How to get rid of toxic friends
Fourteen years after the split, Suzanne Wilson Phillips still has some fond memories of her friend Melissa (name has been changed). “She was really fun and bubbly,” says the mental-health counsellor. “On a Saturday night, she was the life of the party.”
But over the course of their five-year friendship, Suzanne often felt neglected when her pal revelled in the spotlight. “Melissa never had my back,” says the 43-year-old. The tipping point came when Melissa tried to sabotage Suzanne’s new romantic connection. “I decided we couldn’t be friends anymore.”
As Suzanne learned, ending a friendship is a complex process, wrought with pitfalls and pain. Here’s how to get rid of toxic friends in four steps, with expert advice to help you get through.
Step 1: Evaluate the friendship
Start by taking a measured look at the situation. When you’re with this person, do you feel like your best self? Can you honestly describe them in flattering terms? How committed are you to the friendship?
You’ll also want to consider the circumstances, especially if your friend has been depressed or suffered a loss or trauma. We owe our friends a lot, and standing by them during tough times is part of the deal. Dr Andrea Bonior, a psychologist and relationships expert, says the red flag is when “you look back and see a long-standing pattern.”
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Step 2: Understand your reluctance
Why is a split so hard? There are many reasons. Friendships aren’t monogamous, Bonior explains, so it’s easy to enjoy your other buddies even when one particular person is dragging you down. That means less pressure to act.
“When the ball is rolling in a long-term friendship, it’s hard to stop,” says Bonior. “It’s part of the rhythm of our daily lives, and the inertia is powerful.” Because of this, we also tend to let our friends get away with bad behaviour.
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