11 Tips For Letting Go Of A Toxic Friendship, Even If It Seems Impossible
Occasionally there comes a moment in life when you realize that so called "friend" of yours really isn't so great. It seems he or she lives to tear you down, or make life difficult. And in that moment, you decide it's time to end the toxic friendship, once and for all.
Because, as with any relationship, a healthy friendship should only add to your life in positive ways. Of course there will be rough patches, where you decide to hate each other for a second before making up over mixed drinks at your favorite bar. But if such feuds go on for too long, or become too frequent, it should really cause you to stop and think.
So how do you know if your friend is truly toxic, and not just kind of annoying? According to Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC, toxic people are often competitive, negative, and may resist and even sabotage your growth and change. "These people may have a number of motives. Some of them think that you will no longer want them in your life if you are to grow and get healthier as a person," Martinez says to Bustle over email. In short, they are selfish, mean, and don't have your best interests at heart.
I get that moving on is way easier said than done. After all, this is your friend we're talking about. You guys probably lived together, or grew up together, and you definitely shared some milestones together. So how on earth are you supposed to cut them off, and never talk again? Well, it is definitely difficult, but it is possible. Here are some things to keep in mind when letting go of a toxic friend.
1. Realize It's OK To Go Your Separate Ways
When it comes to friends, it's perfectly normal to feel like the relationship will and should go on forever. But just like you can move on from a partner, you can also move on from a friend. As Louise Jensen said on MindBodyGreen.com, "The friendship may have come to its natural end and that’s OK. If you're going to grow, you're going to lose people along the way."
2. Focus On Your Healthy Relationships
When deciding to end a toxic friendship, do your best to focus on the other people in your life. As Martinez says, "It is often helpful to focus on the healthy relationship we want to have, and ones that help us grow as a person." Such people are worth hanging on to, so go spend your time with them.
3. Don't Stew In Your Bitterness
It can be tough to come to terms with a bad friend. After all, this person was supposed to be there for you, and they failed. It can stir up some pretty heavy bitterness, but it's necessary to let this feeling go. As Jensen said, "... holding onto bitterness is damaging. Forgive her for not being the friend you want, free yourself of any guilt, and move on."
4. Don't Wait For An Apology
If a friend was treating you bad enough to dump them from your life, then don't wait around for them to miraculously apologize. According to Martinez, don't hope for an admission that the other person was wrong, or treated you bad. "That would be magnificent, almost ideal, but when that apology and insight never comes, [you'll] end up feeling more hurt than ever," she says. So move on, and try to let it go.
5. Gather The Help Of Other Friends
Don't try to go through this "break up" alone. Reach out to family or friends — anyone who can help remind you why you're ending the friendship. Lifestyle guru Kris Carr was talking about toxic partners when she wrote on her blog KrisCarr.com, but her advice applies here, too. "Seek guidance from a coach, therapist or a really grounded friend — the kind that loves you unconditionally and isn’t afraid to (metaphorically) slap you back to reality," Carr said. Sound advice indeed.
6. Let Yourself Move On
Just like you shouldn't go back to a bad SO time and time again, don't torture yourself by doing this with friends, either. Simply end contact, and give yourself a chance to move on. As Martinez says, "... the best thing we can do for ourselves is to move on and genuinely know in our hearts that we deserve better. While this is more easily said than done, it is essential for healing to begin."
7. Allow Yourself To Be Sad
It's totally fine to feel sad about leaving a friendship. Feel those emotions, and take time to reflect on what you learned from the time you spent with him or her. Realizing what made you feel so bad will help you not put up with such toxicity in the future.
8. Have Less And Less Contact
Sometimes the easiest, and least dramatic, way to end a friendship is to slowly lessen your contact. As friendship expert Cherie Burbach said on Friendship.About.com, "If you see your friend occasionally, you can always avoid contact as much as possible, with just a response here and there if they contact you. You can continue saying you're busy until they take the hint and leave."
9. Keep Your Last Convo Brief
For a more definitive end, you could also sit your friend down and address them head on. As Martinez says, "... keep things as brief and clean as possible. You do not owe them some long and drawn out explanation. Simply let them know they will not be in your life and why. Do not argue, do not engage, state your point and move forward. "
10. Consider Writing Them A Letter
If the previous tip sounds scary, then consider putting your thoughts down in letter form. Sometimes jotting down your feelings is the best route, as it gives you time to think, according to Martinez. It also gives you a chance to edit out some of the well, meaner, things you might feel inclined to say. Those things are best left out.
11. Reflect On What You Learned
Again, reflection is going to be a super important part of this process. As Burbach said, "Every friendship, even the negative ones, should teach us something that helps us be better people going forward." Keep in mind what you don't like, so that it doesn't happen again.
And remember, it is OK to end the friendship. It may be difficult, but you'll feel so much better in the end.
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