Toxic Friendships

The story may vary, but the principal remains universal. We rely on our loved ones to help us through tough situations. Sadly, certain folks refuse to leave the spotlight during any dilemma.

This person makes you feel guilty for your personal happiness. In turn, they ensure that your effort is channeled entirely towards their needs. Rather than motivating you, they force you into helping them achieve their goals.

Emotionally draining people may not realize their full intentions. But the damage they cause is often irreparable. Many have strings of previous close friends who were forced to distance themselves. Not because they wanted to, but because they had to. Because they had to leave to save their own sanity.

Do you have a friend who always has a complaint? Regardless of the hopeful outlook their life may have, does this person lessen the world’s possibilities? Does he – or she – put those issues on your shoulders while disregarding your sound advice?

If you responded with an enthusiastic yes, the rest of this piece will sound eerily familiar.

The Incident

Sunlight streams through the windows. An upbeat playlist blasts loudly in the background. You slip on your work shoes and grab your keys from the counter.

Then, your phone rings.

You check the caller ID. Seeing the name of your closest friend pop up, your gut sinks. She was supposed to be home for the weekend. Concerned, your mind races with worry.

Did something terrible happen? Why else would she call? She knows my schedule is busy this weekend.

Swallowing a lump of concern, you answer.

A mere second passes after you answer. Your friend replies and quickly begins to fill you in on her latest dilemmas. Yes, you love her. Yes, she is your closest friend. But the issues she begins discussing are trivial.

Issue #1: The gas station did not have the soda she desired, forcing her to search for another option.
Issue #2: Her boyfriend canceled their dinner plans for the night due to a family emergency.

As you sit  – anxiously checking your watch – you listen to her incessant babble. Patiently, you listen to her complain of her terrible boyfriend and the gas station with a poor soda selection.

Choosing to ignore the gas station issue, you cautiously ask, “Did you ask for details concerning the family emergency?” She replies with a resounding no. Her emotions at the time prevented her from doing so. She had been far too upset to ask.

Keys in hand, you stare at the wall in front of you – flabbergasted; irritated.

She was upset because her boyfriend canceled on her. Due to a family emergency, he had to change plans. What type of person isn’t compassionate in a situation like that?

Disheartened, you provide advice for the situation.

Communicate your concerns with your boyfriend, you maintain. She then cuts you off, noting that she is too upset to converse with him. You sigh, and say the expected line, ‘Okay, that’s understandable.’ Before you can get another word in, she quickly switches topics, worrying you about the next latest concern in her life.

During this conversation, you try relaying a couple of your pressing issues to her. After all, she’s your closest friend. Friends discuss everything, right? Each person should want to help the other out when in need.

Instead of avidly listening as you did, she interrupts you and brings up yet another personal issue.

Now, you are running slightly late for work. So, you tell her you have to go and that you will help her with these issues later.

You quickly hang up, set your phone to silent. Slowly, you breathe a sigh of relief.

You were actually happy to get off the phone with your closest friend.

Personality Type – Emotional Vampire

People with these personalities are often labeled ’emotional vampires.’ They suck the happiness and life from you until there’s nothing left; until there is nothing left of you to concentrate on.

This is a terrible friendship to be a part of – I know this from experience.

You feel bad whenever something goes well for you. Why? Because while discussing your good experience with your ‘friend,’ she unjustly cuts you down. She then reprimands you for not remaining sympathetic towards her ongoing issues.

If you have a caretaker personality, you’ve likely befriended such a person. You did so unknowingly. But the friendship came with a severe cost. The emotional vampire you either just befriended – or may have met 12 years ago – has coerced you into a codependent relationship.

Because you are naturally responsible and mature in spirit, you tend to this person. You worry about her well-being. You provide advice that is consistently, and conveniently, ignored. Eventually, this person begins to distract you. Ultimately, she prevents you from accomplishing your goals.

They point fingers at little things that make you happy while belittling your other friends if they spend too much time with you.

