I had a hard time dealing with a friend, who tends to make a big deal out of everything. I recently reconnected with this friend after four years. Despite letting go of past problems, the same toxic patterns in their behavior began to resurface. This time, he is super excited about his next birthday and has invited all his friends, even those who are not too familiar.
Unfortunately, due to my demanding 14-hour workday and financial constraints, I cannot participate in their celebrations. When I informed him about this, he burst into tears and spent hours crying. She also fabricated a story for her boyfriend, who then called and pressured me to attend the birthday party. The next day, I received about 10 voice notes, including some from his mother, indirectly urging me to reconsider my decision.
It’s not about being a bad friend or throwing tantrums, but that she’s being unreasonable, despite being well aware of my limitations. We are both adults, but it is difficult to understand that life can be different for everyone. It’s a complicated situation, and I’m not sure how to handle it. Any advice on how to deal with such friends?
– Done with toxic friendship
Dear Frustrated Friend,
What you are experiencing sounds extremely frustrating and challenging. It is obvious that this situation will leave you feeling drained, overwhelmed, and second-guessing.
While you have provided a complete overview, it would be useful to understand the reasons for ending the friendship initially, who initiated the recognition and if past problems were discussed when you reconnected after four years.
The recurrence of toxic patterns, as stated by you, raises concerns that suggest that this dynamic may have been present in the relationship before.
Let’s dive right in and explore constructive ways to navigate this challenging situation.
Start by communicating assertively and expressing empathy. Clearly convey that while you recognize and understand the importance of his birthday due to pressing work requirements and financial limitations you are not able to do it. Use “I” statements to assertively express your limitations. For example, say: “I am not able to attend because of my work schedule and financial constraints”, or “I know that your birthday is important to you and I would like to be there, but I will not be able to do it” .
In addition, it creates a space and establishes open communication, which allows them space to express their feelings and perspectives.
You can also propose an alternative solution that suggests a celebration for her after it suits both of you.
It is critical for you to set clear boundaries by expressing that certain behaviors, such as guilt, are unacceptable. Communicate your expectations. For example, say “I value our friendship, but I need to understand that I can’t take responsibility for things out of my control, and I don’t appreciate being blamed.”
Finally, I encourage you to evaluate the friendship objectively. Consider whether the relationship brings more stress than joy and assess the balance between positive and negative aspects.
Some helpful suggestions for dealing with this are listed below:
See the value of friendship: ask yourself if the relationship causes you more stress and negativity or joy?
Check with yourself: How does this relationship make me feel? What value does it add to my life? How do I feel around her?
Healthy relationships can bring out the parts in us that we like most about ourselves.
Also, work on recognizing patterns and unhealthy behaviors in the relationship and take this as an opportunity to perhaps discover your own patterns that may need your attention. Relationships serve as mirrors that reflect undiscovered aspects of ourselves.
Returning to damaged and unhealthy relationships without addressing the underlying issues will not lead to meaningful change, which requires effort on both sides.
Changed behavior (starting with recognition and working toward behavior change) is the only real excuse. If despite the communication and border environment there is no positive change, consider making a choice that aligns with your well-being. What you will like, I can not say, you need to explore and see what works best for you.
Remember, you cannot control the actions of others, but you have control over your own. Some people won’t be ready to change and that’s okay. You need to decide what matters to you. The things we complain about are often the indicators of where we need healthier boundaries.
Based on the exploration of all of the above, it comes to a result of how you choose to see yourself in the relationship.
Understand that people show us who they are, it is our choice to believe or not, and remember that people’s behavior is how they feel about themselves.
Haya Malik is a psychotherapist, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, corporate wellness strategist and trainer with expertise in creating wellness-focused organizational cultures and raising awareness around mental health.
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