I’ve been breaking up with a friend for a few months now, and it’s proving a very hard thing to do without coming out looking like a tosser.
This particular friend is a lovely human.
We’ve known each other a long time, but we’ve both changed a LOT since we used to know each other, and so it’s become more and more evident that we simply aren’t on the same page anymore.
I really value massively confronting, blunt honesty in my relationships; authenticity/honesty is my highest value in life, which is where I feel my friend and I don’t quite align.
It’s not that she is terribly dishonest at all, she’s just a regular human who hides their true feelings to avoid causing drama or upset. I used to do the same, most of us do to some extent with certain people in our lives. I feel that a lot goes unsaid in my conversations with this friend, and I’ve been told by mutual friends that she finds my honesty confronting. I totally understand that, I would have a few years ago too.
I know that this friend isn’t comfortable with voicing her real thoughts to me if she doesn’t agree with something I say, and that she’s more likely to tell one of our mutual friends rather than telling me straight.
And so, through my own fault, this has lead me to trying to curate my behaviour around her, and not being my super honest, blunt, self-development obsessed self.
It’s totally my own shit that I’m not able to get past that and just be myself with her no matter what my mind thinks her mind is thinking(!), but it means that I just feel our friendship takes more energy to maintain than either of us have spare.
So, after much deliberation and wasted overthinking energy,
I decided that the best thing for both of us would be to stop obligating ourselves to add “catch up with XXX” to our never ending to do lists. So I had to own up and explain myself, which is a very hard thing to do when communicating with people who haven’t learnt mindfulness and are therefore likely react to what their mind says about the situation
(which is almost always worst-case-scenario ALARM, ALARM, TAKE OFFENSE!! thinking).
See, a few weeks ago I found myself telling one of my clients to divide her friends in two columns: HELL YES friends, and “we SHOULD catch up “ friends. And then cross out “we should catch up” and replace it with no. It was a talk by Dr Libby that reminded me of it – she talks about how we all have so much going on in our lives, we simply don’t have the time or energy to dedicate to anything other than “hell yes” friends, so
if it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a no.
This client was running herself ragged trying to tick off a never ending list of catch ups, and she had no time left for herself. I asked her which of her catch ups made her feel happy and energetic, and which made her feel apprehensive leading into it and/or drained afterwards, and told her to start learning to say no to any of the latter.
We only have a finite amount of energy yet as people pleasers we tend to try to spread ourselves thin over many, many people so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. But this just results in a whole lot of diluted, half-assed friendships + our own energy being so diluted that we never feel like we have enough for ourselves, let alone for others.
When we say no to people, we’re doing them a favour as much as we’re looking after ourselves.
When we say yes but we don’t really mean it, and then we have a half assed catch up, the other person can feel it and it’s never enjoyable. Saying no to some friends also means we have more energy to give to the HELL YESes, so it benefits them too.
Like the flight attendants say, put on your own mask before helping others.
Perhaps they should add: “then help your loved ones that need you most. Then if you’ve still got energy left, help everyone else too.”
But definitely don’t serve you and the people you love last, you’ll run out of oxygen. Or energy.
I have less and less of these “we should catch” up friends in my life these days, I’ve been working on it putting more energy into my HELL YES friends and less into my obligation friends. I personally think that there “should” be no such a word as should.
Should (verb): used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions. This is NOT what friendships are about.
My definition of “we should catch up” = “we feel obliged by social-etiquette to catch up and tick each other off the list for another month, but we don’t reallllly want to all that much.”
This can be the case with long standing friends who we never really clicked with but have known for so long that we feel obliged to keep it up; it can be the case with old friends we had when we were a very different person, and now we’ve changed our friendship doesn’t make so much sense anymore, or it can just be with friends who we’ve had so many ups and downs with that it just seems futile to keep forcing square pegs into round holes. It’s draining, and none of us spare fuel reserves these days.
In short (not my forte) – put more energy into your HELL YES friends and start lovingly but firmly phasing your “should” friends out of your life.
Because if they’re a should for you, it’s likely they feel the same way, so in the end it’s best for both of you.
I’m still yet to decide if “breaking up” with my friend with such honesty has been the right approach, but I’ve recently realised that I’m very good at sharing stories authentically with you guys – but only once I’ve already figured out the answer to my problem. So I’ve decided in the name of real vulnerability, I’m going to start sharing things that I haven’t fully figured out yet.
Because even though my perfectionist mind says it’s NOT OK not to have all the answers, I’m not all that into listening to my mind these days.
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PS – tag your HELL YES friends!