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How to divorce a bad friend

I was just reading a post on Yahoo called, How do you break up with a friend and it inspired me to think about how to actually divorce a bad friend. Because it’s pretty much a divorce and it’s a pretty common problem: the bad friend. Everyone probably has one of those.

So, first of all, what is a bad friend? In my opinion, a bad friend is not necessarily a bad person but is a person who is not “good” for you to be around for any number of reasons. It could be someone who is a kill joy, an overly critical person, a jealous-competitive person, a flirtatious person who’s always in your husband’s face, someone who only calls when things are good but disappears when the weather is not so fair…Things like that.

The thing with the “bad” friend is that while he or she may have some bad traits that you absolutely can’t live with, there may be other redeeming qualities about this individual. So you feel bad about wanting to divorce them. You have angst just thinking about how to do it. In a way, you almost don’t want to do it, out of a weird kind of fear, but you feel you must, for your own good.

I remember the way I felt when I broke up with a long term friend quite recently. It felt right but it was very sad as well. This person had been in my life for quite a while but I felt that there was something superficial about our friendship in the end. There was a lot of talk about how good friends we were but when I really needed this person to step up and be there for me, I was stunned to find that I was all alone. The shock and disappointment and disillusion that followed is indescribable. It made me lose respect for the friendship and all the words and grand-standing. It really came down to the adage ” a friend in need is a friend indeed.” I feel a true friend is there when you need ‘em and anything less is a bad friend. 

To me the true test of a good friend is someone who’s there to pick you up (if they can) when you fall; someone who’s got your back; someone you know you can count on no matter what. And what I learned, the hard way, was that just because you may think someone is your “good friend” doesn’t mean that they truly are.  And the moment you come to this horrible recognition, if you are like me, you will immediately want a divorce.

So how do you handle it? Don’t do what I did.  I just faded off the radar. I never had that conversation with this person about why I didn’t want to talk anymore. I just changed my phone number and that was that. I still wake up every morning and think about this situation but I never feel regret. Just great sadness that I had been so wrong for so many years about this person.

I don’t necessarily think that fading off radar is the best way to divorce a friend, though. I agree with the Yahoo article, that, especially for long term friends, you need to have a conversation about it. You need to at least explain why the break up has to happen. You need closure. And it should be in person, not by text or email or something like that.

Of course, depending on the situation, there could be some awkwardness. Your friend and you share mutual friends, for example. That scenario can be hard to circumnavigate if you keep running into this person, or you are forced to interact with this person on a regular basis. It may come down to you having to divorce a whole group of friends! That is tough. It’s a judgment call really. Because maybe whatever is griping you is not so bad? Maybe this is just an “acquaintance” and not really a long term friend. How you handle it will depend on the circumstances of the case itself. But I’ve always believed that one ought to stay away from anyone who makes one feel bad about oneself. And that so called friends who don’t bring out the best in you, who don’t wish you well, you leave you feeling angst after hanging out with them, who are absent every-time you really need them, should be sua sponte dropped like bricks. And yes, sometimes that means doing something extreme like changing your phone number and them never hearing from you again.

It’s almost better to do it that way, (dropping off radar) because it leaves the door open that maybe 25 years later, you can reconcile. Whereas if you have the talk or you send the email…

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One Response to How to divorce a bad friend

  1. matthewingham

    October 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Just cut them loose. If they want to make an issue of it, then tell them directly ‘take a hike’…no mixed signals there huh???

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