How To End Unhealthy Friendships The Healthy Way
As you get older, you start to care less about how many friends you have and more about the quality of the people you keep in your circle. Inevitably, you reach a point when it’s necessary to excommunicate yourself from a certain person or group that doesn’t align with the vision that you have for your life or the person you aspire to be.
But no break-up is an easy break-up, even friendships.
I have yet to fully comprehend how to go about this, as I am still in the process of unlearning old habits and cultivating new ones. In doing so, I’ve been faced with the very ugly truth about how I’ve handled situations like these in the past. I’ve made the mistake of 1) trying to repair the friendship by compromising myself and my own happiness just off the strength of history, 2) completely invalidating my own feelings in the process, while 3) avoiding the problem completely. This only led to miscommunication on both ends, which then led to a brutally awkward silence. Too much silence leaves room for interpretation and mixed feelings, and too much of that can cause resentment as time goes on.
No matter how long I’ve known a person, the fact is there are only three things that are constant: Time, change and love. With respect for all three, it’s important to acknowledge change when it happens and at least try to understand that with time things change with or without our permission. It can be a hard pill to swallow and it might take some time going down. If you love yourself and the person (or people) involved you owe it to yourself to be honest about how you feel. To that end, I realized I needed to pay more attention to how my friendships actually made me feel and what they’re supposed to feel like.
This is how I managed to eliminate unreliable, confrontational friends and unbalanced relationships the healthy way:
Acknowledge when you’ve done all that you can do
This might be the hardest stage because most of us may never get to this point. In fact, it may take a very long time to reach this point. If you’re like me, you feel like there’s always something that can be done. There’s something that can be said, a gesture or remedy to cure whatever it is plaguing your perfectly healthy friendship. Surely friendships, like people, catch the flu and simply need an extra dose of care and attention. There’s nothing that a girl’s night out, shopping date or movie night and take-out can’t fix, right? Wrong. When you feel like you’re forcing it, trust me, you are. At that point you really need to reevaluate what energy you’re putting out and what’s being reciprocated.
Voice how you feel
Don’t go ghost on your friend and then switch up and begin acting like everything is good when you guys do occasionally speak. That’s the easiest way to ruin a great friendship. And if you have mutual friends or are in group settings often, it makes things awkward for everyone. Calmly and carefully state exactly how you feel and why you feel that way. (And if your friend fails to see where you’re coming from or refuses to accept your point of view, that’s ok. This process is for you!)
Listen and accept
To be honest, direct and unfiltered honesty might not always the received well when emotions are involved. If you’re willing to dish it out, be ready to receive it. Consider your friend’s side and what they might be feeling. Be prepared to listen as much, if not more, when it’s your friend’s turn to talk. This is your best opportunity to learn why this friendship no longer serves you and might lead to many of the answers you need for your own closure.
Simply say that you are no longer interested in being friends
It’s hardly simple, but it’s a part of being an adult. This doesn’t mean that the two of you can’t be cordial and speak when you see each other. In fact, this might be the best thing you can do for your friend and yourself. Allowing people to be who they truly are without judgement is a crucial part of surrounding yourself with like-minded people. When you keep in mind where you want to go in life and can identify what it takes to get there, you better understand why everyone can’t go along for the ride. There should be no misplaced guilt. Friendships have life cycles. You could tell your friend that you no longer feel like the two of you share similar interests or that you might be in two different places in your lives.
I’m a strong believer in allowing life to unfold before you, and that with good intention things work themselves out. Always be committed to being the best version of yourself without apology. That requires letting things — and people — go. If nothing else, remember: It worked out for Beyoncé.
This article was originally written for Blavity.com by DeJanae Evins.