Dear Barb—Toxicology

Dear Barb:

I have a friend of many years, but I don’t know if I have changed or if she has changed, because lately I find her very annoying.  Sometimes she is unsupportive and judgmental of everything I do.  If I have a great achievement or reach a goal I’ve set myself, she is uninterested and shifts the attention to herself.  She seems to have one crisis after another in her life and always draws me in and I end up consumed with her problems.  No matter what she does, even if she knows she was wrong, she will never apologize.  Whenever we have a problem or a difference of opinion, she says it’s my fault and that I wasn’t listening to her, or that I was rude or disrespectful to her.  Even though I know I am right, I have found myself giving in and taking the blame just to keep the peace.   I’m starting to feel worn out and used.  Since we have been friends for so long, I would like to find a way to maintain the relationship, but not like it is now.  Should I just end it and move on, or is there another way?  Help, Alicia.

Hi Alicia:

Sorry that this is happening to you.  It sounds like you may be dealing with a person who is commonly referred to as “toxic.”  I understand that you have a long-standing friendship, and it’s not something you should just throw away if it can be salvaged, but this is not a healthy relationship.  Toxic people are very manipulative and always project their feelings on to the other person, so everything becomes the other person’s fault.  They never celebrate others’ achievements, but instead always try to bring them down and point out the negatives.  Every disagreement ends up being about something you did to them,  maybe even years earlier, so nothing ever gets resolved.  And if you do make a mistake, they will never let you forget and will bring it up in every subsequent argument.  From your letter, it seems like your friend has a lot of these characteristics.  It is possible to maintain a relationship with toxic people, but it’s important to know how to handle them.  It’s imperative that you become aware of their toxic behaviours and learn to deal with them.  Do not allow this person to control you or make you feel responsible for something you know you didn’t do.  When the blame game begins walk away.  Do not engage, and do not allow them to convince you it is your fault.  Be very clear about what is your fault and own it.  Do not spend your time trying to defend yourself against accusations that you know are not true or allow yourself to be manipulated into doing things that you don’t want to do.  For example, if you friend invites you for dinner and then gives you a list of the items you need to bring, unless you offered to bring something, you are being manipulated.  Toxic people are draining, they leave you feeling exhausted and that is not an equal relationship, but rather one person has all the power.  Ultimately it is your decision, whether you can manage this relationship, if don’t feel you can it is probably time to walk away.  Good luck and thanks for your question Alicia.

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