and plans and business can often just lead to the natural dissolving of your relationship.
Losing a friend, whether they drop you or you drop them, is always hard, and I’m sorry I am not much of a help in this department. I have either blown up and never spoken to the person again, or I’ve stayed in the friendship because it would just feel weird not to. My main point of advice would be, not matter what, to stay calm and kind. The high road can be the hardest but is often the most rewarding.
I publish all questions with a veil of anonymity. I would never want to expose someone, especially if their question is a sensitive one, such as domestic violence, sexuality, and the like. Therefore, I may edit questions down if I feel they are too specific, but please keep in mind that I am considering the whole picture when responding to you.
The advice given is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace the legal, financial, medical, or professional advice of train