Toxic Friendships: When It’s Time To Let Go

When a good friend turns frenemy, it can be more painful than having your teeth pulled and turn your world upside down.

RELATED: Is Friendship A Higher Form Of Love?

Do you:

a) Rid your world of toxic friend once and for all by sending her a vomitous mass of glitter, coupled with hate mail, via latest social media sensation, genius website: shipyourenemiesglitter.com?

b) Watch endless re-runs of Mean Girls on a loop, crying into your Tim Tams and chardonnay?

c) Gracefully cut all ties with said toxic friend and move on with your life, fast?

female friendships, frenemies, toxic friendships

The answer, dear reader, is of course C (although A would be so satisfying!).

Everyone encounters a toxic friend or two at some stage in their life. The key is not to dwell too much on why it happened, I think, but just to get the hell out of it, stat! Of course, this can be easier said than done with it’s a one-time great, long-term friend who now seems hell-bent on making your life miserable.

Interestingly, new UK research recently revealed both men and women are equally likely to lose two of their closest friends when they start a new relationship.
Sad fact of life, isn’t it? You’d think your closest friends would be thrilled for you when you meet a great love?! But no – jealousy is indeed a curse.

female friendships, frenemies, toxic friendships
I interviewed a senior clinical psychologist, who wishes to remain anonymous, about this complex topic of toxic friends. Her insightful answers are below:

Q: Are there any warning signs for a toxic friendship?

A: Relationship experts define a toxic friendship as one which causes more hurt and pain than good. So, when the friendship is causing you to feel bad about yourself, guilty, miserable, used or any other of a possible range of negative emotions a good deal of the time, and these negative emotions outweigh the positive feelings you get from the friendship, then you are in a toxic friendship.

Some people have a talent for making themselves feel better by putting their friends down with criticism and cutting remarks. If you realise this bullying is happening to you, take some deep breaths and resolve to end it. No one can “make” you feel sad or depressed, it only happens with your cooperation. So, dig deep and find the strength to end the friendship!

Q: Why do our one-time BFFs sometimes become our mortal enemies?

A: Sometimes, a friendship starts off being pleasant and fulfilling, but over time it turns into something toxic. Why? It could be that one friend has been successful or had happiness come their way and the other has missed out and feels jealous and resentful. Or maybe one party feels superior due to their successes and starts to be condescending and contemptuous towards the friend they regard as less successful. Maybe one friend is miserable due to a failed relationship and wants to make others suffer too.

There are many possible reasons why are some friends so good for us at the start and then turn into our worst foes. You could try talking to your friend about what is happening and how you feel about their behaviour towards you. But the important thing to remember is you can’t change someone else, you can only change yourself. So, if you find yourself in this situation and your friend is not prepared to acknowledge or change the way they are treating you, walk away!

female friendships, frenemies, toxic friendships

Q: How do you combat a toxic friend?

A: If you discover that you are in a toxic friendship, my advice is to walk away. Trying to change the relationship for the better would be very difficult: both parties would need to recognise the need to behave differently and want to change – that’s unlikely.

Usually in a toxic friendship one party holds most of the power, the other party is the recipient of hurtful putdowns, cruel comments and/or manipulations. The powerful one won’t want to give up their power – it enhances their self-esteem and gives a sense of superiority. Why would they want to change that? If you are the injured party, cut your losses and walk away. Yes, you’ll feel lonely for a time but you’ll feel better about yourself knowing that you’ve had the strength to end the abuse. Instead, spend time with people whose company your enjoy and who you walk away from feeling happy.

Main image via forty2014.com; secondary image via en.wikipedia.org; third image via theberry.com and final image via www.pinterest.com.

September 18, 2015

How To Slay Soul-Sucking Emotional Vampires

True confessions: I adore vampire-themed fantasy romances/horrors such as The Twilight Saga and True Blood; but I’ve got no time, energy or love for emotional vampires in real life.

RELATED: Battling The Princess Myth: Why You Don’t Need Rescuing

Have you experienced the hell on earth that is spending time with an emotional-vampire “friend” and/or lover? These people are aptly named because they’re negative, exhausting and emotion-sucking drama queens who will sap your time, energy and spirit if you let them – abort, abort, abort!

Personally, I think life is way too short to spend time with people who constantly deplete your serenity and use your strength to bolster their fragile egos. Emotional vampires need constant attention and flit from one high drama or conflict to the next; indeed they seem to thrive on it, while you will be left feeling like they sucked out your soul.

In a healthy, long-standing friendship and/or relationship, you each take turns acting as caregivers, when needed. But with emotional vampires it is a very one-sided affair; they’re only interested in what they can take from you, never what they can give; indeed your thoughts, wants and feelings will be so irrelevant to them, it’s as though they don’t exist.

