Listen, I totally get that toxic friendships are hard to escape from. They wouldn’t be considered toxic if they were easy for you to quit. There are so many factors involved. You feel like you just can’t say goodbye. Let’s not pretend the issue lies solely with the other person. It might be something you are doing. In fact, it’s probably 50/50, like an addict/enabler dynamic. Usually we have our own, very manipulative reasons for keeping people around even when they make us miserable. (Spoiler alert: Those reasons are often political. I strongly urge you to question what you are so afraid of.). That said, if you feel like, “I know. I get it. I’m just not there yet, but I’d like to be”, these baby steps are for you.
1) Look at your schedule for the next month.
Ask yourself, “How many items are actually for other people?” Assign each item a realistic amount of time to complete and add up all items. Is it dozens of hours? Are you willing to sacrifice all this time for others? If you didn’t care about anyone’s opinion of you, what would your schedule look like? What would you really choose to do? Cut back on 50% of these items and see how you feel.
2) Review last month’s expenses.
Identify appointments, lunches, dinners, and meetings you had with people you don’t really like, but had to see. Then go back to your expenses and see how much it cost you. I know. It’s shocking. You may be spending hundreds of dollars a month just to keep people from being disappointed in you.
3) Once you’ve gathered all this information, set a budget for how much time and expense you are willing to spend each month on toxic friendships.
If you can’t or won’t eliminate some toxic relationships, set a time and expense budget to fulfill these obligations. I know that work and family can sometimes put us in situations where we have to do things we don’t want to do. Hopefully in both areas, it isn’t happening often. When it does, spend time, not money on it. Take a walk with someone or make the appointment quick so you aren’t unnecessarily draining your resources on top of hating yourself.
Continue to implement these steps and see what happens. When I did this, and subsequently saw my clients do this, the results were consistent and predictable. The more aware you become of what you are wasting, the harder it will be for you to rationalize doing it. The dissonance between your mind and your actions will start to become more obvious and more troubling, and you will start to loosen the grip on these relationships.