September 13, 2013

4 Excuses We Use to Hang On to Frenemies.

Photo: Jorge Mendez on Pixoto.

As I recently shared, I hate losing friends more than anything else in the world.

However, there are times when it isn’t just necessary but downright essential to your emotional well-being to remove toxic people in your life.

What exactly is a “toxic person”?

Simply put, it’s someone who drains rather than adds to your life. You consider them a friend but it seems they only have you in their life so they can put you down. Sometimes, you may not even know this person is toxic.

I speak from experience when it comes to these sort of people. For over a decade, I had such a person in my life.

Without going into too much history, this person started out as my friend. We then dated for a couple of years and then again decided to remain friends after we stopped dating. For many years, he was one of my closest confidants and vice versa.

However, some years in, something changed without me realizing: nearly every time we talked or saw each other, we would end up in an argument that most of the time he instigated, and I would be left reeling—sometimes for several days—by something he said.

As more time lapsed, the arguments and nasty comments became more and more biting.

For example, shortly after I gave my birth to my daughter, he went on a tirade about how I supposedly lacked any and all maternal instincts and would end up failing her.

Finally, I had enough of the endless put downs, insults and backhanded “compliments” and decided I needed to cut off all contact. Thus, I blocked his emails and chose not give him my new phone number when I changed carriers.

I won’t deny that it was difficult to cut off contact in the beginning, but then a funny thing happened as a result: I felt a lot better when no longer having to deal with this “friend.” The pros of not having him my life far outweighed the cons.

Looking back, my biggest regret is not having done it sooner.

Still, I know I am not alone in this. Often, we use excuses to keep toxic people in our lives. These excuses may sound valid and logical but in reality, all they do is keep people in our lives who should not be there.

So, without further ado, check out the list below and ask yourself if you are using any of these reasons to keep toxic people in your life. If you are, I suggest taking a good, hard look at your relationship and decide if you really need someone like this in your life.

1. We’ve known each other a long time.

As I shared in the example of my own story, I know how hard it can be to let go of this one. Some may disagree, but I feel that people who have known me since I was a child or teenager know the real me a lot more than the people who met me as an adult.

Plus, there is a shared history especially in the case of a former lover or childhood best friend.

However, that does not give anyone an open ended ticket to remain in your life forever. While you will always have those good memories of the past, there is a real danger that they may be overshadowed be not-so-good or downright painful memories of the present and future.

People can and do change over time and unfortunately, some change for bad.

We are constantly ending and getting into new relationships. Often relationships that suited us in the past no longer suit our present situation. If any relationship, be it with a partner, parent or friend is causing you far more pain and frustration than pleasure, it could be a sign to end it for the sake of both of you.

2. We love each other despite the fact we hurt each other.

Ask yourself if this is really true. Generally speaking, people who love you do not hurt you. While it’s true that we often hurt the ones we love and vice versa, there is a big difference between intentionally and unintentionally hurting someone.

Perhaps you love this person, but they may not feel the same about you. Maybe at one point, there was a mutual love there, but love can go away and feelings can change to the point where love becomes hate.

Or maybe what you feel is not love but actually co-dependency. There are several things that masquerade as “love” but actually aren’t love.

3. We are family or we have mutual friends.

This is another one that I know all too well. No one lives in a bubble. If someone has been in your life for a long time, then there is good chance you will have mutual friends in common. It’s even trickier in the case of family members.

It’s human nature to want to know what happened, why the two of you are no longer in contact, but just because someone asks doesn’t mean that you are obligated to tell them. Simply saying, “We are no longer in contact, and I do not wish to talk about it at this time,” is fine. If people continue to press, say outright that you will not talk about it.

As far as taking sides go, I won’t lie and say it doesn’t happen. It does. It can be painful. However, consider if the people who are taking sides and don’t know the full story are the sort of people you really need or want in your life. It’s possible they may be toxic as well.

4. S/he isn’t always this way—it’s only when they are stressed out or I’ve done something to annoy them.

Here’s a secret about toxic people: most are not toxic 24/7. In fact, many of them can be very charming and act like true friends at times.

However, what makes them different from real friends is that they are putting you down more often than not and most of the time leave you feeling worse than you were before you interacted.

In the example I cited, this man was very good at giving compliments or praise that were actually insults and put downs. Like many people who know anyone for a period of time, he knew exactly what my triggers were and would set them off while all the time denying that was his intention.

I’ve since learned that this is not uncommon.

Many toxic people, for lack of a better word, “get off” on creating conflict and discomfort in others’ lives.

As an acquaintance of mine once said about my toxic relationship, “some people like nothing more than to throw emotional grenades and relish in the chaos they create.”

She was right.

