Toxic Relationships – Learning to Let Go

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All of us have those friends who just never seem to have the time for us. They either cancel or show up late, wait weeks to return messages explaining how busy they are, or when talking face to face act like they miss you so much and always say, “We need to get together soon!”, but never reach out.

I used to put so much effort into my friends. When someone cancelled I wouldn’t think twice about rearranging my plans. When someone hurt me, I was (usually) forgiving. If I was in an unhealthy relationship, I was great at making excuses for the other person. Give, give, give.

Now I have a keener eye. I can spot the people in my life that are just here to waste my time, those people who take and take with no intention of ever giving back. Those are now the ones I weed out.

I’m not saying that forgiveness is a fault or that you should completely dismiss someone who has to cancel plans. We all know when someone really has a scheduling conflict and when they’re just making excuses.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Those so-called friends in our lives that only want to do things their way, have no regard for our time, or are flat out abusive, need to be removed. Maybe they’re really nice people but they need to become someone that we just see around town. Or if the relationship is actually abusive, you may need to have a face-to-face conversation and explain why you need to end the friendship.

When I say abuse relationship, I’m not talking about physical harm. I’m talking about mental or emotional abuse from a friend. Here are a few signs that a friendship is abusive:

  • When your friend is angry, they don’t talk to you in person. Instead you get horrible, ranting emails or texts, usually blaming you for everything and making excuses for themselves.
  • They don’t have any respect for your time. They will either cancel last minute or show up late.
  • You can’t trust them. Everything you tell them in confidence always leaks.
  • They’re really good at turning their problems into yours.
  • They like making you feel crazy so they can feel better about themselves.
  • They lie.
  • They’re passively aggressive, making underhanded comments that are degrading or rude while smiling sweetly.
  • You constantly have to defend your friend in public. “Oh, she didn’t mean it that way.”

Don’t let negative people take up any more time of your day. Of your life. There is no extra space in your brain or your heart for these people.

“Saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out.” – Dr. Thema Davis

I think getting married was the beginning of my toxic cleansing. Becoming a Mother was what took it to the next level.

When my husband and I were first married, I started noticing how dysfunctional some of our friend’s relationships were. All they would do is fight, or they would try to create a fight between us so they felt better about themselves. Some would talk about each other with pure hatred. Others seemed so unhappy. We would leave dinner dates feeling depressed. Those couples are now casual acquaintances. We see them around (if they’re even still together), but we don’t make an effort to spend time alone with them.

Once I had my daughter, my time became even more precious. I realized I had friends who only brought drama, friends who asked for advice but never took it, friends who only talked about themselves, friends who never had anything positive to say, and friends who made plans and always broke them. When certain friends called, I knew when I got off the phone I would feel stressed and anxious. I had absolutely no tolerance anymore. My extra time needed to be spent with my family, not consumed by negative people.

Obviously, even the best of friends will have to cancel a date at some point or will need to talk about themselves because they are struggling with a real issue. You do not give up on them. You do not leave them. A true friend is hard to find, and you’ll know it when you find them.

But you need to recognize those relationships that are toxic and slowly back away. Avoid those people, don’t accept invitations out, and stop responding to every message. If they don’t get the hint, meet in a public place to discuss why you’re backing off. Be confident and don’t let them make you feel bad for the things they’ve done to you. Keep in mind, this type of friend is likely to get very defensive and probably post horrible things on Facebook and spread gossip throughout your circle of friends. It doesn’t matter. Let them do what they must, it just reflects poorly on them and reinforces your decision to walk away. Your true friends will know a liar when they see one. When you don’t have to deal with their problems, their stress, their drama… your life will become so much more peaceful.

I now surround myself with people who have a positive impact on my life. People I can learn from. People who help me grow and inspire me to be a better person. People who make me laugh.

As a couple, my husband and I choose to spend our time with other couples that have a healthy relationship. Our friends love each other, they adore their children, they are affectionate to one another, and they actually like hanging out together!

Realize that your children are learning from you every day. They way you interact with others has a profound affect on how they will interact with their peers. They will see the way your friends treat you and they way you react. They will mimic what they see. Show them from the beginning what healthy relationships look like.

Sure, my contact list may be smaller than it was 10 years ago, but I’m happier than ever.

*Photo disclaimer – the pretty girl with long hair is wearing a fake nose (in case you were wondering).

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