a toxic relationship

Dear Suzie,

I’ve known this girl since I was eleven, we’ve been friends on and off now for 15 years. Over the last 5 or 6 we have drifted apart and now see each other once or twice a year.

The thing is, I constantly feel guilty about not calling her, even though when I do I feel we have nothing to say to each other and that we have nothing in common any more. She hardly ever calls me. At some point, our lives went down different paths and I feel like we are strangers now.

I wish I had the balls just to say ‘we’ve got nothing in common any more, can we just forget each other’ and cut her out of my life. The last time I went to her house to see her she was over two hours late, supposedly because of her (now ex) boyfriend. She is the most unreliable person and to be honest she’s got quite a bitter sense of humour and has actually been really horrible to me in the past – including putting her hands around my neck on my 16th birthday because her wallet got stolen from our pile of coats (I was supposed to be watching them).

I know I haven’t been an angel in the past but I’m a good friend, and I used to be a bit of a doormat when I was a teenager, which I think she still expects me to be. She makes fun of me for doing grown-up things, like buying a house or getting engaged. I’m nearly 27! My fiancé gets increasingly annoyed with me for putting up with her crap, as do I, and I dream about her a lot, usually with me shouting at her for being a bitch. I’m at the end of my tether and I don’t know what to do. I just want to erase her from my memory.

Fed Up

You can’t erase anyone, or anything, from your memory or edit them out of your past. And nor should you want or need to – your past makes you the person you are now. But that doesn’t mean you should go on reacting in the same way as you once did or being the same person you once were with the same friends you once had.

You’ve known this girl since you and she went to secondary school – a very important transition in your early life – and it sounds as if you’ve got stuck at that stage. Or at least, get catapulted back into it when ever you see or hear from her. This happens to many of us – the confident captain of industry who acts and feels like a 13 year old schoolboy whenever he’s with his Mum, the capable professor who goes to pieces like an 8 year old when her Dad tells her off. She was the nasty bully to your crushed victim when you were kids and you both slip into identical roles as soon as you are together again.

It’s a toxic relationship – for both of you – and you’re really better off without it. And why keep it? You’re not getting anything out of this you need. If she were a relative you had to see I’d suggest talking through with a counsellor how to manage the relationship so that you could make it adult and constructive. It certainly might help getting some professional help so you can work out why you have got stuck in this – if you don’t you may find yourself repeating it and drifting into another similar relationship! But for this one, if I were you I’d simply let go of it. Don’t get in touch again. If she does, say no to a meeting – you don ‘t have to give her a reason, you don’t owe her one – just say no thanks.

You can do this without guilt. Maybe you occupy an important part of her life – the girl she can always control and feel superior to. But that’s her business and responsibility, not yours. The payoff for you is negative and you don’t have to go on being her whipping girl. You’ve grown up and moved on. If she wants to remain in the role she carved out 15 years ago, leave her to it. Put this ‘friendship’ where it belongs – as a memory and a valuable learning experience in the past, not the present or future. Good luck!

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