How To Not Be A Toxic Friend

embedIllustrated by Anna Sudit.
Let's face it: Sometimes, you could use some (non-retail) therapy, and sitting on stranger's couch isn't on your list of to-dos. Enter: Pretty Padded Room, a virtual platform that connects you to their arsenal of licensed therapists — all twelve of them! Because if one were enough, you'd have stopped bugging your BFF about how long you should wait till you text your ex back. This week, the ladies talk about a sticky friendship situation.
One of my best friends recently told me I have “selfish tendencies.” She gave me a few examples and I actually understood where she was coming from and appreciated her honesty. But, since then, she’s been avoiding me. I thought this was an intervention to help me grow but I guess she thought it was a conversation to cut things off? I’m really hurt and confused and think I deserve an explanation or at least another chance to make things right. How can I get her to talk to me?
Annie Roseman, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
This sounds very painful and frustrating, and I understand your need for clarity. Our culture places a premium on romantic relationships, but platonic friendships are equally important. So, it can be just as devastating when one ends unexpectedly, as Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph illustrated so well in Bridesmaids. Ideally, you could have an open and honest conversation, then solve all your issues through shenanigans and ‘90s pop music, but this becomes much more difficult if neither one of you ever starred on SNL. In real life, she probably should’ve brought her concerns to your attention earlier but unfortunately, it sounds like the damage has been done.
That said, if her goal was to put an end what she saw as bad behavior on your part, it’s great that you had a friend that cared enough about you to offer some honest, though hurtful, criticism. It’s even better that you valued her opinion enough to be receptive instead of defensive. However, this doesn't mean that you get to skip off into the sunset — you’ve got work to do. If she needs space from you, you have to respect that. Pushing her to talk to you if she doesn’t want to will only reinforce her idea that you put your needs/feelings ahead of hers. But, consider yourself lucky: Sometimes, people get fed up and disappear with no explanation and all you're left with is questions and assumptions that make you feel bad about yourself.
And, though this might not sound fair, you can't control how other people act — but you can control how you react. So, use this time to develop insight on how you are perceived by others and learn from this fallout. Think back to your own reaction to hearing her call you selfish, and reevaluate the conversation and the examples she gave. Ask other friends and family for sincere feedback, and be prepared if it’s not good. Self-awareness is the first step to personal growth, so as painful as it might be to hear, I encourage you to challenge yourself to confront these behavior patterns and change them.
Ultimately, people don't often end important relationships on a whim, so it’s likely that she has been distancing herself for awhile. Even with time and space, the relationship may never go back to what it once was, but if you care about her as much as it sounds like you do, it’s worth the extra effort to try reconnecting. If and when she does come around, don’t spend the entire conversation asking her why she dumped you, because friendship shouldn’t feel exhausting. Instead let her know the things that you’ve been working on and thank her for being the catalyst to that change, then get back to the important stuff: having fun! Going forward, just do your best to be the kind of friend you root for and not the kind you run from.

More from Spirit

Let us all hold hands and increase the peace. This Monday, September 26, a rare event is happening in the skies. The radiant Sun and broad-minded Jupiter ...
What a week it’s been, stargazers. First, we were told our Zodiac signs have changed, that there's now a 13th sign, and that apparently everything we ...
Change is in the air: The days are ending earlier, the summer heat is dying down, and these are only signs of bigger things to come. The autumn season ...
(Paid Content) Your love life heats up as Venus heads into fun and flirty Virgo this month. And your beauty game responds in kind. Look for makeup that’s ...
If you're a big fan of personality quizzes, you probably know everything a quiz can tell you about yourself, from your Myers-Briggs type to what your ...
In case you missed it, this past weekend bore witness to an astrological shake-up thousands of years in the making (and also one that we'd already lived ...
Was your flight delayed? Blame Mercury retrograde. Notice some suspicious charges on your credit card? Blame Mercury retrograde. Get into a shouting match ...
(Paid Content) As eclipse season unlocks hidden desires in your love life, you’re able to approach relationships from a place of knowledge. Let that be a ...
Tired of stressing and obsessing? Turn your solo missions into tag-team ventures and watch how easy everything becomes. On Thursday, the sun wraps its ...
Here at Refinery29, we invest a lot of meaning in the astrological sign we were born into — like, a lot a lot. Imagine our surprise (and okay, slight ...
This month's full moon and 2016's final eclipse will collide this Friday, September 16. East Coasters will be able to see the moon as early as 3:05 p.m, ...
St. Matthew Catholic Church: LEAD Ministry from Eric Kruszewski on Vimeo. When journalist and videographer Eric Kruszewski first learned about LEAD, an ...
Supersize swagger? Check! This Tuesday, pushy Mars locks into a tangled angle with the ego-driven sun. While it's great to be confident, we could get ...
This article was originally published on April 29, 2016. Remember the pilot episode of Friends? There’s a scene where Ross, recently divorced, enters ...