How to Distance Yourself from a One-Way Friendship
Feature Image: Emilio Machado
When you have been friends with someone for a while, it can be difficult to notice when toxic behavior is seeping into your bond. It may not seem like a big deal when your friend no longer has as much time for your issues as their own, but this is usually one of the first signs of things going sour. Friendship is one of the most intimate relationships you can establish. Your friendships should be held to the same standards that you have for romantic relationships, because friendships deserve the same level of commitment and devotion. When only one person is committing to a friendship, it becomes difficult to maintain.
In my personal life, I’ve noticed that some of my friendships have turned toxic without my realizing the evolution taking place. Friends who I had once relied on for support were no longer interested in taking my calls or responding to my text messages when I was struggling through personal problems. These friends would still say the same things about being there when I needed them, but when those moments arose, my friends were not there like they said they would be. Even though it hurt at the time, I tried to push aside feelings of frustration and abandonment because I was receiving support from my partner, so I felt as though I couldn’t really complain about my friends flaking out on me. Over time though, I realized that I was still there for these friends when they needed me, despite not receiving the same level of devotion in return.
At first, I didn’t mind solely maintaining these friendships on my own because I believe in being a good friend and I struggle with the idea of telling my friends that I can’t help them when they are going through a tough time. I didn’t realize initially that when I chose to be there for my friends despite them not returning the favor that I was actually doing a disservice to myself. Being a good friend makes me feel good but being a good friend to people who are not a good friend to me muddled that sense of pride and happiness.
If you find yourself in a situation where your friends are ignoring your problems simply because they only want to discuss their own lives, it may be time to step back and reevaluate your relationship with this person. Constantly setting aside your own emotions and needs in favor of supporting a friend is draining, and it causes emotional pain and frustration. Don’t sell yourself (or your mental health) short just because you want to be a good friend. Friendships are only healthy and successful when each person contributes equally. Your friendships should be built on trust, confidence, commitment, and fun. Simply maintaining a friendship with someone because you two have fun together is great, but it doesn’t feel as great when this friend refuses to answer your messages when you are going through a personal struggle.
To distance yourself from a toxic friendship, progress slowly to make the gap feel less oppressive.
Take A Step Back from Your Friendship
If you’re friends with someone who is bringing toxicity into your life—either through neglect of your friendship or because they have a bad attitude—step back from the relationship for a little while. Take a few days to yourself before you respond to a text message or Snapchat from them. During this time, assess your friendship and determine whether you would benefit from less time together or if you think severing the friendship is ultimately in your best interest. When you take a few days to yourself to look at the situation, you’re giving yourself a sense of clarity that would be difficult to procure otherwise.
Reach Out to Your Friend If You Think the Relationship Can Be Saved
After you’ve taken the time to assess the situation, determine whether you want to keep this person in your life or not. If you do want to give the friendship more time to sort itself out, try to sit down with your friend and have an honest conversation about your feelings. Be sure to express yourself honestly but choose the right wording to ensure your friend does not feel attacked during the exchange. Use terms such as, “I feel”, “I think”, and “I’ve noticed” instead of saying things like, “You’ve been acting like this and it has been making me feel x, y, and z.” Your friend has a better chance of viewing the situation from your perspective without feeling defensive if you simply express how you have been feeling lately. Provide examples such as, “I feel really neglected in our friendship because it seems as though my problems aren’t as important.” This helps the two of you have an honest conversation and allows you to see each other’s perspectives during the exchange.
Use Small Steps When Walking Away from A Friendship
If you ultimately decide you want to sever a toxic friendship, it is best to do so through small steps instead of one giant leap. Adjusting to life without a close friend is going to be difficult at first, as you’ll need to remind yourself that you cannot text or call this person on a regular basis anymore. Speak with your friend about wanting to take some time away from your relationship and then slowly ease them out of your life. Cut back on the amount of time you spend seeing this person, talking to them on the phone, and engaging with their social media accounts. In doing so, you acclimate yourself to the change without providing a stark blow to your emotions. Once you engage with this person less, it becomes easier to focus on friendships in your life that are healthy and rewarding.
Remember that you are equally important in each friendship you hold and it’s okay to put yourself first sometimes!
What do you do to prevent one-way friendships in your own life?