Our friends and important people/relationships come into our lives for many reasons and at many stages in our lives. Sometimes we may have been in strollers beside one another, taken family vacations together, met in college, or met in our adult life. Friends come in various forms – acquaintances, casual relationships, close friends and intimate friends. I hold my trusted relationships near and dear to my heart, and take all friendships seriously. I am a firm believer that everyone comes into your life for a reason and that we have something we can learn from every relationship and interaction.
However, not every friend that you will make in your life is meant to stay – this is a harsh, true and sad reality. Sometimes our friends in our lives are cannot stay, and it hurts.
Sometimes enforcing your boundaries means telling the person to stop, and not letting them continue behavior that is not healthy for you. But sometimes enforcing boundaries means that you need to simply walk away from the relationship entirely.
People talk a lot about breaking up with our girlfriends or boyfriends, our husbands and wives… but frequently we don’t realize we can break up with our friends too. And, unfortunately, sometimes it’s necessary, and can be incredibly difficult.
Ending a relationship is hard, but in many ways, ending a friendship can be harder. You may feel as though this means you’ve “failed” somehow, and you may have a hard time of letting go of a relationship that’s lasted for months or even years. You may also worry that this is going to mean that you’re going to have to give up your entire social circle or end up having no friends at all. These are all valid and reasonable fears. Letting go of a long-term relationship, platonic or otherwise, is scary, but sometimes necessary. I have had to make these decisions, and can say it has been the best decision I have made for myself. Your self-esteem, your mental and emotional health is far more valuable than putting up with someone who tries to undermine you, or just isn’t healthy for you.
I’ve learned many lessons with friends (or when ending friendships) in my life and a few are listed below:
Lesson #1: Don’t let your loyalty become slavery – Never compromise your self-respect
I am far from perfect, but I do take pride in being honest and loyal to my friends. I’m the friend that is often mistaken as a family member who will pick you up from the bar at 2am and give you anything to help you feel better if you’re sick. My love for you is unconditional, and I will always be there for you when you need it. In relationships, sometimes there are “givers” and “takers.” What works the best is when you are both givers, and give equally. However, when someone fails to reciprocate the type of friendship you’ve given to them, it may be time to call it quits. Don’t let your loyalty become slavery. Don’t allow your commitment to being a good friend shackle and harm your spirit. Never compromise on self-respect, and know when enough is enough. If you are friends with a “taker” (meaning a person who never gives back), it can get exhausting, and you don’t have to continue to “give” if that is the case. If your friend always expects from you, but never gives or fulfills anything for you, it might not be the best relationship.
Lesson #2: Characterize people by their actions, not their words
By far one my biggest pet peeves is saying one thing and doing another. This can come in many forms. This can be in the form of making plans and breaking them, or saying you are one type of person but acting a different way. Learn to characterize people by their actions, not their words.
If you have that one friend who is constantly promising and never delivering, it’s time to accept that this pattern doesn’t change, but continues… unless you do something about it. Talking to them about it, or bringing it to their attention could be helpful, and if they are a true friend they will hear it.
If you have a friend who might have a different value system than you, there could be a clash of beliefs and ways of life. If your friend makes you feel bad about yourself or is always negative – it’s okay to distance yourself from them if it’s not a healthy place to be. Your friend’s actions will tell you who they are and how true they are to you. Their actions will also tell you if your value systems line up together, or if there is a disconnect.
Lesson #3: You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue with their actions
This one is more difficult to accept. Not everyone is able to apologize and admit when they’re wrong. You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue with their actions. A sincere person can wear the shoes of others, admit when they’re wrong, and will go out of their way to make things right again. Someone who refuses to do this out of pride (or anything else) is not someone you can learn and grow from. Being able to admit when you’re wrong, even in the toughest of circumstances, makes you a good person. If you are faced with (and upset by) people who can’t apologize for their actions, or don’t see issues in what they do, it’s probably not going to change until they make that change within their self. You will not change them, and holding on and getting hurt will do nothing but put you through more pain.
Lesson #4: You are allowed to terminate toxic relationships
Walking away from a friendship that no longer benefits you in a healthy way isn’t wrong; it means you’re a stronger person for doing so. Being able to accept that this person is not inherently bad, just not healthy for you and your life, is what makes you noble. You are allowed to terminate toxic relationships. You have to respect yourself enough to leave behind people and situations that no longer serve you in a positive way. As much as you care about the friendship, you can’t destroy yourself for the sake of someone else, especially when you know they wouldn’t do the same for you. I have learned that not everyone feels the same way about people and relationships that I do, and that is okay. I would rather have 2-3 close relationships than many toxic ones that I’m holding onto.
When I spend my time during the day, I want my time to be positive and I want it to be appreciated. If I give my time to others, I want to know that it would be reciprocated if I ever needed something back. I have been in situations where I realized that the “giving back” is not going to be reciprocated, and it’s not something fun to realize in a moment of need. But, this is how we learn in life.
Since I’ve recovered, I’ve learned the importance of finding health and maintaining a healthy balance everywhere in my life. One of those things to balance is relationships with others. So, whether it is a best friend, coworker, casual friend or acquaintance who is doing the “taking” and not necessarily “giving” back, it’s okay to reevaluate relationship boundaries and begin to place healthy ones for yourself.
So, if you choose to end or distance a friendship, know that you are making a choice for what is healthy for you and the relationships you want in life. Your friend may think you are selfish and unforgiving, but that is for them to feel/deal with, and you don’t owe you any explanation for finally taking care of yourself the way you deserve.