Examine your own motives for continuing to have someone like this in your life. It is possible that you may get some sort of rush from the constant arguing or feel that when you argue with this person, you can release all sorts of bottled-open anger inside that actually has nothing to do with person.

In that case, that is a clear sign that you need this person out of your life.

Most of us have had or will have toxic friends or “frenemies ” in our lives at some point. While we cannot control how people behave or how they may change, we do have control over whether or not we want to continue to have them in our lives.

Sometimes, it’s not only the best thing for you not to have these people in your life, but it is also what is best for them. Again, while you have no control over how others choose to behave, sometimes it takes hitting rock-bottom for toxic people to wake up and see what they are doing.

Therefore, you may not only be doing yourself a favor, but a favor for toxic people as well.

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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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Nigel Aug 19, 2014 5:45am

Hi, I have been reading about frenemies and toxic relationships for the last few days online and this is the BEST article that I read about it honestly! Your article covered everything and I felt like you were talking about my actual life issue itself.

My story is, I'm a guy and I have this childhood friend (lets call him B) whom I have known for 20+ years. When I was a kid, I very much liked hanging out with him and playing together and all and his family became friends with my family through us. He was good friend, but very naughty and always got me into trouble with his work as well (Although I wasnt a trouble maker I honestly did enjoy the fun things we did and therefore always wanted to be friends)

I wasnt much of a social kid and was always sitting back in school but had a few friends there, he (B) was a social type and had a lot of friends in school. (we went to two different schools). when we were like 17 years, he introduced me to his friends and I became friends with his friends as well. Some of his friends were bad and some of them were good and with time I became closer to his friends than the few friends I made myself.

We both went to different Universities and in my University, I met and hung out with a few genuine good friends whom I value even today. I did well in my University life and personally grew up during this time and the subsequent years in my career. I am currently doing well in life as well and now we are both almost 31. My friend didn't do well in the latter part of his life and still acts like a kid to this day and his mom keeps calling me and others saying his son is playing the fool (at age 31)

My problem is, I mostly hang out with the mutual friends I met through 'B' and two of them are more closer to me than him. Most of his other friends have left him because of his childish narcissistic and self centered behavior and some of them even questioned me why Im still friends with him?

After I did well in life and he didnt (because of his own failures) He is now jealous and is always putting me down. He says personal things and is always looking to pick on me. He always says what I have achieved and done were out of luck and not hard work and I think he is bitter of his own failures. He has changed from being a naughty fun kid to a spiteful jealous narcissist liar and have lost almost everyone in his life. Because of this I have always felt sorry for him and put up with anything he said or did coz I was always his oldest friend. I now believe he doesnt appreciate me and is hurt by this. He never called me his best friend although I was the only one who stayed with him and I always considered him to be my best friend.

I have come to a point in life where I just dont want to deal with him as meeting him is just a fight and it affects me psychologically for the next few days every time as i feel bullied. I tried to let go of his friendship an year ago but then he realized this and tried to turn all our mutual friends against me. but then as usual my stupid self decided to remain friends with him coz i didnt want to lose the only people I hang out with.

today almost all his friends have left him and only a few remain and of the few of them they like me more than him. I want to end my relationship with 'B' once and for all as I cannot take seeing or interacting with him anymore. The toxic relationship we have is so detrimental it affects me in the relationship I have with my Girlfriend and family! So I now know who is valuable to me in my life and have decided to throw him out as I believe he is now a fake friend.

Please tell me what I should do to completely cut 'B' off and how to deal with social events where I have to attend with his mutual friends? (he openly laughs at me saying why am I hanging out with his friends although a couple of them love me more than him and appreciate me, which he probably doesnt know). And given that I live in a small city, its hard not to not run into him although I could ignore him but Im scared Ill lose everyone else. Your advice will be much appreciated 🙂

P.S – I didnt relaize I have written so much but I wanted to convey my true full story!

bec Nov 5, 2013 4:05am

Yep. Some people just continue to take everything they can get from you. After years and years of being there for someone whenever they need something, it’s hard to accept they will never be able to do the same for you. When you need someone to be there for you, as you were for them, it’s a real wake up call to find out they simply aren’t capable. Sad to have to give up on those you’ve cared about for so long. ‘Takers’ rarely realize how much you’ve done for them until you stop doing it. When there’s nothing left for you to give, you’re left feeling empty. There comes a time to just stop giving all you can.

SukiSuz Oct 30, 2013 4:02pm

This is so so fitting for me right now. Just broke the rope to someone who fits the profile. She finally heard me. It took about 10 months for her to get….that I tried to break off with but she kept calling, sending emails, and texting for months and months. There gets to be a moment where you have to break ties for your own sanity. All the same MO insults, little quips and digs, and the endless requests for favors and then getting all the criticism still.

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Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.