In a previous post, I talked about how to identify--and how to deal with--the people in your lives who suck away all your energy and leave you feeling wiped out and utterly drained. I refer to them as black holes.
But in your quest to live your life more consciously, more joyously and more honestly, you may find yourself dealing with people who are not quite black holes, but who may be a negative force in your life nevertheless. The question becomes: What to do with them?
If you think of loyalty as one of the highest virtues, as I do, it can be extremely difficult to know when or if to cut ties with a friend or acquaintance, especially if they've been in your life for a very long time.
I've been struggling with this as of late, as people who have been friends for a long time have been behaving in ways that are draining, inconsiderate and sometimes downright hurtful. If these people were behaving this way with direct malice or awareness of what they were doing, the answer would be fairly easy: you can cut ties with someone who is trying to hurt you. That's a no-brainer.
What's not so easy is when someone you care about is totally oblivious to the pain they've been causing you. For some of these people, confrontation is an option. You can initiate a discussion with them, where you ask them why they're behaving in a certain way and get an honest conversation going where you get things aired out and figure out how to get back into harmony.
If you think you can do this, I'd definitely try that approach first.
If, however, you find yourself trying to gently broach the subject of what's going on in your friendship and are quickly met with stonewalling, defensiveness, even anger--well, the chances of salvaging things go down.
If you are able to completely cut ties, this might be an option. Just do it. Move on. However, if, like me, you hold out glimmers of hope that your friend will wake up to their bad behavior and be open to improving your relationship, cutting ties doesn't feel like an option.
What I've realized recently is that when you can't talk to a friend about problems in your friendship, the only thing that will work is for them to come to you. And the only way to make that happen is to make new friends, and move on without cutting ties.
You might still be able to respond and be polite, but you will need more distance to protect yourself, and your boundaries will need to be much clearer. As you begin to spend more time with other people, your older friends may miss you. If they don't, well, what's the loss there, really?
If they do miss you, however, and you pick up on that, you can begin to ease back into conversation about your friendship. See if they've softened their defenses. See if they actually, actively want to be your friend.
My husband and I were both raised to be incredibly loyal, devoted people. Yes, we're busy, but when someone expects us to be there, we do our damnedest to be there. I think we are sometimes shocked by how few people feel this way.
I think it's harder than ever to find people who are loyal and honest and open, but since they must be out there, we'll just keep looking. If you can honestly assess yourself and say, "Yes, I'm a good friend" and yet your friends are flakes who constantly let you down or betray your trust, I exhort you to do the same. Again, none of this is easy, but having a few good, trustworthy and dependable friends is essential. None of us can go it alone in this world, so find your shipmates, and don't hesitate to leave the flaky ones behind. When the weather gets rough, you'll be glad to have spent the energy on this search.