Every now and then it is a good idea to take inventory of your friends and do some spring cleaning. Even if it is January, it might be time to get rid a few of the ones that are dragging you down, taking advantage of you, or really just adding zero value to your life or theirs. It can be very hard to do this. It is especially hard if there isn’t a falling out, any major drug problems, or a stealing of a wife that can be used as justification for the divorce.
Everyone has the friend she or he hasn’t seen for years and can suddenly pick up exactly where things left off as if time or space had never separated the two celestial beings. Those are the friends everyone loves to have and loves to be. There is no pressure, no guilt and it is generally easy and enjoyable.
On the other hand, everyone also has at least one friend that is “loved dearly” but also leaves us with a feeling of dread, anxiety, anger, or depression. Sometimes, we actually want to kill ourselves (and others) after spending quality time with him or her. These are the ones we might want to consider divorcing.
This type of divorce tends to be more difficult than an actual marital divorce for some people. Things like, “…but I’ve been friends with her for 30 years, I can’t just stop being friends with her!” or “…he was with me when my dad died, I can’t get rid of him now” are spoken in defense of the relationship. Granted, it isn’t a good idea to toss away your hard-earned friends after one little event, just as it is not a good idea to divorce your spouse after one issue. This excludes murder, rape, incest, torture…all the usual things that would get you arrested can apply to an immediate divorce (friend or spouse). Use best judgment methods for those instances.
For all other less serious issues, thorough analysis should be performed to assess various components of the relationship before any decisions are made:
Have the issues or negative behaviors of the relationship been long lasting?
Is the friend going through a particularly difficult spell that has an end in sight?
Are the relationship issues based on other exterior people in the relationship (boyfriends, wives, mothers, etc.)?
Did you really just drift apart or is a “soft” divorce called for?
Are you being forgiving enough, or can you be?
Is he or she just a horrible friend?
Let’s dig deeper into this analysis.
If the “friend” in question has just had a bad month, it is probably okay to wait it out for a longer period of time to see if she or he finds the existence of good judgment and better friend behavior. If you have been dealing with YEARS of suck-ti-tude, it may be time to close the friendroom door. When you start thinking back, can you remember a time when your friend wasn’t talking only about themselves, complaining about every negative aspect of her life, constantly ignoring your friendly advice on how to resolve some of the negative aspects of his life, or telling you how terrible of a friend you’ve been over the past 2 decades? If the answer is, “I was in the womb the last time I remember having a lovely time with Sven,” evaluate the length of time you’ve been suffering through the friendship. How many more years do you have in you? Can you endure another decade? If you can’t confidently say, “YES I CAN!” you should probably get a friend-i-vorce.
On the reverse side, if you’ve only been friends with this person for a matter of months and you are already seeing signs of him being overly needy, constantly complaining, overly-demanding of your time, or always depressed, you may want to stop before you’re in too deep. Now, decades have passed, nothing has changed and you’re contemplating driving your car into a tree as you head out to meet “friend in question.”
Moving on…is “friend in question” going through some really tough times? Is he experiencing things like death (not his own), sickness, divorce, poverty, homelessness? Is he making positive steps to change that situation? Although it might be a while (quite a while) before he’s going to the turn the corner on homelessness, you can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Cling to that light and hang on for the duration. You will both make it out okay, and you’ll be better friends for it.
If however, there is no end in sight, no movements to even go in search of a substantial cardboard box to use for mailing address purposes, it may be time to flee. One can only do so much for someone else. Eventually, we all have to take responsibility for ourselves. If the friend isn’t willing to do that, you probably should, by getting out.
Douches, heartless bitches, cheating liars, really annoying jackasses… Are any of these people, dating, married, related to, or “best” friends with your potential divorcee? This one gets tricky. We all know that there is no good place to be if your friend’s spouse is awful. As any acceptable married person would do, he or she will undoubtedly choose the spouse and probably get mad at you or even blame you for the trouble that’s occurring. Sure, there have been MANY times that you’ve listened to your friend cry, complain, and describe in detail her awful, horrible, disgusting spouse. Of course, the next day when everything is fine, you MUST act like you never heard any of the rant from the day before. If you don’t, this will only end badly for you. I promise you, your very good friend will in turn, divorce you the minute you bring up how much the spouse sucks.
