My friendship with D. is over. She cut the chord but I handed her the scalpel. She crossed a line and blamed me for her hurting herself, among other things. I told her she needed help, and her response was to emotionally blackmail me.
Nearly two decades of friendship and dealing with her problems, issues, tantrums, complaints, obsessions… and it was time for me to remove myself. It doesn’t change how much I love her, and maybe someday she will get the help she needs. But I can’t be her cheerleader if she won’t take steps to help herself.
I’ve been doing a bit of reading about toxic friendships, and this bit from Psychology Today really sums up why I stayed as long as I stayed:
I’ve arrived at the following list of tenets—along with some suggestions for combating them—with the help of many years of treating people in this situation, and from living life. Hopefully they’ll help to clear up some of the mystery surrounding the inability to “let go” and stop friendship abuse:
1. If you tolerate friendship abuse, there’s a good chance your threshold for other types of abuse is high. Ask yourself if you are currently being abused in other contexts such as in your primary relationship or at work. Question whether you have a tendency towards self-deprecation or even masochism. If you suffered from any form of abuse in your youth, you’re more at risk for seeking it out and staying in it as an adult.
2. If you have a fear of being alone or of being on your own, you’re more likely to have trouble letting go of even the most negative person in your life. Examine whether abandonment has been a lifelong issue for you. Many people who’ve experienced loss or abandonment as a child hang on—in real time—in an effort to cope with or repair a childhood loss. Remember, the more independent you are the better equipped you’ll be to go your own way if you must.
3. Everything is a tradeoff. If you feel that your selfish friend brings enough to the relationship to merit maintaining it, so be it. Just remember to do an honest assessment of the “give and take” so that you don’t fool yourself into staying in a bad situation for too long a time.
4. Is it a matter of assertiveness? Don’t be afraid to find out just how good a friend you’ve got. Oftentimes people are unaware of their behavior and some are open-minded enough to take constructive criticism. Gently tell your friend how one-sided you feel the relationship is. If he or she values the relationship as much as you do, perhaps you can start a new and better dynamic. If you’re at the point of dumping your friend, then you have little to lose by the confrontation.
5. In my opinion we tend to choose friends who are somewhat like us on a deeper level—as we do in our primary relationships. Hence, there’s a really good chance that your toxic freind might fear loss as much as you do. If your buddy can be vulnerable enough to own this, perhaps you’ll both work to keep the union intact. A word of warning: While your friend might fear loss, the fear might not necessarily manifest the same way yours does. So, don’t be surprised if you’ve gone to deep and touched a raw nerve. There’s risk involved, but the reward might be to rid yourself of anger, hurt, and ambivalence…whether the relationship lives or not.