If you find yourself in a relationship that begins to feel, or has always felt, too intense, too draining, too yucky, it maybe time to cut the cord. “‘Toxic friend’ is pop psychology,” says Jenn Berman, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. “I would say it’s someone who, after spending time with them, makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good; someone who tends to be critical of you—sometimes in a subtle way and sometimes not so subtle; a friend who drains you emotionally, financially, or mentally, and they’re not very good for you.” They are psychic vampires. Toxic friendships wreak havoc on one’s personal sense of well being and peace. A toxic person can be described in many ways: that “friend” who is always negative, always critical, the one who after you have spent any amount of time with leaves you feeling drained. She thrives on drama. She talks about others, how stupid they are, and she giddily expresses happiness at other’s misfortune. She talks at great length about how much money she and her spouse make … every single time you talk. You have problems—which she claims to want to hear about—but it always magically ends up being about her problems. She accuses you of not caring when she is the one behaving in an uncaring manner. In other words, she projects her flaws on to you. She tries to manipulate you.
Toxic people always have a complaint about something, with the world; they carry a grudge about everything. Toxic friends can constantly disappoint you or break promises. This is usually the result of childhood wounding. We usually put up with this crap for the same reason. Enough. It is time to emancipate ourselves from the need to fix or rescue people. This can be incredibly difficult for those of us who were brought up in unstable homes with parents we had to parent rather than us being parented. The real question is—why do we put up with this nonsense, especially as women?
Why do we allow people to exist in our lives when they do nothing but bring us down? We feel we have to, we do not want to make others angry, and we do not want to be judged. If we no longer “play the game,” the toxic friend will seek out others to prop themselves upon. Love yourself and put your needs first. This friend will find another target in order to prop up her own fragile ego.
Friends should lift us up, leaving us feeling happy and at peace after interacting with them. Their care feels evident and sincere. A primary element in a healthy, positive friendship is that both friends can feel that they can be themselves; they don’t have to put on masks or impress one another. One key in healthy relationships is reciprocity. Reciprocity is about balance. Are you always the giver and never given to? We need to exchange the right amount of affection, attention, and care for relationship harmony to prevail. Does your friend reciprocate in your friendship? I have a wonderful friend, Mariclaire, who never fails to complement me on things, whether it be my mothering, my creativity, my marriage, or my ass in a new pair of Seven jeans. I have never sensed one iota of competition with her. I reciprocate with her as well. Even on the ass compliments! She has a great one! All joking aside, Mariclaire, or MC as I call her, is also a fantastic mother, wife, and friend.
Many women have an excruciating time extricating ourselves from these relationships. These include: women who like to feel needed, people who feel like they do not deserve a healthier, saner, more balanced relationship, women who are stuck—either feeling angry, guilty, or sorry for their distressing “friend.” Detoxing is the way to clean ourselves out. Think of it as relationship Feng Shui—the idea is to purge the clutter. We do not have to fix or rescue or tolerate the shenanigans of these desperate people. Have compassion, but also for yourself, and with some people, have all compassion you want, from afar. Do not become enmeshed. Declare your independence.Take a Toxicity Inventory about your friend. Is her life full of chaos and negativity and even at times downright maliciousness toward others? Suggest professional help. A toxic friend might need a professional. If she comes from an abusive background, she definitely does. Her toxicity will affect her career, emotions, and family, though she’ll most likely never admit it. How can you approach this touchy subject? Point out to your friend how she is treating you and ask her to stop, and if she continues, take it to the next level. Say to her, “I know you are a good person, but maybe you want to seek help.” If you have tried this to no avail, throw in the towel.
If we have a friend who is always in need, always in crisis, always attempting to one up us, who is toxic, it is time to detox. You can say, simply, “I have changed and wish to end this friendship as it has become painful and draining to me.” By standing up to pseudo-friends, in reality you are losing nothing and gaining self-esteem, self respect. Once we get past the illusion of this friendship, we can see that we are losing, yes. What we are losing a whole lot of pain. Decide to surround yourself with positive feminine energy; you will be much happier for it.
My mantra for this issue is this: Alice Walker says: