If your friendship is leaving you drained and depressed, it might be time to let go.
There’s nothing like a catch-up with your best friend to make you feel that all’s well with the world. But when you continually leave your get-together feeling drained and emotionally battered, it might be time to rethink the friendship.
Janice Hanly, Joburg based life coach, says the ‘friends for a reason, a season, a lifetime’ quote is very true. ‘Friendships don’t all last forever,’ she says. ‘People do come and go. If you find that you’re not enjoying friendship,
laughter, and downtime – which is inevitable occasionally in a balanced friendship – then it’s okay to reassess.’
‘As a well-balanced adult you’ll outgrow certain friendships,’ says Janice. ‘People go in different directions. You don’t have to hold on to something just because you’ve known the friend for a very long time. Sometimes you let people
go and they come back with new things, and you can rekindle the friendship when they’re in a better space. And remember that at different times of your life, you’ll have different interests. You might go off in opposite directions, then pick up the bond again years later.’
All take and no give
Just like relationships with your partner and kids, relationships with friends need boundaries too. Friendships should be reciprocal. If you’re in a friendship where you feel there’s no reciprocation, then there’s a problem.
Janice suggests thinking of yourself as a battery. ‘Normally you’re full of positive energy, but if you feel totally drained every time you leave that person – as though everything has been sucked out of you – that’s negative energy. Then it’s time to let go.
‘Listen out for the “I” word. “I” is a trigger. It’s fine when you get into an offloading conversation, where you need to offload on someone, as we do with our friends, but there must be a reciprocal balance. There may be a time when you’re down and need to offload too, but if the conversation revolves around your friend all the time, and there’s
no balance, then the relationship has become toxic.’
Loose lips sink ships
Be aware of what’s confidential within your friendships, and what you can and can’t talk about. If you’re part of a group, be wary of toxic gossip; don’t pull down others within the group. If it happens all the time, even though you’re
not being negative about each other, but about someone else, it’s still a toxic relationship. Be constructive and focus on how to help rather than pulling someone down.
‘Consider office friendships too,’ Janice advises. ‘As soon as there’s gossip, an environment becomes infected. Someone might be feeling quite happy in their work environment and then they start hearing gossip. They suddenly start feeling demotivated and negative. It rubs off! Align yourself with those who feel good about the company and who promote the company positively. Management notices alignments. If you have a gripe, don’t chitchat about it, take it to your line manager rather than keeping it going.’
The friendship audit
Look carefully at the quality of your friendship and what you get from it, how reciprocal it is, and how much positive energy, light, love and laughter there is. If the relationship is not flowing and you’re not getting anything from it,
then it’s time for a friendship audit.
‘Always choose the people you want in your life,’ says Janice. ‘Choose positive energy, not negative. If you’re not getting that, it’s time to relook the friendship, even if you have known the person since you were children.
‘Don’t be angry about ending the friendship as the anger will hold you back. If you’re feeling any anger you must respect the fact that it’s their stuff and not yours. Make a decision and go gently. Don’t go out of your way to see
them, don’t be available. When they call, don’t be there for them as much as usual. When they no longer receive the attention, they’ll move on to someone else.
‘If you prefer to address the issue, be straight with them. Often we feel as though we don’t have the courage to do this. Although many people prefer to avoid confrontation, there is a way to do it. Be assertive, talk about your own
feelings, and avoid accusations. In doing this, you’re being assertive by showing respect and will avoid them becoming defensive.
‘For example, you could say “I feel so drained every time we meet, there’s very little positivity in our relationship. Are you able to seek help because I feel that I’m not qualified to give you help, and I’m feeling a lot of negativity.”
‘Or just let go quietly and gently. It doesn’t mean avoiding all their calls, but it’s about respecting yourself enough to say “I can’t actually talk right now”. Do it gently and slowly, and the friend – if not prepared to look at themselves – will turn to someone else. ‘There’s no obligation to keep lifelong friendships forever. You’ve learned something from that friendship. Take the best from it and know when it’s okay to end the relationship.’
Dealing with a toxic acquaintance
What about the school mom who thinks it’s okay to gossip in the parking lot? Or the parent who doesn’t fetch their child on time from a play date? Janice advises taking ownership and setting rules and boundaries. ‘When it comes to gossip in the school grounds, just change the topic to something different and more positive,’ she suggests. ‘Don’t ask questions, don’t encourage, and when you’re not forthcoming, she’ll taper off and keep quiet. That’s all you can do. Be polite and nod, but don’t be encouraging.’
As for the parent who disrespects your time, ‘Disregarding people’s time is extremely bad manners,’ says Janice. ‘People are generally afraid to be straightforward. Make sure you have their contact details and arrange to meet and drop the child off. Assertiveness always indicates respect.’
Signs of a negative friendship
- You leave visits feeling drained.
- Your friend talks about herself all the time – the ‘I’ word pops up continuously.
- Your friend belittles you.
- The relationship feels one-sided.
- There’s no laughter.
- You constantly feel angry and negative.
What if YOU are the toxic friend?
It’s time to rethink your own emotional intelligence when:
- You’re always complaining and angry.
- You never pick up the phone or contact your friend.
- You have no idea what’s happening in your friend’s life.
- You’re a drama queen, making big issues out of nothing.
- You’re always abrasive and volatile.
Janice Hanly, Joburg-based life coach, can be reached at Janicehanly.co.za.