And when you inevitably find yourself emotionally exhausted and drained by your soul-sucking “friend”, having grown well tired of being their 24/7 mentoring/advice/counselling service and their extreme lack of empathy, they will most likely viciously turn on you if you dare to be emotionally honest about how you feel. And that’s OK; you’ve got to get off that emotional rollercoaster, girlfriend! And you’ve got to choose your friends very wisely, for what you accept you become.

relationships, female friendships, emotional vampires

It’s a sentiment echoed by a clinical psychologist I spoke to, who wishes to remain anonymous, who has more than 30 years experience in couples and relationships counselling. So, what are the warning signs that you’ve encountered an emotional vampire? “If, after meeting up with or chatting on the phone with a friend, you are left feeling hurt, angry, resentful or emotionally battered, there may be a problem with this friendship,” the psychologist says. “If the negative feelings occur every or most times you catch up with this particular person, ask yourself why you feel this way.”

And this is key: if you are unlucky enough to come across a narcissist; victim and/or venomous, controlling emotional vampire – for they can take many forms – who’s started to take over your life, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, negative and burdened, it’s definitely time to cut all ties with this person, if you can. Why? Demanding, constantly negative and self-absorbed people will only ultimately cause you much more pain than pleasure and it’s in your best interests, indeed an act of good self-care, to let them go.

I stupidly let an emotional vampire into my life recently – an old work acquaintance with whom I’d never really clicked, who’d moved to my area. This woman would constantly burden me with daily problems and dramas. And when I started to feel sick in the pit of my stomach every time she sent me epic, daily texts asking for my advice, I knew it was time to end the “friendship” and I use the term very loosely.

Sure, I wanted to help her, but when her constant, toxic tales of woe and endless conflicts started to overwhelm me, to the point I was anxious every time I got a text in case it was from her, and counselling her was starting to eat away at both my time and my sanity, I finally gave her some gentle emotional honesty which was enough to end our relationship.

relationships, female friendships, emotional vampires

And you know what? I feel nothing but sweet, sweet relief and was even more grateful for the amazing, positive people in my life, including many long-term friends with whom I share the caregiver role. So, what is the best course of action when encountering an emotional vampire, according to my clinical psychologist contact?

“We all need to take responsibility for our own emotional well-being,” she advises, “So, if you feel that you’ve helped your friend as much as you can, and interactions with her leave you feeling drained and negative, you need to take steps to care for yourself.

“Your friend probably isn’t aware of the impact they are having on you. Try explaining that while you want to help them if possible, constantly dealing with their crises and problems and providing advice is a downer for you. Explain that for the friendship to continue, you want to keep things positive and light-hearted for at least a major part of the time you spend together. Be prepared though; your friend might decide it’s easier to move on than to change.”

For me, the final nail in the coffin in the “friendship” with my emotional vampire, was that I found I couldn’t do something as fundamental and basic as express emotional honesty in the relationship. For emotional vampires hate being challenged or questioned; so fragile are their egos and self-esteem, your feelings will only be seen as a threat. Hilariously and paradoxically, they may accuse you of being a bad person, when not five seconds before they were asking, yet again, for your life advice. Female friendships can be maddening complex; but unless there’s emotional honesty and a reciprocal caregiver role; aint nobody got time for that, girlfriend!

Brisbane communication and social media consultant Mel Kettle, 45, (pictured) has also encountered her fair share of emotional vampires – indeed she thinks it’s a common affliction among her closest female friends.

relationships, female friendships, emotional vampires

“If there are people out there who have made it to their mid-40s without an emotion-sucking friend, they are doing well!” she says. “And I use the word ‘friend’ loosely. I have had a few over the years and each time it has taken me a while to realise what they are. These women have all seemed lovely when I met them: intelligent, interesting, friendly and they each made an effort to spend time with me and to get to know me in the early stages of the friendship.

“There have probably been three over the years who I would say are real emotion-sucking ‘friends’. All have shared the same behaviours and characteristics: seeking my advice over and over (often on the same issues); needing validation for many of the decisions in their lives (some minor, however many that needed professional psychological or psychiatric guidance that I was not at all equipped to give); constantly negative about much of what is going on in their lives (and making no effort to change it, just constant whinging and complaining); expecting me to be available to meet or talk and to solve all their problems and rarely asking about my life, or if they do, showing little or no interest.

“After thinking about this a lot, I realised that none of these women had any empathy. After catching up with them, I always felt emotionally and usually physically exhausted.”

To counter this, as an act of self-care and self-preservation, Mel says she simply stopped making herself available to the emotional vampires – one of whom quickly latched on to someone else. “It was a hard decision to make, but once I did I felt a huge sense of relief,” she says. “Friendship needs to be two-way. Sure, there are times when you need more of your friends then they need from you, but it’s a cycle. Yes, I’m there for friends in need, however I expect them to be there for me too.

