Social Icons

Monday, June 17, 2013

I need some space... :)

DISCLAIMER: I want to clarify one VERY important thing about where I stand: I LOVE FRIENDS. Love. Absolutely, undoubtedly, cannot get enough of friend-time. Being with people I care about is my favorite way to spend a day. I believe that it is important to try and work things out with friends when sticky situations arise. I think that it is important to be faithful to your friends and walk alongside them when they are going through a difficult time. But what I am about to write about focuses on a different side of friendship; it's geared for those of you who feel like you are in an unhealthy friendship with someone, and want to know how to make things a little easier. A quick story will be shared first for illustration as to what I mean by "unhealthy", and we will move on to what it will actually look like from there.

About three and a half years ago, I met a young woman in the city who seemed to be very easy to get along with. We met one night at church through acquaintances, and a group of us went out to dinner after service was over. Everything seemed normal; she was perfectly great with light conversation, asked questions about others, and offered little information about herself (this is typically normal-- not everyone is QUITE as outgoing as some for the first few weeks of a friendship). This girl seemed to enjoy my sense of humor, so we fell back from the crowd and walked alone for part of our excursion through the streets. We made jokes, we laughed, we were having a good time; no red flags, yet.

A few weeks went by, and this young woman became what I would consider to be a good friend. I didn't know much about her; she was pretty closed off about her personal life, but always wanted me to accompany her to dinner, trips to the suburbs, or just wanted to have me over for dinner. I enjoyed her company, but I began to notice that she had some emotional issues (but seriously-- to some level, everyone does. That is not what I am focusing on here). So as time went on, she began to open up with me. I was thrilled that she felt that she could trust me, because it had literally taken months for her to let me inside. There were more severe issues than I'd realized, but this didn't bother me at all. She was my friend, so I wasn't about to judge where she was currently at or where she'd been in her life. I just wanted to walk alongside her through her journey. 

Months turned into years, and things began to get shaky off and on. It's very hard for me to pinpoint where everything went "wrong", but I would guess that it was after some major changes and disappointments had happened in her life. Since we'd become such close friends, it seemed that she felt that it was okay to take out all of her life's frustrations on me instead of dealing with them within herself. When I offered advice, she shot it down and told me I didn't know what it was like. She closed herself off, the way she had when we barely knew each other. Things were literally like a roller coaster, and I had no idea when the next dip or loop-de-loop would happen. I just knew that I wanted happiness and wholeness for my friend, but it seemed like all she wanted to do was sulk in misery. There wasn't a piece of advice that I hadn't offered, a hug I hadn't given, or a shoulder that I hadn't lent for her to cry on; I did the "friend protocol". But no matter what, it was never enough. 

After what used to be a friendship had turned into a codependent relationship, I realized that my life would be a lot more full if I had less of this friend in it. That's not to say that I hated her, was annoyed with her, or wanted her out of my life-- but I did want more of myself back (we tend to lose ourselves in unhealthy relationships, believe it or not). I began to withdraw slowly, but never intended for it to end the way that it did. I wanted to put up some boundaries, and hoped that she would abide by them. I made everything as clear as possible, as to how I felt and what I needed for both of us to do. But, like most hard conversations-- it seemed to go in one ear, and out the other. I continued to "back off", and she began to notice. I began getting the mean text messages, the passive-aggressive phonecalls, the lengthy attack emails-- all of that fun stuff :) But in the midst of it all, I knew I had to stick to my guns and keep backing off. Sure, there were parts of me that felt terrible and wanted to just fix it all-- but I knew that it wasn't within her capabilities at the time, because she refused to accept any responsibility for what our friendship had become. She didn't want to see that she was emotionally abusing me. 

So what does that all mean? If you're having a prolonged hard time with a friend, you should immediately go and unfriend her from Facebook and delete her number from your phone? No-- don't do that quite yet :) There's no reason to be hostile at this point-- especially if you feel like there is a possibility that things can work out and get better. In my case, there were literally months of struggle-- it was not a spur of the moment decision to do what I did. I had think a lot about it, pray about it, and focus on what would be best for both of us. When I realized that things would most likely be much better for her if she no longer had me to depend on in the manner that she was, I knew it was time for changes to happen.