Toxic Friendships - Who Are They?

Who Are They?

Sadly, pinpointing the people who fit the emotional vampire bill is tricky.

You can learn from your other friends about this person’s personality. Perhaps you might do so prior to investing any real time into formulating a solid friendship. If so, you will save yourself a ton of heartache and stress.

You can also concentrate on your first meeting with the person. Did he or she appear interested in your life? Does this person appear to have a firm, optimistic grasp on life? Or was the person depressed and uninterested in her surroundings?

Your chances of figuring this out right away may be slim, but it is possible. Trust your gut. It’s usually correct.

If the person appears a little too disinterested in anything – or anyone – but him or herself, take it as a sign. Walk away. Buy yourself a cocktail. And finally, breathe a large sigh of relief for ridding yourself of a potentially life-threatening problem.

If you’re reading this and have realized your best friend of many years is undoubtedly an emotional vampire, I’m truly sorry. I am sorry for the heartache you are going through. And I am especially sorry for the difficulties that are to come, and for those you’ve already dealt with.

How to Move On

Moving on from a toxic friend may be tough, but it’s possible. To break away from this emotional vampire, take a good look at who this person actually is.

Is she a family member? If so, you can’t simply ignore them. Family functions put will put you together eventually. Still, try to distance yourself from this person. Limit your conversations. See if that slowly alleviates some of the pressure built up from the effort the friendship required.

If that doesn’t work, you may have to take a more direct approach. Stop all conversations with this person and limit yourself to necessary confrontations, such as family events.

Is this persona  long-term friend? If so, you may be able to break away with clean hands. You may even never have to speak to them again – at least on a personal level. If you do see this person in public, however, maintain polite conversation.

Breaking Away With Action

If distance simply does not work and you need a solution with a little more ‘oomph,’ I recommend one of two things: write a note to your friend or confront them in person.

Confronting an emotional vampire in person can lead to hostility. Be forewarned if you choose this route.

You may meet so much anger that you will begin to feel badly for the person – again, due to your caring qualities. Sadly, you will actually apologize for your creation of an unnecessary argument. Your ‘friendship’ will then continue on as if nothing has happened.

He or she will remain incessantly depressing. You will remain their shoulder to cry on. But you will never receive any empathy in return when you require it.

If you choose to write a note, be sure you craft a well-thought-out piece of writing. Don’t merely slap together a paragraph of hateful words together and send it along. You will only aggravate the person further.

Work with a trusted love one to help you write an effective note. My mother helped me write mine when I was in this exact situation with a previous friend. Ensure the note maintains your care and love for your friend, but that you must part ways due to your personal growth. Tactfully, touch on examples of what this person has done to harm you, both emotionally and mentally.

Make it concise, but thoroughly effective.

In the end, the note should show that you wrote up this letter for their benefit.

Stress that you hope your words will help her make a change for the better. You want her to change not only for herself, but for her circle friends and society, as well. Then, after you have revised the note, send it along.

Wait for a reply – assuming you receive one.

Some emotional vampires will read the note, get frustrated, and simmer in their hatred. If you get a well thought out and respectful reply, go ahead and respond. Maybe you two can actually work out your differences.

If the reply you receive is harmful and irrelevant to the point of your letter, you are really left with no other options. Delete said person from your social networking sites. Move on.

Breathe and relax. Find a fun task to complete to keep your mind entertained. Focus on your future and put the issue you just dealt with behind you.

You may receive another note from the person at a later date, perhaps a month or so down the road. Unless you truly feel the person was receptive to your original note, I recommend ignoring it.

Relish in the fact that you just made room in your life for yourself and pat yourself on the back.

Rid Yourself Of All That Toxicity

You are a wonderful person. You do not deserve to be strung down by toxic friends.

Learn from your experience and move on with optimism. Life is a wonderful adventure. Surround yourself with people who will grow with you rather than tear you down.