It’s hard for me to deal 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 her past issues, the same toxic patterns in her behavior began to resurface. This time, she’s very excited about her upcoming birthday and has invited all her friends, even the ones I’m not too familiar with.
Unfortunately, due to my demanding 14-hour work day and financial constraints, I am unable to participate in her celebrations. When I informed her about it, she burst into tears and cried for hours. She even made up a story for her fiance, who then called me and pressured me to come to the birthday party. The next day I got about 10 voicemails, including some from her mother, indirectly urging me to reconsider my decision.
It’s not that I’m a bad friend or that I cause anger, but that she’s being unreasonable, despite being well aware of my limitations. We’re both adults, but it’s hard to get her to understand that life can be different for everyone. It’s an awkward 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’s obvious that this situation leaves you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and second-guessing yourself.
While you’ve provided a comprehensive overview, it would be helpful to understand the reasons you originally ended the friendship, who initiated the reconnection, and whether past issues were discussed when you reconnected after four years.
The repetition of toxic patterns as you stated is cause for concern suggesting 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. Make it clear that while you acknowledge and understand the importance of her birthday due to urgent work demands and financial constraints, you are unable to make it. Use “I” statements to assertively express your limitations. For example, say, “I can’t attend because of my work schedule and financial constraints,” or “I know your birthday is important to you and I wanted to be there so much, but I won’t be able to make it.”
Further, create space and establish open communication, allowing her space to express her feelings and perspectives.
You can also suggest an alternative solution that suggests a celebration for her later that works for both of you.
It is critical for you to establish clear boundaries by expressing that certain behaviors such as guilt are unacceptable. Communicate your expectations. For example, say “I appreciate our friendship, but you need to understand that I cannot take responsibility for things that are out of my control, and I don’t appreciate being made to feel guilty.”
Finally, I encourage you to objectively evaluate the friendship. Consider whether the relationship brings more stress than joy and evaluate the balance between positive and negative aspects.
Some helpful tips for dealing with this are listed below:
Look at the value of friendship: Ask yourself, does the relationship cause 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 reveal the parts of us that we love most about ourselves.
Additionally, work on recognizing unhealthy relationship patterns and behaviors and use this as an opportunity to perhaps explore 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 solving the underlying issues does not lead to significant changes, which requires effort from both parties.
Changed behavior (starting with acknowledgment and working to change behavior) is the only sincere apology. If despite communication and setting boundaries there is no positive change, consider a choice that is in line with your well-being. What that will look like for you I can’t say, you should do your research and see what works best for you.
Remember, you can’t control other people’s actions, but you can control your own. Some people won’t be ready to change and that’s okay. You have to decide what is important to you. The things we complain about are often indicators of where we need healthier boundaries.
Based on researching all of the above, come to an outcome about how you want to appear in the relationship.
Realize that people show us who they are, it’s our choice to believe it or not, and remember, 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 organizational cultures focused on wellness and mental health awareness.
Send her your questions at [email protected]
Note: The above tips and opinions are author’s and query specific. We strongly recommend our readers to consult relevant experts or professionals for personalized advice and solutions. The author and Geo.tv assume no responsibility for the consequences of actions taken based on the information provided here. All published pieces are subject to editing for grammar and clarity.
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