When Good Friendships Go Bad
There are a bunch of versions of a wise, old saying that there are three types of friends – friends for a reason (you lived next door to each other growing up), friends for a season (high school, college, new parenthood) and friends for a lifetime. Sometimes, the season of life passes and friends fall out of touch due to no particular problem. Occasionally, however, a once healthy friendship turns toxic. There are six common signs that the so-called friendship is less than stellar, according to Degges-White:
- You realize that hanging out with a particular friend leaves you feeling worse, not better.
- You begin to try and find reasons to avoid spending time with a friend or wanting to cancel plans once they've been made.
- Your friend only seems to "like you" or want to spend time with you when she needs something from you.
- Your friend tries to isolate you from other relationships in your life – for instance, badmouthing romantic partners or other friends.
- You find yourself trying to make excuses for your friend's behavior or "defend" your friend from other friends who are more able to see her shortcomings or poor treatment of you.
- While friendships are based on social exchange, "red flag" friends typically draw more resources from the "friendship bank" than they ever put into it.
Not all friendships are worth fighting for. "When you feel like a relationship is holding you back or dragging you under, it is definitely okay to let that friendship go," Degges-White notes. "The beautiful thing about friendships is that they are voluntary relationships – and if you're no longer finding it worth the investment, you have the option to let the relationship go."
If, however, you still think the relationship holds value, it's perfectly fine to try and repair it. Degges-White advises people in this situation to abide by some ground rules, however. First, be up front that you want to talk to the person about the friendship. "No one likes having this kind of conversation 'sprung on them,' so give your friend some advance notice," she says. Also, have the talk on neutral ground, even a public place like a park or coffee shop, so that it'll be less likely to become overly emotional or angry in nature. It's also advised to address the issues using "I statements." For instance, don't say, "You always put down my suggestions." Instead say, "When you disregard my suggestions, I feel hurt or unvalued."
"It's important that you focus on how YOU are feeling or what YOU are thinking in response to her behavior," Degges-White explains. Be sure to listen carefully to her responses to your concerns. She might have been completely clueless about her actions, or she might have valid concerns of her own to discuss with you.
Next, try to figure out a compromise you can both be happy with. "Unfortunately, some people believe that a compromise means a lose/lose situation because each person has to concede something," Degges-White says, "While this is true, every healthy relationship usually involves compromise and adjusting to others' needs or wants. Friendships are no different – for a relationship to thrive, it really takes two to make it work. Be willing to 'give a little' in order to allow your friend to 'get a little.'"
Who knows? With a little effort on both parts maybe you can turn things around, and in the words of the immortal Golden Girls theme song, perhaps he/she will "thank you for being a friend."
Last editorial update on Aug 29, 2018 05:15:32 pm.
- Chopik, William J. "Associations among relational values, support, health, and well‐being across the adult lifespan." Personal Relationships April 19, 2017 (Aug. 23, 2018) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/pere.12187
- Degges-White, Suzanne. E-mail Interview. August 21, 2018.
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