“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” ~Henry Ford
A few days ago, a close friend called me and asked for advice on whether he should end a toxic relationship with his ex-girlfriend. He still loved her as a human being, but he felt that she was using him for her own personal needs, such as a ride from the airport, and did not truly care about his well-being.
I thought back to my most recent relationship challenge.
A while back, I moved in with a group of close friends, after breaking up with my ex-boyfriend a few months prior.
We shared a large number of friends, so I attempted to maintain a friendship with him for the sake of our social group. Time and time again, I felt uncomfortable around him because of his constant references to our past relationship and inappropriate touching.
I explained my feelings of unease to my roommates and asked them not to invite him over. I understood if they wanted to continue their friendships with him, but I didn’t feel safe being near him.
My best friend also held a close friendship with my ex-boyfriend, and didn’t understand my negative feelings toward him, yet agreed to these terms. The same week, I walked into our place to find my ex-boyfriend hanging out with my best friend, three separate times.
Again, I brought up my concerns. She eventually stopped inviting him over but soon after began bringing around his new girlfriend, with whom she had cultivated a friendship. Again, I felt uncomfortable and uneasy in my own living space.
I felt hurt. I felt confused. I felt alone.
This was my best friend, who told me that I was one of the most important people in her life, that she loved me, that she would be there for me when I needed her. At this point in our friendship, these statements no longer seemed to be true.
I had lost sight of the friend that I thought I knew, and it was time to reevaluate our relationship.
Reflecting on this experience, I asked my friend a few questions to help him solve his dilemma.
1. Does this relationship make you feel good about yourself?
After my best friend starting bringing around my ex-boyfriend, my primary feelings toward her were negative. For weeks I couldn’t fall asleep because I was so angry at her betrayal, and these feelings only worsened as time went on. These were early signs that perhaps I should not continue the relationship.
When you think about this person, is the first thing that comes to mind positive or negative? Does this person contribute positively to your life, or do they drain you of energy?
If you can’t seem to get past the negative emotions when you think about this person, it may be time to move on.
2. How would you like to be treated by your friends, family, and significant other?
The fundamental issue in my relationship was that I felt my best friend was not respecting my feelings and need for a private space by bringing over my ex-boyfriend and his girlfriend.
Friends, family, and significant others should all support and uplift you, without being controlling.
They should want the absolute best for you, even if your ideas of the “best” differ. They should respect your personal boundaries and feelings, even if they do not entirely understand or agree with them. There should be equal give and take in your relationship.
If you do not feel supported and respected by this person, it may be time to move on.
3. Is there a change that you can make to improve the relationship?
I brought up my feelings to my best friend several times and we agreed to a compromise so that I could feel comfortable in my own living space. However, she continued inviting my ex’s new girlfriend over.
Her behaviors did not align with what I needed to feel supported, and I soon realized that there was no way to change her behaviors if she didn’t wish to do so.
Have you tried to express your negative feelings to this person? Did they value your input and respect your feelings? Do they want to work with you to create a solution?
If this person invalidated your feelings or refused to acknowledge a problem, it may be time to move on.
4. What advice would you give to a good friend who was going through a similar situation?
If my younger sister came to me with this same problem, I would be infuriated that someone she considered a close friend would treat her like this. From an outside view, it is clear that this friend does not have her best interests at heart, otherwise she would understand her feelings and keep the compromise that she agreed to.
If you are still unsure about whether to keep your relationship, think of how you might advise a sibling or close friend in a similar situation. Taking a step away from your relationship and viewing it from a third party perspective can help shed new light. A pros and cons list can also help you understand your feelings in a rational way.
5. What does your future look like without this person in it?
Ultimately, I chose to end my relationship with my best friend because I knew that my life would be less stressful and more positive without her in it. She has since moved out, and we no longer speak.
I was afraid that I would lose friends if I chose to distance myself from her, but my life has only improved thus far.
I have kept my existing friends in addition to making new friends. Looking toward the future, this experience has inspired me to more closely reflect on the ways in which I can better support and nurture those who are closest to me.
You may be afraid of what your life will be like without this person. This fear is holding you back from seeing that you can gain more than you will lose by letting this person go.
Look around and notice that you have many other people who are able to properly support you, with your best friend of all being yourself. No matter how many friendships come or go, you will never be truly alone because you will always be there looking out for yourself.
See through eyes unclouded by fear, and you will discover that the sky ahead is far brighter than anything you leave behind.
Toxic relationship image via Shutterstock