So, how to handle this one…for spouses, if you can stick it out and be supportive, and truly forget all the terrible stuff that was relayed to you, you can probably maintain the friendship, but at a distance. If spouse is abusive, your friend is living in fear for her life or the life of her children, you have no choice but to say something, try to get her out the situation and encourage her to leave. When this fails, (and it will), you need to evaluate that little thing called personal responsibility again. As stated above, you can only do so much for someone. If he or she is not willing to get out of a desperate situation, you may need to file for divorce of the friendship as it is clear the marital divorce is probably not going to happen.
For friends or relatives that are awful or annoying, you may be able to avoid 80% of activities or encounters with them. As long as these folks aren’t stealing your money or trying to sleep with your husband or wife, try to avoid being in the same place at the same time with them. You can probably have a conversation with your friend about how the two of you just don’t mesh or gel. This type of conversation shouldn’t cause a friend-i-vorce, as most rational people understand that not everyone gets along at all times. Try hard to concentrate on the relationship you have with your friend and not the auxiliary people that come with it.
Sometimes lives go in totally different directions. This isn’t anyone’s fault and no one did anything specifically wrong in the friendship. You moved away, you aren’t 12 years old anymore, you gave birth to an alien, etc. If there wasn’t a lot of commonality to begin with, an event like a move, a marriage, a child, a study abroad program, can really magnify the difference in lives you and your friend lead. You stop calling because you have nothing to talk about. She stops e-mailing because she knows you aren’t interested in what her daughter did at daycare. You both, mutually and unintentionally, stop contacting each other for long period of times. Eventually, you feel that too much time has passed and it would be awkward to call now. This is what I like to refer to as a “soft divorce.”
Of all the friend-i-vorces, this is the definitely the easiest, however perhaps the saddest. You still like your friend and if you ran across him at the supermarket, you’d hug him and say hello. You have no idea really why you stopped hanging out and you feel the guiltiest about letting this relationship fade. This is life and this happens to all of us. The good news is, we might rekindle that friendship if we run into him. There is no negative memory burned in our brain that prevents us from starting over again. If however, you really never had much in common and you are both so different , it is best to remain softly divorced.
Before kicking the friend to the curb, you may want to take a look inward at yourself. Are you being too hard on the friend? Can you forgive them for the insults, missed parties, money owed, boyfriends stolen? Are you able to move past things that have happened in the past? Many times, I’ve tried to fancy myself as forgiving and forgetting, but I also know better. My feelings get hurt and they have memory of their pain. At times I see “the friend” and I am instantly drawn back to the time he hurt my feelings. I know this about myself and I try to work on it. I am stubborn, I am angry and I’m competitive. I want to win and sometimes if someone makes me feel like a loser, I discount all the times that friend made me feel like a winner.
Evaluate whether you have the ability to move on and forgive. Evaluate whether the friend is sorry for her actions, will likely do this again, and if you’ll be okay if it does happen again. This is on you. If you can’t get past it, you need to end the friendship. You’ll drive yourself crazy, make your friend miserable and make all of your other friends crazy whilst they listen to you complain about the whole situation.
If after all your analysis and self-evaluation, you look at the situation and realize, your friend is not a friend at all. She takes advantage of you, judges you, makes you feel bad about yourself, is embarrassing to herself and others, has a serious drug problem that she won’t deal with, beats her children, steals from the poor, kicks dogs, or is just a downright dick, get rid of her! Life is too short to choose to surround yourself with assholes. We are forced to be around jerks at work and we all know you can’t pick your family. Why on earth would we choose to be with people that make us miserable? Sometimes friend-i-vorce is called for.
*As a side note, I am not always a stellar friend and I am sure there are times my friends have wanted to divorce me too. I say, go for it. I’m sure some of them might be inspired to after reading this piece. Do It! Am I making you miserable? Divorce me; I’d do it for you.