Having a friend to turn to when your life becomes stressful is wonderful, but when your friend creates unnecessary stress, it may be time to create space.
Now, there are seasons in life when one or the other friend needs to lean a little more than the other. Illness, divorce, death of a loved one and other life struggles call for support and care. With that said there is a point when that leaning becomes toxic. These toxic friends fall into three basic categories;
- Takers: These friends take from you all they can include, but are not limited to, your time and energy. For example, when the friend who moved in until she was able to get her bearings back after a nasty divorce, takes over the house. This happened to a friend of mine, she managed to reclaim her home, but the stress nearly broke her own family.
- Dictators: Friends who demand your time and attention are draining. There is a possibility they simply do not understand the inner workings of your life. Moms who work from home may look as if they have endless time to babysit, run errands, run volunteer events, or hang in a coffee shop, but I can attest to the fact that we do not. Demanding friends may not need to be cut out of your life, just ease them into reality.
- Judges: If a so-called friend does nothing but criticize your decisions, know that this is not healthy. Unsupportive friends are worse than enemies. At least an enemy can be avoided without feeling guilty, judgmental friends on the other hand often use passive-aggressive communication that leave you confused and feeling awful.
Breaking ties with these toxic friends is easier said than done. Your worst friend, may be the one you have known since grade school, or maybe your children are best friends, she is a neighbor, you worry about her, or you are just plain scared to try. It may be time for a friendship detox.
Friendship detox plan
You may not need to completely erase her from your life, but you do need to detox from the friendship.
The following tips can help create the space you need to figure out your next step.
- Acknowledge the toxins: Before you change your diet or cleaning supplies in order to reduce exposure to toxins you need to figure out what carries these nasty chemicals. If every time your “best friend” calls, you tense up and feel worse after the conversation, she is a problem.
- Reduce exposure: Knowing that certain chemicals, or people, are dangerous is only the first step. You must take responsibility and reduce your contact. Protect yourself by becoming less available.
- Replace with good products: The house still needs to be cleaned, but that doesn’t mean I have to use the potent drug store varieties. Instead I can prepare my own cleaning supplies with natural ingredients. In the same way I can also replace time spent with toxic friends with time spent with positive moms.
- Relabel yourself: I gave up meat, dairy, and other processed foods and became a vegan. This label identifies me and serves as an explanation. If your so-called best friend no longer acts like a friend at all, break ties. Stop using that label and move into a healthier lifestyle.
This process is difficult, but it also serves as a powerful example for your children. Letting them see you tackle tough relationships will give them a stronger sense of self and confidence to stand up for themselves when necessary.
A final note, there is a possibility, your new stance could be a wakeup call to your friend. If so, give them plenty of space to grow and change before inviting back into the inner circle of your life.
More by Sylvie Branch:
5 friends you’ll need as a new mom
Be a Play date Pro: 5 Tips to Having Fun for Moms and Kids Alike
Make New Friends: How to Find Friends