Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Breaking Off a Friendship

Q: How do I break off an unhealthy three-year friendship? She lies about serious things and is always making sarcastic remarks about my family. I have tried to be a good friend but this friendship puts me on an emotional roller coaster. Don’t tell me to just avoid her. That’s impossible.

A: Unfortunately, avoiding her is not only impossible, it’s one of the worst ways of ending a friendship. Avoiding someone who you no longer want to be friends with ends up hurting both of you in the long run. The other person often feels neglected and discarded, and usually does not see the reason for your sudden cold shoulder. Resentment, pain, and anger on both sides are all very common when this situation arises.

The best way to break off an unhealthy friendship is also the hardest, because it involves you talking to her about it. Sit your friend down and tell her you are unhappy with your friendship and need it to end. The key is to do it nicely, but firmly. Don’t make accusations and don’t start a screaming match. Simply explain to her why you feel you can no longer be her friend, and see what she thinks. Listen to her, and make sure both sides of the story are clear.

Then, after everything that needs to be said has been said, stick to your decision. Don’t call her up when all of your other friends are out at a movie without you. Don’t pretend to be “best friends” when you have no one to sit with at lunch. This will just end up in confusion and her feeling as though you are using her, bringing you right back to the resentment and anger you tried to avoid. Losing a friend is very difficult to get through, but remember: everything is okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

A few years ago, Rachel Simmons wrote a book called Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, which talks about the different struggles that girls go through – with their family, friends, and schoolmates. She wrote a follow up book this past year, Odd Girl Speaks Out, in which she published stories of girls who had read her book and wanted to tell about their experiences. These books offer some wonderful advice on how to deal with a range of things that girls encounter through the teenage years, especially unhealthy friendships. I highly recommend that you check either of these out of the library for a quick, easy, and very insightful read.

Maureen D.