With the new year upon us and 2016 (thankfully) in the rearview mirror, you’ve probably taken a minute to come up with a few new year’s resolutions for 2017. Announced in the name of becoming a healthier you, perhaps you’ll try to get to the gym more often, cut back on your carb intake, or stop spending so much money on takeout. These resolutions are good–great really–but they miss one of the biggest sources of stress, anger and tension in your life. If you really want to improve your mental and physical health this year, skip those weird detoxing foot pads and purge the toxic relationships from your life.
Like the tattered and torn blanket from your childhood now covered in grime and dirt or your first beater car that’s had so many parts replaced it’s basically a new car, old friendships can be hard to let go.
Our first friends aren’t always our best friends, nor are our best friends our healthiest friends.
Identify a Toxic Friendship
Taking positive strides forward first involves identifying what you want to change–in this case, what relationships can be saved, which ones you can lean most heavily on when you’re in need, and which ones you need to end now.
First things first–just because the people in your life are some of your oldest friends or people around whom you feel the most comfortable, it doesn’t mean those people aren’t harming your mental health or negatively contributing to your life. Toxic friendships can be debilitating, exhausting and terrible for your overall health.
Sit down for a moment and think about your friends–are they the type of people who are wont to blow off plans they have with you regularly? Do you wait at a table at restaurant or bar for an hour before you realize they’ve made other plans and flaked without so much as a phone call? Are they the type of friend who pours their problems onto you, but never wants to help with yours? Do they exhibit bad decision making (drinking and driving, belittling others behind their backs, etc) and encourage you to do the same? Are they generally lacking empathy and quick to turn their back on you?
If you answered “yes” to any, all or most of the questions in that laundry-list of symptoms, congratulations, you’ve got a toxic friendship on your hands! Now let’s address what to do next.
Repair Before You Replace
You know how people constantly taunt younger generations for throwing something away rather than trying to fix it? In this case, it’s important to lend this saying some credence–before you cut off ties with a toxic friend, try to save the relationship.
Talk it out with the friend and get their side of the situation. There’s a reason you became friends with this person in the first place, if they’ve become a different person in the last few years (or months, or days), there may be a reason. Talk it out and let them tell you what they might be going through before you pass too strong of a judgement on them.
If the relationship is fixable, they’ll want to change. They’ll want to recognize how they’re affecting others and take positive steps to repair the friendship. Often, sitting people down to tell them how they’re hurting others can serve as a wakeup call–a signal that they have to get their act together before they’re broke, friendless and alone. Because those are three negative adjectives, the person will more than likely try to make some positive changes.
If they don’t–if they blow you off and tell you that you’re the problem, not them–you might want to move onto the next subhead.
Cutting off a friend and ending a friendship isn’t easy, nor is it something anyone enjoys doing, but sometimes it’s for the best. If you’ve already spoken to them and nothing has come of it, the most efficient and painless way of severing the friendship is by simply cutting them off. Stop responding to requests to spend time together (if they’re making them at all) and let the friendship peter out.
If it comes to it, tell them point blank why you’re doing it–do not lie or try to play it off as if you’ve just been busy. It’s important for both you and the friend to realize why it’s happening. Is it easier and less confrontational to simply cut ties without an explanation, of course, but it’s important to prioritize honesty should they bring it up to you directly.
Once you’ve make the effort to cut toxic people out of your life and focus your energy elsewhere, you’ll immediately begin to reap the rewards. You’ll find yourself feeling less stressed and less anxious about your friends and able to enjoy yourself freely. Just remember, if one of your friends approaches you about being a toxic friend, be a bit more introspective and see if you can work things out. Just as you would want them to do in your place.