I have received countless letters on unequal and toxic relationships whether romantic partners, business associates, friends, or family.
I wrote this for another publication but it was rejected for “sounding young,” amongst other issues. What do you think? Is it only the young (or the old and immature) who experience toxic relationships? Please comment and share!
As a woman “of a certain age,” I like to think I lead a pretty grown-up life. My son is thriving, my marriage is happy, and (with the exception of recognition and compensation) my career is flourishing.
Up until a couple of years ago there was one particular area of my life that didn’t feel grown-up at all. This space felt young and petty; ugly and hurtful and small.
Given my assumptions regarding this website’s demographics (mostly gals) I bet many of you have struggled with the same problem. I sure hope so; I’d hate to feel like I’m alone here.
At its finest, a friendship is like a lifejacket with a bottle of champagne strapped onto it.
No, I’m not drunk. It’s still early! Let me explain:
The lifejacket is there to keep you above life’s waterline when you are weighted with all the terrible things this world can throw at you.
- Love lost
- Being broke
- Internet interruption
Like a real lifejacket, that friendship can’t fix our problems for us. We still need to make that swim to shore on our own, but it gives us a fighting chance to survive when the waves seem insurmountable.
Sorry, I got a little lost in that analogy, Or was it a metaphor? Anyway, I think you get it.
The champagne bottle is of course to celebrate life’s wonderful moments whether ordinary or extraordinary.
- Love found
- Good health
- A strong wi-fi connection
What would a celebration be if we didn’t have the ones we love around us to share our joy? It would be a tiny pathetic little party with no cake and no champagne. Boring!
I’ve noticed two kinds of toxic friendships that dovetail beautifully with my Champagne Lifejacket analogy. Or metaphor. Whatever.
Lifejacket Only Friends
These are the friends who at first glance seem incredibly supportive and helpful, but who actually both enjoy your pain and avoid your happiness.
Think about the more unsatisfying friendships in your life. Are there some people who are ever-present when your life turns to dung yet nowhere to be found when you want to celebrate something wonderful? Do they seem to enjoy your misery a little bit too much?
Similarly, do you have friends who desperately want you around when they need something or when they are unhappy yet who scatter with the wind when life is going their way?
Those who are only present when the chips are down and disappear when the chips are back may be Lifejacket Only friends and therefore toxic.
There are some people like this who shy away from jubilance because they suffer from insecurity, depression, or shame about the state of their life. I plan to explore how to help these friends in a future blog, so stay tuned!
American songwriter Jimmy Cox wrote the perfect song describing the “Champagne Only” Friend 92 years ago, and it still holds true today.
“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” is a study on the misplaced value some people ascribe to money and material things and the unhappy surprise they face when their fortunes change and their “friends” suddenly fall away.
These are the folks who are the first to accept an invitation to a cocktail party or dinner when times are good and the last to bring you a lasagne and their shoulder to cry on when the good times end and the bad times begin.
These are the friends who proudly proclaim to have known you since “back in the day” when you are on top of the world, but who would discount and minimize your connection when your problems become both painful and public.
In other words: when you most need a friend.
So Now What?
Now that you’ve used my handy-dandy Champagne Lifejacket analogy/metaphor/friendship analyzer and confirmed your suspicions that a friendship is toxic, what do you do? Well, I’ll tell you!
Please utilize the Robin DesCamp R.I.S.E. Cure for Toxic Relationships.
R.I.S.E: Reflect, Identify, Separate, Enlighten
- Reflect upon why you spent time in a relationship that was unsatisfying at best and hurtful at worst. Are you insecure or otherwise unsure of yourself – enough so to rationalize the negative and selfish behavior of others because it’s better than being alone? You are better than that. If there is a pattern to break: break it.
- Identify alternatives to toxic people: your family, your job, what you do for fun and the rewarding friendships you are lucky enough to have.
- Separate yourself from people who make you unhappy.
- Enlighten yourself through the exploration of new friendships, goals, work, education, hobbies, and dreams.
You’re Not Done Yet!
Finally, ask yourself this question:
“Am I a toxic friend?”
Use the Champagne Lifejacket analogy/metaphor/friendship analyzer to take a good hard look at yourself and your behavior towards people who are important to you and to whom you are important.
Are you a toxic friend?
If so, stop it. If necessary, apologize. Identify and acknowledge your shortcomings as a friend and do better.
Doing better isn’t always easy, but it’s always better.
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