“Do not justify, apologize for, or rationalize the healthy boundary you are setting. Do not argue. Just set the boundary calmly, firmly, and respectfully.” Crystal Andrus
Have you had one of those friends who make you question their intentions? Or who frequently leave you feeling resentful and manipulated?
I know it’s painful to consider these feelings about a relationship. Sometimes it’s easier to live in denial! Even though you may be thinking you are close, the other person may be feeling something entirely different.
Oftentimes, I get asked about how to identify red flags in dating and relationships. From personal experience (ugh!) and those of so many others I have worked with, I have compiled a few warning signals to watch out for and some strategies on how to deal with them!
- They always need something.
Rides, money, meals, an ear, the list goes on and on. This person can’t seem to get it together! There is always some type of drama going on! They are seemingly unable to function without your help. Initially this may make you feel special, however this behavior wears thin. Everyone has bad days or times of trouble, but with this person, it never stops or gets better. Usually when YOU need something, they are missing in action!
- Only hangs out when it’s convenient for them.
Do you have a hard time tracking this friend down unless they are alone with nothing to do or in between relationships? You can never seem to get any face time unless this person initiates it? Are you invited only because they need a ride? Friendships should be reciprocal and shouldn’t leave you feeling like you are being used.
Several years ago, I had what I thought was a friendship with my neighbor. We traveled together, dog sat for each other’s dogs and included each other in family gatherings. When she decided to leave her husband, she moved a few miles away. During this year she never contacted me. After initiating a few unsuccessful efforts to get together, I realized that something had changed and put the ball in her court.
When she moved back home, she immediately got in touch with me to resume where we left off! I decided I needed to reevaluate this relationship and redraw my boundaries.
- They are only interested in your contacts and connections.
Maybe your friend is new in town or going through a life transition. They need a new circle of friends. Nothing wrong with that. Signs that this person may be an opportunist could be if the friend drops you once they have connected to your group. Of course, sometimes friends of friends meet and hit it off great, maybe they have even more in common than you have with them, however, there really is no reason for them to completely stop a friendship with you.
- They steal things from you.
They steal friends, ideas and other things important to you. Being friends with someone doesn’t give you free reign to help yourself to whatever you want of theirs! A definite red flag is when your friend turns others against you to get what they want. Another could be when they take your ideas and claim them as their own. They go out with friends behind your back and don’t invite you.
Are you recognizing any of these red flags? If so , what can you do? Of course one option is to keep doing what you are doing with the accompanying feelings of resentment and disappointment. Or, you can flip the script and try some of these ideas:
- Accept reality.
The first step to dealing with an unhealthy relationship is to acknowledge the truth about your friend and stop justifying and rationalizing their behavior.
The ways that you react and respond to your friend’s behavior is very important. If you’ve made excuses for their poor treatment of you in the past, it’s time to stop. Friendship is a choice, and you do not have to continue spending time with someone who isn’t good for you.
- Reset your boundaries.
You may decide, as I did,to redraw the boundaries rather than end the relationship all together. Adjusting your expectations and accepting a different definition of the relationship will reduce your frustration level.
- Use assertive communication to let your friend know how you feel.
Remember that this strategy is not about getting them to change, but is about you letting them know how you feel about their words or behavior.
- Choose a way to end it.
Based on your individual circumstances, you may decide that you need to end the relationship. Decide how you want to end it- cold turkey or letting it fade away. The gradual approach involves decreasing your contact and communication over time.
- Give yourself time to grieve your loss.
Ending a relationship is painful. Allow yourself time to grieve after the loss of a friendship. Feeling sad or upset is completely natural.
In order to lead a healthy life, you need to remove negative influences from it. Be aware of red flags in your friendships. Pay attention to your feelings and instincts; if something feels wrong, it usually is.