Healing and Moving on After Toxic Friendships
by Geo Sique
As a freshman in college, I lived on campus and made lots of new friends. A handful of these friends quickly became my best friends. We did everything together. We hung out every night, we went to concerts, had our meals together, celebrated birthdays and holidays together, and eventually lived together our second year of college.
However, they soon started acting passive aggressively and talking about each other behind everyone else’s backs. Sometimes, this would involve roommate nuisances, but whenever I suggested we talk about it with everyone involved, no one would want to. So the friend group became toxic. Eventually, some of the aggression was pointed at me in the form of snide comments and jealousy over my boyfriend (one of them was in love with him and blatantly flirted with him in front of me and also declared her love for my roommate’s boyfriend at the same time).
For me, deciding to cut them out of my life was the easy part. Sure, it was a long process, taking me months from the moment I started thinking about doing it to the day I actually moved out. But once I did, I didn’t want to see them anymore, and for me, it was better to have fewer friends than bad ones. I missed hanging out with them the way we used to when I first met them, but other than that, I never wanted to see them again.
However, cutting them out was just the beginning, and years later, I still struggle with the after effects of losing a whole group of friends. However, I got through it by focusing on myself, being thankful for the good people in my life, and allowing myself to move forward.
Why Friendship Breakups Suck So Much
Breaking up with anyone can be difficult and usually comes with intense emotional repercussions. However, when you get into a relationship, you know the risk of not fitting right together and the possibility of breaking up. When you make a new friend, you trust that they will be there for you. Sure, adulthood can often get in the way of friendships, but you still remain friends and support each other long distance. At the very least your friendship fades away and you can hang on to your memories.
What hurts is when someone whom you have put your trust in and with whom you have celebrated birthdays and promotions, came to for support after breakups and loss, betrays you unexpectedly. Getting through friendship breakups can be harder than romantic ones.
Living with a toxic friend can be an even worse situation. It’s hard to find the perfect roommate for your personality type, and sometimes living together can bring out the worst in a friendship. This is why you should always think twice about living with your friends, as even the best of friends can run into rocky times when living together.
First, Forgive Yourself
Once you are in a place that you need to cut off a friend, you’ll need to deal with a lot of emotions. They can include sadness, anger, frustration, and loneliness. A common piece of advice is that forgiving those who have done you wrong is the only way to move forward and have peace. This is wrong. If someone intentionally hurts you physically or emotionally, you owe them no forgiveness. Of course, if there was a misunderstanding or your friend unintentionally did you wrong, then you should consider forgiveness.
However, it is true that to move on, you should forgive, but it is not them that you need to forgive, it’s yourself. Losing a friend can make you feel guilt or even shame, like it was your fault, even if you were the one victimized. Some steps to forgiving yourself are:
Realize that you can’t control how other people think or act, not even your friends.
Try to think of ways that you tried to make it work.
Remember that you are human and make mistakes.
Know that is in the past, and all you can do now is move forward.
Another important thing to keep in mind is not to focus on what happened. Self-reflection is valuable and can help you come to terms with what happened, be able to forgive yourself, and help you grow from the experience. However, obsessing over small details and hyperfocusing on negative feelings will only keep you bitter and stuck in the past.
Forgiving yourself will also allow you to move on and focus on other friends. Whether you get closer to old friends or simply try to make new ones, it’s important to have good friends in your life. Just because some of your friendships ended poorly doesn’t mean they all will, and making better friends can help you in the process of healing.
Focus on Your Happiness
Not overthinking is important to help you focus on your own happiness. While this process may take some time to achieve, do work to identify your steps forward. Ever time that you are a little less sad, every time you make a new friend, every time you pass by them and you don’t notice or don’t care.
Some of these steps may take longer to achieve, but you can make them happen by focusing on your happiness and confidence. You can optimize your time by focusing on succeeding in your schoolwork or job. Slowly working on organizing your life one week at a time can be an immense help, and you can start by:
Get a planner to visually plan out your week
Set goals and make lists
Prepare for each day the night before
Wake up and start your day early
Plan healthy meals in advance
Clean your living space every day
In the process, you may need to rediscover yourself — especially if your needs and wants were getting placed second in your toxic friendship. Just try to focus on bring present in the moment you are now, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of your surroundings and focusing on the moment instead of the past.
One important part of moving on and not lingering in the past is to not focus on the negatives. Though it may be tempting to bad mouth your friends or get hung up on what they did to you, try to avoid this. Instead, focus on being aware of your feelings and think about the true friends in your life. Getting through a friendship breakup can be rough, but by putting yourself first and focusing on the positive aspects of your life, you can get through it.