Pulling the Plug on Mismatched Relationships
If you need to time to recover after hanging out with a friend, that’s not a good sign.
By Alec Cudmore, St. Edward’s University
So you accidentally forgot to invite that one friend to that one party, and then they found out because you let it slip that everyone hung out over the weekend.
Next thing you know they’ve passive aggressively ignored you for a week, despite several apology texts, and now friends are being forced to choose sides; before you know it, the whole gang has completely broken up.
It happens. Welcome to the world of toxic friendships.
Here are five warning signs that a friend might be bad for you, and how to avoid that shit in the future.
1. You Never Say the “Right” Thing
This may seem like something that’s wrong with you rather than the aforementioned toxic friendship, but rest assured that friendships aren’t meant to have such high levels of miscommunication and stress.
Sometimes, it isn’t you. It’s the chemistry. Conversation should leave you feeling fulfilled, not regretting the time you’ve spent together. So much of friendship analysis happens when you get home, post-hangout. If you feel emotionally drained after spending time with that specific friend, it may be that you’re stifling your words around them, censoring yourself because you are subconsciously detecting personality discrepancies between you and your friend.
The human mind is beautifully cunning in its attempts to alter another person’s perception of you. Therefore, you may find yourself constantly at war with your thoughts versus your actual words. Ending the friendship over such differences always seems foolish—surely, if you change yourself enough, the friendship will begin to bloom. Right?
Unfortunately, masking differences can only work for so long before cracks begin to show, and interactions start to feel like long games of rock, paper, scissors. The mind can get utterly exhausted after so much self-censorship. It takes a toll. Needing “time to recover” after spending time with someone may be a sign of a lack of chemistry.
2. Your Friend Pouts—Constantly
Everyone has had a good pout. It’s a passive aggressive way to express our disdain for a situation. The process is relatively simple:
“A gathering of friends and I’m not getting enough attention? Instead of attempting to engage in conversation, I think I’ll sit far away from everyone on my phone, and express how bored and hurt I am with prolonged sighs. If anyone asks, ‘Oh, I’m fine. Just fine.’”
This is somehow still a viable technique in the eyes of many, and many friendships will fall apart because of it. The pout often rears its ugly head whenever you bring this new friend into a group of other friends. Mixing friend groups is already a risky and potentially nerve-wracking endeavor, and a pouting friend will only make things worse.
The pout can even happen in one-on-one interactions and over text. Did you take two hours to respond? With the pout, they’ll likely return the favor by forcing you to wait three hours for their response.
If you find your friend impossible to integrate because of these pouting sessions, understand that you’ve done nothing wrong. Choosing to pout is a sign of immaturity, an inability to deal with the situation at hand in a mature way. The pout serves no purpose other than to punish other people for a fabricated wrongdoing. Once you’ve made attempts to include your friend, and they’ve failed, it may be time for a serious conversation.
3. They Don’t Listen
Communication is the only thing that’s going to keep this shit together. That’s an irrefutable fact. Your friendship is just like any other relationship, in that there needs to be a clear line of communication in order for their to be growth, fulfillment and any fun whatsoever.
Chances are you’ve found yourself in the middle of telling an incredibly engrossing story (filled with romance, action and intrigue), only to find that the friend you’re speaking to doing the old pop-tart phone routine. You know the one. Where that little smart-ass phone pops out of the pocket every once in awhile, sometimes while you’re still speaking.
You keep talking, and they resort to nodding and passing off short affirmative grunts as some sort of cover for having checked out completely.
You then question whether or not the story was worth telling, or are you just an awful storyteller? This bugs you for the rest of the day. Just an awful sequence of events.
When interacting with friends, keep the phone in the pocket and just leave it there until there is an appropriate time to pull it out. If you’re having trouble deciphering when the best time to check your phone is while in public, how about just waiting until you aren’t being spoken to directly? It works wonders. That little screen is a great way to show someone that they aren’t worth your time and it serves as a barricade to actual communication and a healthy friendship.
4. They Force You to Listen
At the end of the day, it all boils down to picking up on social cues. This ain’t always as easy as it sounds, so a lot of problems pop up due to a friend’s inability to read the expression on your face, your body language or even your tone. Thus, they continue to tell you the same story they’ve told you five thousand times. They say things that hurt your feelings, invite you to events they should know you won’t enjoy (and if you don’t go, the pout comes out). They have endless problems for you to help them with, and rarely make the time to ask you about what problems you might be facing.
If you’re the one pulling the pop-tart phone trick, examine your situation. Is this a friendship that can be improved, or is it one that needs to be ditched?
5. The Friendship Needs Assessing
The only way to know whether to save the friendship or ditch it is by evaluating some of the problems previously mentioned, identifying any additional ones, and trying to mend them with the always powerful magic of communication.
If you’re not ready to abandon the friendship, if you believe there is value in it and it can and should be rescued, the time has come for a conversation with that friend. A real, honest conversation that doesn’t involve any pot or alcohol. Just a couple of sober minds coming together and having a dialogue.
During this conversation, make it clear that it’s a time to be completely open about feelings being felt, both negative and positive, and what problems the two of you need to try and resolve. This is the only way any of these problems can be fixed. If at the end of this discussion (and perhaps a short trial period), nothing changes, then it might be time to shut down the whole operation.
Your time on this earth is incredibly valuable, so spend it with people who value your time and whose time you value in return. Friendships should not have to be maintained out of a twisted sense of obligation, out of a fear of the dreaded pout. The pout doesn’t own you. The pout is the enemy.
Settling for lousy friends might be a cure for the loneliness bug, but it certainly isn’t going to do you any favors in the long run. If spending time with friends has become nothing but stressful, it may be time to evaluate these relationships and determine if they are in fact toxic and need to be kicked to the curb.