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5 Steps To a Friendship Detox….


As I prepare emotionally for my son to take off to college in the fall while skidding into 50 in a few months, I have been taking inventory of the relationships I keep. While there are people with thousands of “friends” on Facebook, I keep a much lower number. And, only a tiny fraction of that are my real friends. Most of them were acquaintances from work, the Mama Gena, Team Northrup and Nia communities I am a part of and people I have know growing up. I keep them because they uplift me and some of them really live interesting lives that I like reading about on my wall.

Those are the relationships I wish to keep.

I am talking about ones whose need for others around as an audience or backdrop to their ego is essential to their functioning, those who leave you feeling drained after interacting with them, or the ones looking for a sycophant to sing their praises (a role, I’m embarrassed to admit, I have gobs of practice at.)

For the past two years, as I have become stronger, more sure of myself, less of a doormat, I have decided I should no longer allow myself to be hostage to toxic and useless relationships.  As a result I’ve been cleaning house.

The decision to eliminate the riff-raff from my life has not been easy.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  It can leave one waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night feeling quite alone.  I now only have a handful of friends and yet you couldn’t pay me to have those “others” back in my life – just for the security of filling in space.

The Universe abhors a vacuum and, yes, we all need to feel as if we belong to a Tribe.  But when walking away if the glass is feeling quite empty…. it’s time to assess what you can tolerate, what’s healthy, and what’s just not necessary. It’s not about being self-righteous. It’s about identifying intentions, loyalty, and true character.

Crisis can test the integrity of friendships.

So here are 5 steps to take to assess whether you’ve reached the end of the road:

  1. Be honest with yourself.  Do you feel uplifted or drained when interacting with this person?
  2. Keep track of your feelings.  Without awareness there is no room to change.  If you suspect that having coffee with X makes you feel worse, not better, start to track your feelings immediately following your interaction with them. If you get two or more of “I feel like crap” after being around them you are enmeshed in a toxic relationship that you should consider tossing out.
  3. What are the benefits? All relationships, even toxic ones, have hidden perks – why would you stay with them otherwise? Determine what, specifically, you are getting from this relationship. Does X make you feel like you’ve got game? Does helping X with her problems, even though it exhausts you, relieve your guilt in some twisted way because you feel like your life is easier than hers? Even though X doesn’t treat you well, does she remind you of your verbally abusive mom, and therefore keep you stuck in comfort?
  4. Fill in the gap. Once you have created an awareness of what you were hoping to numb or stuff with this relationship, it’s time to find healthier alternatives which involve a better payoff for you.  This can be the tough part:  it means you have to feel the pain/discomfort not having that person in your life brings.  It means grieving the loss.  It means grieving the you who no longer is satisfied with stuffing your life with relationships that have, up until this point, kept you playing small.
  5. Call in The Force.  Surround yourself with those working on their boundaries as hard as you are, who aren’t enmeshed in their fair share of toxic relationships and are thus toxic themselves. Toxicity is insidiously contagious. I suspect the risk for getting sucked into or stuck in a toxic relationships for people who have friends in toxic relationships is certain. Get smart about with whom you choose to hang out.

Nobody says it’s easy to say goodbye. But, putting effort and thought into a breakup is much more dignified and classy than just clicking an “unfriend” button on the screen.

My intention is to declare why I am questioning my relationships and why I want to end them. I believe that even those who have wronged me in some way still deserve honesty and closure. It is just the right thing to do. And though doing what’s right isn’t always the easiest path to take, it is always worth the effort.

So, in the next few days, weeks or months, when you are ready… Go thru your friendship list. And hopefully, by the end of 2013, keep the friendships that truly matter.

MINDSHIFT CHALLENGE:  What’s your detox story?  Do you have one?  What steps have you taken to move you from doormat to designer of your life?  What are your challenges?  Share them with us below!


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