“A huge turning point for a couple of friendships was when my parents died. This experience really showed the true colours of a lot of people. One emotion-sucking friendship ended when this ‘friend’ barely offered me condolences and then spent 30 minutes on the phone telling me about all the problems she was having with a couple of her family members, including her mother; mine hadn’t even been dead for a week! That was the straw that broke that camel’s back for me!”

And like me, Mel says the older she gets, the less likely she will put up with other people’s emotional fuckwittage. “I have far less tolerance for selfishness and the rubbish that so many people think is important. I also have no time for constant negativity, people who are ungrateful for what they have, and glass-half-empty people,” she says. “They are too exhausting to have in your life when you are not that way!”

“A good friend of mine had a few friendships that were very one-sided – she made all the effort. She basically called them out and said that she would give them one more chance and if they weren’t prepared to make an effort to maintain the friendship then as far as she was concerned it was over. All were shocked, only one was apologetic and made an effort, the other friendships ended.”

So, there you have it ladies: real-life examples and advice on how to combat emotional vampires – you’ve been forewarned. May none of your friendships suck!

Images via liveinthenow.com, Fast Company, Daily Mail

June 5, 2015

Is Friendship A Higher Form Of Love?

It’s been said that friendship is a higher form of love than romantic attachments; in its purest form, platonic friendship is unconditional love, unhampered by the complications of sex or monetary arrangements.

And long-term female friendships, in all their complex glory, can be extremely rewarding and joyful when they work –like the glue that holds you together.

RELATED: Friends Are Like Lovers – Minus The Smarts And Looks

Conversely, when they fall apart, a best friend break-up can be extremely gutting and heartbreaking – indeed almost as painful as a divorce between opposite sexes (or so I imagine).

Arguably no other TV show before groundbreaking 90s’ hit Sex and the City (pictured) came even close to demonstrating this depth and complexity of female friendships.

Of course, the much-loved TV hit which so beautifully chartered neurotic sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw’s loves, friendships and shoe fetishes in New York, did glorify female friendships. You so related to Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda’s many wondrous highs and lows in love, sex and careers that you felt like you knew them, or indeed that they became a part of you.

But SATC’s genius was also in its ability to reflect the real-life dark side of female friendships as well: the toxic, soul-destroying friendships which crush your spirit.

BFFs, female friendships, Sex and the City
Like most of us, I’ve experienced both the highs and lows of female friendships, but am happy to say my BFF and I have been firm friends for almost 20 years. Our 20th friendship anniversary in 2015 will no doubt be marked with more than a few wines and much happy reminiscing.

We met at a local newspaper and it was so long ago, I can’t even recall how our friendship first developed, only that we quickly became immersed in each other’s lives and barely ever went a day without speaking.

Jen is six years older than me, but our birth dates are a day apart, and somehow – despite our emotional, fiery Gemini temperaments – we’ve remained loyal, honest and trusted friends through thick and thin; BFFs despite many highs and lows and both lengthy interstate and overseas adventures apart.

Aside from one dark and thankfully short-lived period, years ago, when we were at war over something stupid (I forget what), Jen has always been my best confidante. She lifts my spirits and makes me laugh like no other and I’ve come to rely on her brutal honesty and amazing strength.

She’s at once tough as a CEO and soft as a marshmallow and an amazingly accomplished career woman and mother of three. Just like a sister from another mother, she is the one person whom I’ll really listen to at times, one of the few people I can always rely on for sane advice, wise counsel and tough love, if I need it.

Many men have come and gone in our lives, until we both, purely coincidentally, met and married men both called Marty! And prior to that, when I was single and despairing that I’d never have a baby, let alone fall in love with the right kind of man, Jen was always there saying: “I know you will. Keep the faith, sister,” and so I always did.

When I had also lost faith and confidence in my career at one stage, she was also instrumental in giving me the boost I needed to apply – and get – that shit-hot job in my 20s.

We’ve joyfully danced at each other’s weddings (see below); grieved each other’s losses; ecstatically celebrated each other’s career wins and toasted champagne following each other’s safe and healthy childbirths.

There’s no high or low I haven’t experienced with my BFF and I hope we are fortunate enough to grow old together.

What’s the secret to a great, long-lasting friendship? I’m no expert, but brutal honesty and unconditional love goes a long way, I reckon, as in our case: knowing someone inside out, warts and all, and still wanting to hang out with them all the time anyway.

What do you think? Is your BFF one of the most important people in your life too?

Images via www.episodegenerator.com and geniusquotes.org.

BFFs, female friendships, Sex and the City

January 7, 2015