In the first instalment of The Femme’s new advice column, Jessica takes on the topic of friendship.
Ask Jessica is a monthly column in which our resident writer Jessica answers your questions about love, life, and pretty much everything else. With no subject too embarrassing or taboo, Jessica will tackle the trickiest and strangest of life’s dilemmas with plenty of honesty and life experience. Life is a bumpy and funny thing – sometimes you just need to ask someone for help every now and again!
What do you suggest to do when you don’t really like someone who’s outside your friendship group, as they’re a bit flakey and take the piss out of you to get laughs? But your friends like them and always invite them to things. I don’t want to stop meeting my other friends because she comes along but at the same time, I have no time for her. I don’t want toxic people in my life anymore.
Sounds like we have a bit of a catch-22 situation going on here.
For the sake of your own peace of mind and social comfort, you want to eject someone from your life. But doing this might mean that you sacrifice your time with the existing friends who you do value and enjoy.
Honestly, I find it hard to believe that you would be the only person in your friendship group that feels this way if this person is genuinely bringing negative vibes.
That said, as nice as they can be, friendship groups can also be a very stressful environment. It’s not all mimosas at brunch and sitting in coffee shops.
They can make you incredibly insecure and possessive of your place within the group. So perhaps some of your other friends aren’t voicing their opinion because they don’t think it’s in their best interest and want to keep their heads down.
I know because I’ve been on both sides of this.
When I was in school, I was part of a friendship group that in retrospect I would consider to be very unhealthy. Another girl in the group and I were constantly flipping places as to who would play the role of the group punching bag. Whoever was in that position would be the target of endless jokes and jabs and we would sit there and take it.
Being in the group was better than not being in the group. When this other girl was the target I would take part in the, for lack of a better word, bullying.
Because when I wasn’t punching the punching bag, I was the punching bag. So if your other friends do feel the same way and aren’t saying anything, then that may be why.
That said, ‘toxic’ is a very strong word. Unless you’re being generous and skipping out on other terrible details about this person, then it sounds like they’re just, well, a bit of a dick.
Maybe this person is desperate for some friends and feels their only way to solidify themselves is to take the piss and earn their place. For some, this is the only way they can make themselves feel important.
In my experience, there are only two real ways to deal with a dick. Either pay them no attention and they’ll likely get bored and go away, or stand up for yourself.
Next time they take the piss perhaps find some time alone with them and nicely, casually, but sternly fess up about how they’re making you feel. Don’t go in guns a-blazing and scream at them to step off your friend group – this should be more of a defense than an attack-style approach.
If their genuine desire is to make friends and earn a place in the group, then they should (and I emphasise the word ‘should’) back off you slightly.
If this doesn’t work and they continue to make you feel uncomfortable, then you may need to get a bit more tactical.
Maybe start organising meet-ups with your other friends one-on-one or in smaller groups to spend quality time with each of them. Try to forget about this other person and focus on enjoying the friends you do like. If they want to invite this person, then gently ask if you could spend some time with them alone. They’ll probably be flattered and do just that.
This way you’ll naturally end up seeing less of the person you dislike. A tree needs strong roots to grow and the same applies to friends.
Time spent continuing to build your existing friendships will take the focus off this tag-a-long and be much more beneficial to you in the long run.
How do you know when a friendship is dead in the water? I’ve been friends with a girl I went to school with and we meet up fairly often. But the past few times we’ve seen each other there hasn’t been much to talk about and it’s been a bit of a struggle. It seems a bit silly to stop seeing each other as we’ve spent so much time together but at the same time it’s a real effort to organise meeting up and have a good time. Should I stop trying to keep the friendship going?
In short, yes!
Friendship should not be treated as some sort of sunken cost fallacy. Just because you’ve spent time previously together doesn’t change the fact that you may have nothing in common anymore.
Don’t get me wrong – this is nothing to be ashamed of! Neither of you have done anything wrong. In fact, it sounds like you’ve made a valiant effort so far in order to keep this friendship going. But sadly, one of the main facts of life is that people grow.
When you grow, you find that other people may not grow at the same rate or in the same way as you. Friendships fade and you make new friends for different stages in your life.
I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve sat in my room racking my brain and wondering why I’m not still best friends with the person I was close with in Year 5.
In life, we’re probably lucky enough to only get one or two friends that stay with us throughout the years. These are really special. These are the friends you evolve with and support each other and will always end up in stitches of laughter or waves of tears with.
But these are rare. And obviously you won’t know who these people are until you’re much older. So if you feel in your gut that this current friendship you’re dealing with is a real ‘Should I say I’m under the weather’ or ‘Opps, I totally forgot we were meeting up’ type effort, then it’s probably not one of these magical once-in-a-lifetime everlasting friendships.
If you had a romantic partner that you didn’t have anything to talk about with and struggled to have fun together, you’d probably break up with them. (At least, I hope you would.) However, we often treat friendships and relationships very differently when really I think we should be looking at them in the same way in a lot of respects.
The time we spend on other people, be it friendships, relationships, colleagues…it’s precious. We don’t get it back. So why waste it on experiences and people that you have to struggle through and don’t make you happy?
This goes for your friend as well. If you’re feeling this way, then they probably are too. Neither of you should feel like you’re forcing the friendship – it’s not fair on either person.
Think about it like this: if you let this friendship naturally disappear from your life, that makes room for a new one that is more relevant and exciting for where you’re at right now.
It also makes room for the friends you have already that you have more fun with and aren’t such a struggle to maintain. If you spend too much time trying to rekindle the past friendship you once had, you may forget to stop and appreciate the amazing current friendships that you do have.
I’ve had plenty of friendships come and go. There has been some previous bitterness or confusion on my part as to what might have gone wrong even though, most of the time, nothing did. But now I can look back and understand how each of these friendships changed me and appreciate them still.
I often think that the friendships I’ve had over the years each served a very particular purpose for what I needed. (And sometimes, what I had to learn that I didn’t need). I’ve had friends that I’ve been thankful to see the back of and friendships that I tried to keep alive so desperately that I was basically flogging a dead horse.
The second instance is almost worse because if you push it too hard and it becomes unnatural then you will likely end up becoming sick of each other and dread what little time you do still spend together.
It’s hard to ditch the feeling of obligation. You may feel guilty for letting someone fade out of your life that may have been a big part of it. But for what it’s worth, it doesn’t sound like it would be a parting on bad terms. If anything, you can effectively let this friendship fade away and keep the positive memories of the times you shared together.
The good thing is that this won’t require much work. Most of it has already been done for you over time. There doesn’t need to be a big emotional conversation that comes with it. You don’t need to go through legal paperwork. It’s as simple as letting something that’s already halfway gone fade out. You will probably find that if you stop trying to arrange meet-ups and friend dates, then communication will probably cease and you will simply stop seeing each other.
Let this friendship go before it becomes any more of a struggle and look back on it with fondness and joy.
The thing about friendships is this: even if you don’t have them anymore, that doesn’t mean you didn’t have them. Love the friendships gone and look forward to the friendships to come.
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