Do you have a relationship with someone similar to the one I described? I'm NOT, by ANY MEANS, suggesting that you stop talking to them altogether. In fact-- I am suggesting that you try to talk things out with them; tell them how you are feeling. The only reason to completely cut someone off, in my personal opinion, is if there is physical violence happening-- or if your immediate health is in danger. Otherwise, try reading over these in-the-meantime steps to help make your unhealthy relationship(s) a little more bearable and perhaps fixable:

1. Tell them how you feel. Let them know, "Hey-- I care about you as a friend, and I want things to be okay between us. Here is how I've been feeling about things between us __________". Being honest is the best solution in ANY relationship, especially with those that you care about. So if you feel like someone is being overbearing, are blaming you for things you didn't do, or are just taking things out on you because they have no one else to take them out on, let them know that you are hurt by that. That way, they can never say "Well you never told me you felt that way".

2. Limit the communication you have with this person for a while. If they are texting you left and right, at all hours of the day-- perhaps only text them back once or twice a day. Don't be at their every beck and call; if they are not your spouse, they should not be at the center your entire universe :) If you don't feel like you are constantly going back and forth with this person, you will most likely feel less stressed at the end of the day. And more often than not, this person will get the hint and stop texting you/calling you AS MUCH.

3. Recognize when someone is "crying wolf". I know I can certainly tell when any of my friends is getting a little too clingy, and when it's time to start looking at their motives in their friendship with me. Are they calling you or texting you for every little thing, and always bringing their baggage to your feet? If so, it's best to try and recreate a better boundary system between the two of you. It's never easy on either side, but it's better to draw the boundary and recognize these things early on in the situation. Letting things fester is never good.

4. Talk to a third party about how you feel-- but do NOT allow them to get sucked in the middle. In fact, find someone who has never met the person that you are dealing with. That way, the temptation of choosing sides won't even be on the table. Once you've found this person to vent with, see what their input is. A third party is always the best route to go, because they can be objective because they are not directly involved.

5. Do things to take your mind off of your frustrations-- go out for a walk, get together with some friends, pick a room in your apartment and clean the crap out of it :) Sitting and thinking about a situation for too long is usually poisonous, because our thoughts tend to go too far and usually in the wrong direction if we are not in the right frame of mind. That's also why it's best to have an objective person to keep us accountable. So if you had a hard conversation with that person you're dealing with, hang up the phone peacefully and put on your sneakers-- go outside. Go get some coffee-- ask your neighbor if they want to go along. Try to take your mind off of it by doing things that you love. Once the dust settles, you will be able to return to the situation peacefully.

Unhealthy friendships are extremely easy to slip into, especially when things get deep between friends. If you feel like someone is literally sucking the life out of you, or if you feel like you might be sucking the life out of one of your friends-- just take a step or two back. Reevaluate the situation, but don't reevaluate the friendship. Make your intentions clear within yourself as to why you are friends in the first place, and try to work toward that. But when times are sticky between friends, it's important to have the ability to walk away from the situation for some fresh air. In any relationship or friendship, it's important to make sure that both parties are heard, and both parties can get the space that they need when needed.

If you're at all worried that "If I need space and take it, my friend will no longer want to be friends with me anymore"-- I've found that the people worth being friends with will more than likely still be there and waiting to fix things when you're ready. Some people, however, are what I like to think of as "seasonal"; not necessarily life-long friends, but were definitely needed at a certain point in your life. My guess is this: the girl that I was such close friends with before, was probably not meant to be a life-longer for me. I enjoyed each moment of our friendship, even the hard ones. But as things became more and more clear that it would be better for both of us for me to walk away, I went with my gut instinct. It wasn't easy, but I did what needed to be done.

If you feel even a little bit better about your situation (if you're in one right now), then that's great :) Know that you aren't alone-- we've all been there. Go and find someone to dialogue with about your situation, and try to figure out what the next steps should be for you. As I said before, it's better to not let things fester-- it will only get better if you are proactive to some extent. I am all about reconciliation-- please leave this entry knowing that. I do not enjoy divides among people, but I do enjoy seeing people at their utmost best peaceful state; it's hard to be peaceful when another person is constantly dragging you downward. So take today to focus on your emotional needs, set up some boundaries, and enjoy life :)

-Melissa Mancini, counseling student


  1. I've recently been in the position where I broke up with my then best friend. Our relationship became very codependent and unhealthy. She and I talk from time to time, but things will never get back to the way they were. I don't think I handled it perfectly, but we both have the space that I feel was important for us. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Angela! Believe me, I know it's SOOOO difficult to handle these types of situations "perfectly"; it's hard to do it at all without feeling like you're losing your mind :) haha. But the important thing at this point for you is to recognize that it became unhealthy, and that you drew boundaries for yourself and got the space you both needed. Things will only get better from here :)



Sample text

Sample Text

Sample Text

In home services available in the Chicago area. Also available by phone.