You are in a meeting that took weeks to arrange when your phone starts vibrating every 30 seconds. You immediately run through the whereabouts of your family: kids are at school, husband is at work, and mom is playing golf so what could be so important. Then panic begins as you imagine your child having an accident and being rushed to the hospital, your husband in a deadly car accident, or someone in the family dying. So you check your phone discreetly only to find 15 messages from your friend.
Really? Can’t this latest drama last till the end of the meeting? But your phone keeps going off with new additional messages until you find that you are no longer participating in the meeting and severely distracted by the thoughts circling in your head wondering if your house is on fire or your friend is in jail. So you cave and excuse yourself to return the dreaded phone call.
“I need to know what pumps to wear with my new black dress”, the panicked voice on the other end says. Now you are angry that you go so anxious over nothing, exhausted from the million catastrophes that raided your mind, and stressed out from the unending craziness that hovers over your friend like a black cloud constantly raining on your parade.
Reasons for friendships. You thought that having friendships would reduce your anxiety through shared experiences, alleviate your exhaustion by providing much-needed emotional support and minimize your stress by having someone to talk to. But it doesn’t or at least has not in this case or the case before. Now you are left wondering how to get rid of this ridiculous friendship and wondering if the risk of adding another friendship, even if it might be helpful, is really worth all of the effort. After all, friendships require an investment of time, energy and intimacy all of which has long been long depleted from your account.
Get rid of the baggage. Begin with the end in mind. Friendships can be extremely helpful but if you find that you no longer care about which color pumps to wear then it is time to get rid of the friendships that do. Backing away from a friend is difficult and there are two ways to effectively go about it. One is the direct approach where you explain that you need to stop the friendship; the old “it’s not you, it’s me” approach. The other way is to pull back a little at a time until the friendship is in the distance instead of so close by waiting 24 hours to return phone calls or respond to texts.
Less is more. In the end, you are better off with a few close friends that mutually support and encourage you instead of more friends that drain you. But having a few close friends means kissing a lot of frogs along the way to see which will turn into a treasure. More importantly, it means being a good friend to others so you can attract quality friendships.
Making the first move. Sometimes you have to initiate a friendship by doing an act of kindness, listening to them complain, being empathetic when there is a problem, or just simply asking them to join you for a cup of coffee. Don’t wait for others to make the first move or you are likely to fall into the dysfunctional friendship all over again. Dysfunctional people are like leeches sticking to whatever surface that doesn’t repel them. So stop being a target for them and make the first move.
Allow for grace. Once you have started a friendship, have a couple of boundaries ready to keep you from falling back into your old pattern. If for instance, your friend crosses a boundary such as calling after midnight, give grace once but after that if your boundary keeps being violated, then cut the friendship off. The sooner you do this the better the result.
Risk intimacy. In order for a friendship to reduce anxiety, alleviate exhaustion and minimize stress intimacy must be a two-way street. You should not be giving more intimacy than your friend nor the other way around. It must work together and naturally. If not, this is not a close friend.
Know your seasons. In every season of life, you will have different types of friends for different reasons. When you were dating, your friendships were other single women. When you got married and had kids, your friendships likewise were married with kids. When you changed jobs, your friendships also changed. This is normal. Don’t try to force a friendship that was never meant to last beyond a season in your life.
Quality friendships can be extremely refreshing, encouraging, and are well worth the time, energy, risk and intimacy to achieve. But with anything, practice makes perfect so don’t expect to have this down right away.
There is hope for your exhaustion. Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort. If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment. Or you can send me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org.