Back in high school, my best friend and I would hang out all the time. We were in the same grade, we lived pretty close to each other, and we shared a lot of interests – tennis, the piano, and reading. We spent hours and hours talking about everything. She was smart and easy to talk to. But the problem was, she only seemed to care about herself. So when I wanted to share problems or successes in my own life, she was totally uninterested. Hanging out with her only left me feeling sad and lonely.
It can be hard to identify toxic aspects of any relationship. But just because you see your friends often doesn’t mean you’re not lonely. Toxic behaviors turn your good intentions into vain acts. Selfish friends will focus far more on their own needs, neglecting yours. While hanging out will be fun for a while, they will consistently drain your energy and leave you feeling abandoned.
Imagine a friend who is constantly minimizing your own life stresses and always talking about troubles in his own love life. You have a deadline coming up when he calls you one evening. You explain the situation to him and ask if you can talk another time. Outraged, he yells and gives you an ultimatum. He doesn’t want to hear from you again.
You have a lot of ways you might respond to him. These are some common ways people use to deal with such relationship.
Many people simply accept the toxic behaviors by staying silent and sometimes even enabling them. You might call your friend back, apologize, and give him some time to talk about his latest disastrous date.
This is the path of least resistance, so it’s easy to fall into this kind of pattern.
But this isn’t a real solution. By accepting your friend’s toxic behaviors, you hurt your own ego, feel sad and more stressed in your personal life, and overall feel like your friendship is extremely turbulent. Sacrificing your own needs won’t fix anything. Gradually it will start to take a toll on your mental health and make you feel depressed.
Another option is to steer into the skid: mimicking the friend’s selfish behavior when you hang out. It feels better to do this than to be victimized. But by doing this, even unconsciously, you become the toxic friend in other relationships. It’s harmful to you as well as the friendship.
Imagine that, in response to your friend’s selfish behaviors, you also start behaving this way to everyone in your life. Instead of giving your friends space when they need it, you demand all of their time for your problems. You feel like you’re always forced to take your friend’s bad behaviors, so you take it out on your friends, family, and your significant other. This vicious circle will harm everyone in your life and only spread the selfishness onward like a communicable virus.
Finally, some people sharply cut ties with their toxic friends. While this will get rid of your problems, it doesn’t really fix them. What’s more, your selfish (ex-)friend may not understand your motivations or actions and return with passive-aggressive behaviors.
If your selfish friend suddenly can’t get in touch with you for weeks upon weeks, they will feel totally confused and abandoned. Think about how they might react — not just with confusion, but anger. They may lash out at you in other ways, perhaps talking to mutual friends about how selfish you are, or trying to get in touch with you even more aggressively. This too can take a mental and emotional toll on you. Avoidance isn’t the answer.
Lots of people want to fix toxic relationships with band-aid fixes, but band-aids don’t fix relationships. To deal with feelings and relationships, it takes time and effort. These are the real solutions to deal with a selfish friend and genuinely fix your friendship.
Let them know how their actions have been harming you personally. Be specific but kind here. It’s important to communicate that you want honesty and that you’re committed to sustaining and improving the friendship.
Explain what exactly it is that you need from your friend in order to make the relationship feel equal. For example, you might tell your friend that you can’t always talk on the phone late at night when you have deadlines. Don’t tell them that you can’t ever talk on the phone late at night, but explain that you need them to give you space when you are stressed or busy.
Be open to hearing their honest feelings and reactions to what you are saying. It’s possible that their actions might be related to your behaviors too. Be honest with yourself and with your friend, and you are likeliest to have the best results.
Finally, if your friend simply refuses to listen to your feelings and clearly has no interest in engaging in an honest conversation, admit defeat. If you can’t fix the relationship, then that’s that. Leave it be, move on, and focus on building and maintaining your healthy friendships.
But oftentimes, a friendship is worth salvaging and you never know how wonderful a friendship can be if you never try. Many friends don’t realize that they are behaving selfishly, and talking with them honestly can really turn things around.
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