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Dealing With Toxic Friends

Dealing with toxic friends

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the ways to rid yourself of toxic friends.

First a quick update:

“Dangers of reconnecting with your Ex on Facebook”
Watch the two-part TV interview I gave to Florida’s The Morning Show about the dangers of reconnecting with your Ex on Facebook; I also offer clear advice about what to do if you disregard the warnings and decide to open the connection again: Part 1 AND Part 2.

“Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher”
Read my comments and insights to about whether or not Demi and Ashton deserve the cheating rumors

Now, let’s talk about how to clear out the toxic friends in your life.

A few months ago, Lindsay Lohan was spotted carrying around a copy of the book “Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships” by Susan Shapiro Barash. Quickly, people began to scoff and criticize Lindsay Lohan as being the toxic friend. However, as I pointed out during a TV interview, it can be our toxic friends that lead us to toxic, dangerous behavior – in this case, Lindsay Lohan’s friends (or parasites) who continually encourage her to party and to do drugs.

But Lindsay Lohan is not alone when it comes to having friends that are toxic, bad influences or are simply destructive or draining (mentally, emotionally, physically, psychically.) Read my newsletter, “Dealing with emotional vampires”  Susan Shapiro Barash, who teaches gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College, interviewed 200 women of assorted backgrounds and ages, and found that friendships tend to be difficult, draining and sometimes devastating. One of her findings is something I mentioned in my book “What a woman wants” – women are often competing with each other. Susan Shapiro Barash reveals that 80% of the women in her study say they are competitive with their female friends. The second key finding from her study is that “women congregate, even if there are undercurrents of envy, jealousy, and competition in the relationships.”

Women move through life in relational terms. A female TV executive recently told me she was surprised by the accuracy of my insights when I told her “a woman’s happiness and sense of fulfillment is almost always determined by the quality of her relationships – romantic, familial, social or business.” A man’s happiness is more often determined by the quantity of his success – job, possessions and money – than it is by relationships. Of course, a failed romantic relationship or divorce can devastate a man as much as it can a woman because he may view himself as a failure or a loser, particularly if he loses the house, savings or other assets.

So, what is a friend; a real friend?

The dictionary defines a friend as someone we know, like, and trust; someone whom is allied in a struggle or cause. A friend can be simply summed up as someone who has your best interests at heart and gives and takes in equal amounts.

However, we also need to understand that people change. One client, Rachel was shattered to reveal that her closest friend Jill, of more than ten years, had changed; Jill had become highly critical, negative, depressed and very selfish. Yes, her personality had changed. Rachel was torn because she wanted to be loyal to Jill but the friendship had become more than one-sided, it had become highly destructive and toxic: Jill was jealous of Rachel’s happiness and success; Jill was no longer reliable, continually breaking promises and Jill expected Rachel to listen and be compassionate but wasn’t willing to return the kindness.

The dilemma for Rachel is one that we all face at one time in our lives:

When is it time to let go of a friend, even one with whom we had a deep bond? When is time to accept that our friend has become toxic and we need to let go of him or her?

The first challenge is to learn to accept that not everyone will be a friend for life. People may change based on their circumstances and personality. Because we find it hard to accept change, we may find it hard to accept that people have changed and that we may need to now let go of them, thus affecting our habits, patterns and our day to day routines. If we suffer from guilt, the fear of rejection or confrontation, the need for approval or if we are afraid to be alone or think we cannot make new friends, then it will be truly difficult to let go of even those people who are not healthy for us. We also need to be discerning – is this a temporary phase for our friend, for whom we should express loyalty, love and support, or, is it more of a permanent nature – a lifelong trait? I am not saying here to instantly dump your friend the moment he or she experiences difficulties or challenges, for if we were to do that, then we would become a toxic friend – a selfish user. In other words, is it a bad day for your friend, or has it become a consistent pattern? Is it case of a friend in need or a constantly needy friend?

The key is to look at your friends in three ways; those whom:

  1. Are authentic friends
  2. We can tolerate
  3. We cannot tolerate – whom we must rid from our life

An authentic friend is someone who gives us much as he/she takes; someone who sincerely cares, wants us to be happy and is interested in our needs as much as their own. You might add specific qualities such as loyal, considerate, faithful, dependable, sharing, giving, empathetic, supportive, respectful of boundaries, etc.

A toxic friend is simply someone who does us more harm than good; we also need to be honest with ourselves and evaluate those friendships which are simply based on mutual convenience and mutual needs such as business or a work-out buddy or companion.

Susan Shapiro Barash classifies toxic friends with terms such as “The User” – the self-serving friend; “The Intimate Frenemies” – she idolizes and despises you and; “The Trophy Friend” – you represent a social or work advantage. However, you can also look at your friendships and look for the danger signs of behavior such as:

Breaking promises, disclosing secrets (double-crossing you), always competing with you and never celebrating your success, criticizing or belittling you, blaming you for his/her circumstances or unhappiness, lying or controlling, using or abusing you, cheating, pretending to be something she is not, being clingy or overly demanding, or, pushing or manipulating you to do things that are obviously harmful to you. Ultimately, you can ask yourself whether or not you feel worse about yourself when you hang out with your friend.

Sometimes, we are quick to toss out a friend before engaging in proper communication i.e. Ask for what you need! It is okay to let your friend know how their actions and behavior are affecting you and it is okay to ask for what you need or desire in the friendship; it is okay to set boundaries (thus respecting yourself); practice saying ‘no’ when appropriate; suggest professional help for him or her to resolve the issues – career, loss, emotions or family. Too many people allow the resentment to build up until it turns into contempt or it explodes and is, in turn, usually expressed as “I want to a divorce”, “I am breaking up with you”, “get out of my life” or “leave me alone.” Take action before it gets to that point.

Once you have determined that you have a toxic friend or relationship, begin by asking if you contribute to it or how you may have attracted it. Also, are you willing to let go of the destructive relationship? What are you afraid of – hurting or offending the other person even though they are hurting you? Are you afraid to end the toxic relationship because you fear rejection, an argument, being alone or not being popular? For one client, she had a breakthrough when she realized that she was choosing friends that were not available emotionally because she was still battling at a subconscious level to win the validation and approval of her mother. Another client, Michelle, became aware that she was a hoarder, and in the same way that she could never toss out things that she no longer needed (including trash) she was also holding onto toxic friends. Michelle had lost her husband and the continued fear of loss and of being alone led her to hoard things and friends. Once she overcame the loss and fear, Michelle became healthy and only chose healthy friends.

You can comment on this newsletter by visiting my blog  and clicking on this article; if you have received this newsletter as a forward and would like to receive all of my newsletters please enter your email address on the home page.

I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.

Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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