5 Things I Learned From Taking Back a Toxic Friend
I'm very fortunate because I actually have more real friends than acquaintances, and most of my friends have been in the picture for at least a decade.
While that doesn't mean there hasn't been a fair share of drama over the years (oh, boy, has there ever!), it does mean that I'm not in a place in my life where I'm used to getting straight-up stabbed in the back.
When a crappy friend enters the picture, it doesn't take long for me (or my friends) to see their true colors and for all of us to slowly scale back on the invites. But, every now and then, there will be a person who I find myself taking back, for one reason or another. Sometimes, it's just easier to be friends with someone than not; other times, I may just miss someone, even if I know they're bad news; and, ultimately, other times, I want to believe that after a major spat, the person has learned their lesson and things will improve from there.
(Pretty Little Liars via Freeform)
There's one so-called "friend" in particular who has disrespected me over the last few years, and we've gone months without talking. We recently were in (what I thought was) a good place, but then I found out she did something shady behind my back.
Three strikes, you're out, as they say, and this final incident was the last straw. But I do believe everything happens for a reason, and that every experience teaches us lessons. Below are five things I learned from taking back a toxic friend.
1. Everything's Great in the Beginning
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and when we've developed a closeness with someone, it's easy to get sucked back in after months of not talking. When both parties are excited to see each other and catch up, it's easy to brush all past drama under the rug, because it can almost feel like you're in an entirely new friendship. Much like romantic relationships, there's a sense of a "honeymoon period" you experience when you're back in touch with an old friend. It's easy to get super wrapped up and think that your relationship is now going in a totally different (healthier) direction.
(Friends via NBC)
2. People Don't Change Overnight
The sad reality is people don't change overnight. If it's been years since you last spoke to someone, or they've experienced something traumatic or otherwise life-changing since you were last in touch, then, yes, it's certainly possible that they're no longer the person they were when you had your falling out. But a few weeks or months don't equate to real change—that's a simple fact I've learned from dealing with people.
Once that "honeymoon period" of your friendship rekindling fizzles out, you're right back to where you started. You're the same and they're the same. It's easy to get back to a comfortable place with someone you were once close to, so once you two get there, their true colors are likely to show once again.
3. Some People Are Just Bad… Period.
While there are instances when two genuinely good people end up creating a mutually toxic existence, there are also many cases where there are simply just bad (or toxic) people, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. Their decision to be a bad friend has zero to do with you. It's all based on their issues—whether it's insecurity, jealousy, resentment, whatever. So no matter how close you get to this person or how kind, generous or trustworthy you are, they may always be bound to stab you (or anyone else) in the back.
(Gossip Girl via The CW)
4. Know Your 'Customer'
If you want to take back a toxic friend, at least know who you're dealing with. The minute you give them 100% they'll reach a comfort level that allows them to disrespect you again. Set boundaries and hold back, based on what you know they're capable of doing. If you know they're a huge gossip, change the subject whenever they bring someone up so that you never get accused of talking behind a person's back; if they've borrowed money or clothes from you without giving it back, don't let them anymore; if they've used your insecurities against you, don't open up to them about anything super personal.
It's difficult to hold back once we get back into a comfort zone with someone we were once close to, but if you want to stay in the friendship without getting hurt again, you'll need to keep them at some kind of distance. You can still hang out and have fun, but in the back of your mind, always remember what they've done to you in the past, and don't give them the opportunity to do it again.
5. Have No Regrets
Despite all that's said and done, I ultimately have no regrets about taking this person back. It was something that felt right at the time, and, clearly, I learned a lot from my decision. Of course, every situation is going to be different, and just because the friend I gave multiple chances to disrespected me again, doesn't mean that will be the case for everyone. At least now I know for certain that this person will never change and that while she's someone I can have fun with and be friendly to when I see her, I would be a fool to pursue any relationship with her outside of an acquaintance (if that!).
Once I lost my trust a couple of years ago, I never thought this person was a 100% true friend, but I did enjoy the time we spent together. They definitely made me feel like I was important to them, which suckered me in—but again, I don't think their decision to hurt me is a reflection of who I am. Ultimately, this person is unhappy, and as I've distanced myself, I know they've missed me. As for me, out of sight, out of mind. I only want to focus on people who have my best interests at heart.
(Riverdale via The CW)
Speaking of toxic people, HERE's how my best friend's ex-boyfriend ruined my graduation.