The Subtle Art of Friendship

A friendship, to put it simply, should be pleasant and beneficial to both parties.  Balance.  Harmony.

The word “balance” is very important here. Good friendships don’t have to be 50/50 one hundred percent of the time and seldom are, but when the friendship is continually lop-sided, stress begins to build and toxins start to flow.  “Imbalance” would be where one friend continually gets their needs met while the other friend’s needs are disregarded.  This is frequently referred to as a “toxic friendship”.

At its simplest form, a toxic friendship can be overwhelming, unfulfilling, and emotionally and physically draining for one half of the relationship.

A quote I read recently from Dr. Florence Isaacs, author of “Toxic Friends/True Friends”, says it beautifully – “Toxic friends stress you out, use you, are unreliable, are overly demanding, and don’t give anything back.”  And by “not giving anything back”, please don’t think physical things or gifts.  Physical things and gifts do not make a friendship.  We can buy our own “things”.

Now, that quote may be a rather all-inclusive sort of statement and you may find that your toxic friendship only has some of those characteristics.  Even so, just one of those characteristics can have the same effect as all of them on the right person.

So, what do you do about a toxic friendship?  The way I see it you have a few options.  You can come clean – tell the friend how you feel when they do x, y, z.  Don’t tell the friend and continue to take it.  Or, live in that gray and muddy realm where the toxic friend knows that something is up, but no one is saying exactly what until everyone kind of forgets about it and it starts all over again.

Consequences?  Telling the toxic friend the truth could very likely end the relationship.  Then there is the whole “friends in common” factor.  Your toxic friend might not be toxic to your friends in common.  The friends in common may even have a hard time imagining such a scenario.  It is a very real possibility they may look at you as the bad guy after hearing a few “oh poor me’s” from your toxic friend.  If you’re looking for advice as to how to deal with this? – forget it, I don’t know what to tell you.  All I know is, stooping to finger-pointing and telling tales out of school by complaining about one friend to another friend – not my style.  Be prepared, however, your toxic friend will probably be talking about you so expect a lot of ear-ringing and some voodoo looks from those who don’t know both sides.

So, if you are one of those people who have been taking it for a long time, don’t be surprised when the time comes where you just can’t take it anymore.  You will come to the conclusion that you are worth more – your emotional stability and your physical health are worth more.

Toxic friends can live on, and thrive in, chaos.  I don’t know about you, but I hate chaos.  Chaos and turmoil are not just emotionally draining, they can be physically damaging.  I think some people continually put themselves under stress because they need the sympathy and encouragement of everyone around them so desperately that they are willing to jeopardize relationships to get it (even if they don’t know they are jeopardizing relationships).  Instead of being happy and fulfilled with what is right in front of them, they somehow need the love and approval of others who really don’t give a damn.  If you aren’t happy with you, why should anyone else be happy with you?  Your family should love you.  Your friends would like to love you.  Is it really worth losing that to be Queen/King of the world?  When you perch yourself on top of a flagpole you may find you are the only one there because there just isn’t room for the rest of us, and that little mathematical equation equals – lonely.

Okay, philosophy lesson is over, but damn that felt good.