real life

When you have to break up with a toxic friend.

“Have you ever broken up with a friend? I have and it was terrifying.”

Have you ever broken up with a friend? I have and it was terrifying.

I’d heard about toxic friends before of course. I’d heard how these are the friends you have, possibly for a long time, sometimes just for a short stretch but either way, they emotionally drag you down to the point of exhaustion.

The realisation that you need to distance yourself from someone because they are no longer being a good friend to you is a very hard decision to make.

When they stop being a good friend and become a toxic one, you realise that you simply don’t need the drama. That a good friendship is one that you can pick up where you left off. One that distance doesn’t puncture. One where the actual time spent together is irrelevant. One you can rely on and one where you feel mutually supported.

Yet, it is so very weird to “break up with a friend.” I mean, when you end a romantic relationship, you are saying, in no uncertain terms, that you will no longer be seeing one another. There is a definite line drawn in the sand and a discussion had that leaves both parties fully aware that the current relationship will not be continuing.

But friendships don’t work that way. When you become friends with someone, you don’t sign a contract declaring to be that person’s friend and that person’s friend exclusively. And I guess that’s where the weirdness, or perhaps the awkwardness, comes into the “break up”.

Do you really need to make a definitive statement, have an actual discussion that you no longer wish to be friends with that person? Can you not just quietly back away and lose touch organically?

No. No you can’t.

“There are some friendships that in life, you will have to be clear about ending. That you will have to openly euthanise.”

As much as it’s painful and as much as it hurts, there are some friendships in life that you will have to be clear about ending. That you will have to openly euthanise.

I once had this friend. Let’s call her Jill. We met through a friend of a friend. She pursued me, in hindsight, rather aggressively. Yet, at the time, I was new to the area and was happy to make some new friends.

If I think back, I can recognise that she wore me down from the very beginning. I later found out that she was desperate for a friend as she had alienated herself countless times from almost everyone else in our small community.

Despite being warned to be “careful” I went with it. I’d never had a problem with girlfriends before, why would I now?

She was one of those whirlwind people. Constantly organising outings, always needing to book in our next “date” before I left her. She was manipulative, often causing dramas between the friend who initially introduced us and forever giving me the silent treatment for not being able to meet her as often as she’d like, or not texting back quick enough.

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It was like I could see what was happening from the outside but was almost powerless to stop it. Plus, she was a pro at this. She lied countless times about her relationship, telling me that her partner was abusing her, me pleading with her to leave him. She was found to be embezzling funds at her work, and then she even faked a miscarriage for attention and sympathy when she could feel me becoming distant.

“I am such a sook though, so scared of confrontation that I was physically sick at the thought of ending it.”

Our relationship was intense and built on a flimsy foundation. For the first time in my life, I was absolutely exhausted and broken by a friendship. I woke up one morning and it was like someone flicked on a very bright light, illuminating my weakness at allowing someone to treat me this way.

I knew then and there that I was going to have to “break up” with her.

I am such a sook though, so scared of confrontation that I was physically sick at the thought of ending it. I attempted to simply back away quietly, but when she arrived on my doorstep, I just had to lay it all out.

She begged, she pleaded, she lied and then she told all the truths. Her husband wasn’t hurting her and no, she hadn’t actually been pregnant (although she “thought maybe she was now”).

I understand that it was a cry for help. But I’m sorry, I just couldn’t. I was tired. I was done and I honestly, at that point in my life, I just didn’t need it.

I think that is the difference – maturity. I listen to my 14-year-old whining about her friends, fighting over little things, friends one day, not the next. But at that age, you’re still figuring out whether your friends are actually your friends or just the people you’ve found yourself surrounded by. When we become adults, we get to choose our friends, find our tribe and then, hold on to them best we can.  We should never be just enduring another person.

I’m a bit more wary now when I meet new people. I am, by my very nature, a very social being. I love people and I love making new connections, but I’ve also learnt that when someone isn’t right for me, when they demand too much and give too little in return, then I have no obligation to continue.

And that sometimes, I just need to put my big girl pants on and end it.

Have you ever had to break up with a friend? How did you do it?

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