The Women We Leave Behind: Recognizing and Letting Go of Unhealthy Friendships

Tara Blair Ball
FriendsPhoto byOmar LopezonUnsplash

These are the types of female friends I say thank u, next to.

I recently reconnected with an old female friend. We’d worked together for five years and then kept in touch off and on after I left that job six years ago. I was glad to hear from her, and we’ve been chatting regularly again for the past couple of weeks.

The other night, she texted me, “I’m glad we reconnected btw.”

“Me too!” I said. “Adult friendships are so hard.”

“I know!” she responded.

When I was younger, I had a lady posse. We had similar classes, interests, etc., but as I grew older, I figured out who I was more and what I wanted out of the people in my life more. Some of those friendships naturally drifted away; others came to a screeching halt.

Older and wiser, I’ve become pickier about whom I want in my life because I believe strongly in the quote:

“The five people you associate with the most, you become.”

Unequivocally, these are the types of female friends I say thank u, next to:

1. The Drama Queen

She is always in conflict and, consequently, never the one at fault either.

Her boss has been targeting her. She’s also been showing up late to work and procrastinating on a large project.

She can’t help it that her last three boyfriends were married.

Her husband, a jerk when she married him, is very much still a jerk years later.

We all have periods of time where we are caught in a pity spiral with a lack of self-awareness.

The difference is how long we stay there.

Do these women seek out solutions, or are they constantly stuck in the problem? That’s the clincher for me.

There’s a difference between loving someone and enabling them, and sometimes we have to decide it’s more loving to leave.

I want what’s best for the people I love. Sometimes that means not participating in their drama with them.

Not my monkeys, not my circus, I like to say.

2. The One-Upper

You got a promotion at work. She did too and can you believe she’s making an extra $30k a year? Your child started walking early. Hers did a pirouette last week, and she was so surprised!

Look, good friends celebrate with one another and lift one another up. Life is not a competition. If someone continually responds to your accomplishments or the things you’re excited about with something better, move along.

3. The Anti-Feminist

She thinks feminism is about bra-burning and man-hating and “taking rights” away from men.

/eyeroll. The concept of feminism is simple: equality.

If I work a 40 hour per week full-time job and so does my partner, I shouldn’t have to do all of the chores at home too.

If you’re not for equality, move right along if you then want to complain about how your husband does nothing around the house. I’ll continue happily doing all the dishes while my husband does all the laundry.

4. The Gossiper

She’s always got the deets on whose marriage is in trouble, who is quitting, who is being a little flirty, who committed a parenting faux pas, why a major policy is changing at work, etc. etc.

If she’s gossiping TO you, she’s gossiping ABOUT you.

Be very very careful about what you share with her, or cut her loose.

5. The Frenemy

She texts, “How are you doing??” and when you say, “Great!” she’ll seem put off. She likes it when your life is going bad. The worse the better.

When you get divorced or you find out your boyfriend is cheating on you or you get fired, she’s all about setting up coffee dates and get-togethers where she sits and listens to all of your woes while sharing none of her own.

You might mistake her for supporting you through the bad stuff, but she’s really just using you to feel better about her own life.

Comparing helps no one. Whether you think you are “better” or “worse” than someone else keeps you out of your own present reality.

These people aren’t legitimately caring about what’s going on your life; they’re just selfishly using your situation to feel better about their own.

6. The Flake

She got called into work last minute and can’t make it. She’s 15 minutes late for a dinner you scheduled a month ago. She accepted the Facebook invite and confirmed her RSVP yesterday, but she’s absent today.

Life is busy and chaotic, and time seems diamond-in-the-mud sort of precious.

If someone isn’t willing to make time for you or consistently show up on time, quit wasting YOUR time on her.

7. The Curver

She responds back to almost all of your texts and phone calls, but she never texts or calls first. When it comes to setting up time to see one another, you’re the one pinning down all of the details, including where and when.

You know what that’s called in the dating world? Curving.

“Curving” is when you are responsible for all of the work of the relationship: communicating, seeing one another. The emotional labor of keeping a relationship together becomes all your job. That’s not fair.

I follow a very simple formula: if I reach out to a friend first (text, call, or to see one another), I let them be the one to set up the next set of plans.

It keeps me from investing my energy in people who aren’t willing to match me and from getting resentful and exhausted from trying to make a one-sided relationship work.

“Curvers,” whether they are people you are dating or friends with, naturally drift away when you stop calling or texting first.

To all these toxic friends: good riddance.

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Tara Blair Ball is a Certified Relationship Coach and author of Grateful in Love: A Daily Gratitude Journal for Couples, A Couples Goals Journal, and Reclaim & Recover: Heal from Toxic Relationships with a 7-Step Guided Journal. She has a Master's from the University of Memphis and is accredited by CTAA. You can find her on Tiktok, Instagram, or YouTube at @tara.relationshipcoach.

Memphis, TN

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