Never has it been easier to socially distance yourself from friends, even ones you sorely miss. But now is an important time to decide which toxic friends you need to distance yourself from, even after things return to normal (whatever that is).
There’s a saying that good friendship is like a four-leaf clover: hard to find and lucky to have.
The older we get, the more things change. And the more things change, the crazier the world seems to get. While in your own lockdown, social media might keep you well-aware of just how much negativity is out there, but without the right friends to steer you back to center, things can get hairy.
If push comes to shove, are you man enough to distance yourself from a life-long friendship? Because your long-term happiness and self-respect may depend on you answering correctly.
Every push has its pull. Oftentimes, when we find ourselves in a flow state — that natural goodness of feeling like exactly who we are while doing exactly what we’ve been put on this planet to do — we also feel something (or someone) pulling us back, even down.
Toxic friendships are tough, mostly because they probably weren’t always that way so you feel a need to hold onto them. When you’re young, friendship is easy. Most of who you spent time with was based on the street you grew up on or your love of baseball, girls and causing trouble. But the world is very different now, especially for young people. The older we get, the more friendships are challenged. And while some might be linked to your fondest memories, not everything gold can stay. So as your circle of friends moves into new territory — marriage, kids, grown-up stuff — you see one another making decisions that you might not agree with, which is OK, but when it creates a negative or hostile environment, it’s time to raise the red flag.
[Sidebar: If your friends are still creating a racist or sexist environment, it’s your responsibility to hold them accountable.]
We’ve recently established that sincerity is lost among men in groups bigger than two. Whether it’s a single toxic friend or several doesn’t matter; it only takes one rotten sheep to infect the whole flock.
If you’re heading in a new direction (a healthy direction) but feel held down by old friends — common symptoms may include: group judgment, name-calling, only showing up in times of crisis or with a good meme, belittling your achievements in order to keep you at their level, never bothering to call you in four months stuck home with nothing to do — now is the time to put a different kind of social distance — toxic distancing –between friends, a property line built to maintain the friendship but keep out toxic intruders.
You create healthy boundaries, lest that toxicity bleeds into our areas of your life.
No one solution is the end-all for fixing relationships, which means you have to take a moment to look at what’s wrong. In short, the best thing you can do for a close, yet somewhat toxic friend, is to be there for them when they need you, and not much more than that until things change. A conversation, thoughtful and calm, might best relay some of the ideas, but not many friends want to confront one another.
But it’s 2020 and you’re feeling a little bolder every day, right?
If you have long-time friends you’ve known since grade school, high school or college who just don’t jive with the direction you’re heading now, it’s a simple as keeping to important events like their birthdays and group-specific events like engagements, weddings and the occasional get-together, where you can celebrate, have a laugh and leave when you’re ready.
There just isn’t room for toxic people every day of your life if you’re trying to find some peace at the end of each day.
One-on-one hangs are always a good way to go. Grow strong, sincere relationships by grabbing lunch with an old buddy, drinks with another, and have the older, fuddy-duddies over for game night before it’s time to put the kids to bed. Just don’t gossip and judge others when you do. Be fully present (no phone) and supportive in that short time you have with them. Even quick catch-ups on the phone (or video chats, especially now) are warranted.
When it’s just the two of you, they’re more likely to notice you’re not the same person you were in 1995 or 2010, and neither are they, hopefully. It’s OK if the 2020-versions of you don’t match up. They’re more likely to see why you’ve pulled away from the herd the deeper the conversation goes so maybe talk about more than the weather and quarantine.
You’ll start to see space opening up around you, which allows you to focus on moving forward with the right use of time with the right people. There’s no need to cut out friends or publicly shame (that’s what makes you into a toxic friend). It’d be easy to tell them to screw off, but that’s not the move here. The move is to be supportive as much as you can without sacrificing your happiness, or theirs. Stay in the pocket and move forward with grace.
Lastly, keep the days that are important to you for people who jive with your current direction. If they’re the right people, you’ll find yourself in that flow state more and more as you go. Life is good when you surround yourself with good people, and it’s always easier to get by with a little help from your friends.
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Cover image: gpointstudio (Envato Elements)