The 3 D’s of Dysfunctional Friendships and How To Co-Create Healthy Relationships
Growing up in a somewhat dysfunctional home, I’ve grown up with patterns that lead me to create and accept unhealthy friendships. Over the years I’ve learned a lot from these difficult challenges, and today I wanted to share the 3 D’s of dysfunctional friendships and some possible solutions to this madness.
There are tons of different expressions of dysfunctional (or toxic) friendships, but I’ve narrowed it down to the three types that are easiest to overlook.
These are the friends who need all of the attention. They get super miserable when you’re doing well or feeling happy. You may find yourself downplaying your happiness to make them feel better. Or Maybe you begin to sacrifice your confidence for their benefit. When you come to your senses and stop these actions, your friend becomes a seriously grumpy, passive aggressive, brooding nightmare. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think you did something wrong for which you must apologize.
Do you have friends that are only your friends on certain terms? Do you fear telling certain people things because you know you’ll face their judgment or criticism, but god forbid you ever try to talk to them about it because they’ll chew your ear off and make you feel insane for caring? I call these the Disregarders. They disregard your feelings and get upset when you try and tell them so.
3. ditto doers
What about the friend that has what you have, or does what you do, but better and more? Have you ever been in a conversation with a friend who consistently interjects with their opinion only to tell you they have the same ideas as you, but with an added something? If so, you’ve got yourself a ditto doer.
I had a conversation with a friend one time where I tried to explain how sensitive I was to other people’s energies. For whatever reason, we were disagreeing about something, and when I explained that sometimes it feels I’ve got ten people in my head telling me how to feel, she offered up, “OMG Me too but like ONE HUNDRED people,” as a counter argument. Get what I’m saying?
Ditto doers tend not to practice deep listening, (where you let the person talk and just sit with the energy of the conversation), but instead are caught up in their own excitement (and ego) of needing to be on the same page, if not a better one, as you. This can be an innocent trait in some, and in the example above it did in fact come from someone who means well and loves me, but if left unchecked these sorts of traits can quickly turn damaging to the friendship, like in this next example:
A few years back I took myself on a solo, meditative trip to Portugal, and a ditto doer friend of mine showed up, uninvited, and crashed my trip. Being a people pleaser at the time, I said nothing and accommodated her. On that trip I had booked a ticket to Rome, but found myself missing the flight in order to hang out on the beach and soak up the paradigm shifts that were occurring despite my friend’s intrusion.
Long after leaving Portugal, that friend and I met up again for our annual catch-up in the UK where she introduced me to a bunch of her new friends. A few drinks in and we all decided to share our wildest or most life-changing travel stories, and that’s when I heard someone ask my friend about the time she missed her flight to hang out on the beaches of Portugal during one of her solo trips. I was shocked. Not only did this ditto doer crash my trip to be able to say she’d been where I’d been, she had literally stolen my story and my experience and shared it with others as if it were her own, without even a mention of my name! Needless to say, I was enraged.
SO WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?
I’ve had my fair share of toxic and frustrating friendships. I’ve learned a ton, both about myself and others. Here are a few things I think you should know about dysfunctional friendships:
1. Dysfunctional friendships are a two-way street
I once thought that if a person was unruly or out of line and I defended myself, I would be just as bad as they were. I used to think this meant that I had to be extra nice and stretch myself too thin in order to change or accommodate a person and not contribute to the negative aspects of the friendship. Wrong! This people-pleasing behaviour is part of the problem. If you do or say nothing to defend yourself or to let your friend know in a loving but firm way that their behaviour doesn’t fly, you are absolutely contributing to the dysfunction of the friendship!
2. Sometimes friends are a reflection of you
You don’t need to be an exact mimic of the behaviours you hate in order to see a reflection of yourself in others, but chances are there’s something in them that resonates with a part of you that could use some awareness. Sit with the feelings you get when you’re around a certain passion-provoking friend and ask yourself if there’s a part of their behaviour that maybe – just maybe – reminds you of someone (you), or can teach you something.
3. Just because friends are a reflection of you doesn’t mean you need to stare in the mirror all day
I held onto a friendship with my diva friend for over 15 years because I thought that I needed to learn something, but it wasn’t until I gave up and ended the friendship that I learned what I needed:
You don’t need to hold on to a toxic relationship
in order to discover what part of you attracted it!!!
I realized that the issue with this diva wasn’t that her divaness was a hidden trait in me – but that I was putting up with too much from people and needed to learn to put my foot down and exercise boundaries. I needed to respect and value myself, my time, and my energy. I was attracting her over and over and over again, in Portugal and Venezuela and London and Sydney, because I needed to learn to say ENOUGH for myself.
OVERCOMING THE ISSUE
Friendships come in all different forms, and they’re not always going to be peachy, but when you find yourself faced with an ever-upsetting one then you know it’s time to do some deep thinking.
Ask yourself how you could be contributing to the issue. Are you saying too much and being pushy or judgemental? Are you not saying enough, and letting your friend cross over boundaries they don’t even know exist for you? Define your boundaries and communicate them with your friend. Assume they want the best for you and will lovingly comply. A healthy friendship allows for an open line of communication, and this includes a few disagreements along the way. The important thing is that you’re both heard and acknowledged, and no one walks away feeling guilty for speaking their truth, or attacked and responsible for the other person’s emotions.
Remember to first attempt to solve your friendship issues by focussing on yourself and your actions. Try not to accuse your friends of causing your reactions or for single-handedly hurting your feelings. Instead, let them know how you’re feeling and what you think you’d need in order for the feeling to change. It’s the difference between, “I feel upset because I…” and “You made me so angry when you… ” This kind of language awareness goes a long way in all sorts of relationship types.
DISCONNECT & MOVE ON
Most importantly, don’t feel the need to hold on. If someone refuses to hear you out, grow with you, or respect your needs, there comes a point where you absolutely have to be responsible for yourself and move on. This is a practice of self-love. You must treat yourself how you wish others to treat you, and there’s no getting around it. Only then can you begin to define and receive healthy friendships.
So there you have it! The 3 D’s of dysfunctional friends and what you can do to cocreate healthier friendships. I hope you enjoyed this read. Feel free to share this post if you agree, and to drop me a line in the comments section if you’ve got a story to share or something to add!