FWP: Getting Rid of Toxic Friends
PROBLEM: I have a wonderful group of friends who have been together since school days. But lately, it has seemed that when we all get together, it becomes toxic. Have you ever experienced toxic friends? What do I do? I don’t want to lose anyone.
SB: Oh yes, that sudden maturity drop that happens when you’re with old friends, it’s a common phenomenon. It’s kind of like how you always feel 16 again when you’re home with your family for the holidays and at some point you will likley slam a door or engage in some other such juvenile behaviour despite your best efforts. The good news is it’s not just you, if others have noticed too, it will likley come to a natural head and the group will either evolve or dissolve. Good thing you’re friends with everyone individually! Seems like you’re covered both ways.
LG: Yup, it’s happened. Friendships are relationships. It’s easy to forget that, but it means they’ll go through ebbs and flows, just like a relationship with a partner. And like SB says, it can mean a regression — but it can also mean a mismatch in growth; people grow and change at different rates and in different ways, and maybe that’s what your sensing in the toxic dynamics. Long-term relationships mean you have to wait for others to catch up; sometimes, they have to wait for you. It’s not easy (particularly when you’ve not sworn an oath or signed a contract to do so). So sometimes the best thing a friends group-turned-toxic can do is take a break from each other — then, when you come back together, you might all be able to remember what you loved about each other, and appreciate how you’ve all changed in different ways.
RT: In group settings, people do tend to bounce off each other’s energies and it’s not always a good thing. (Nobody wants to live Mean Girls, irl.) I, personally, recommend getting rid of toxic friends’ group meetings, or keeping them to a minimum — think birthdays and funerals. Instead, focus on your individual relationships with each person you care about. There is power in numbers but there is also a LOT of drama. Avoid!
KB: The only way to break the toxic cycle is to call out the toxic. Instead of sitting idly by and watching girls get catty with each other — and blaming old habits that refuse to die — why don’t you try calling everyone on it? There is nothing to be gained by letting this continue. And everything (i.e., all your valuable, meaningful friendships) to be gained by putting a stop to the pettiness. And if anyone continues the Mean Girls-routine, ignore. People have a funny way of being silenced when there’s no one around to egg them on.
MM: Agree with KB. Toxic friends don’t fix themselves. If this dynamic bothers you so much, you need to do something about it. You say you think others have felt this, too — but if no one has done anything yet it means, like you, they’re wondering if it’s worth the risk. Or perhaps the friendship doesn’t matter enough to work on it. Either way, this friendship clearly isn’t adding much to your life besides baggage. As uncomfortable as it seems, break the silence. Others might even thank you for it. Good luck!