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How To Handle Your ‘Selfish Friend’

"Selfish people try to keep or get things but they lose people."—Hannah Garrison

What About Your Friends?

Several months ago, I checked out the independent film Paper Friends movie. It was about some Black college buddies who decided to reunite for a night on the town. The one who played the role of being "the selfish one"? Her name was London (played by Sharon Leal who, interestingly enough, also played a selfish character in the movie, The Last Christmas and, if we're gonna get real, Why Did I Get Married? too). London was pretentious, liked to flaunt money and was extremely self-absorbed. After about halfway into the film, I came to the conclusion that people dealt with her either because she had something they wanted or purely for nostalgia's sake.

Anyway, as the movie credits rolled, I thought about some of the selfish friends I've had in the past. Boy, short of being betrayed by a friend, I don't know if there is anything worse than trying to maintain some type of relationship with an individual who is, well, what a classic definition of selfish is—"concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others". So, why do we put up with it? I think a part of the reason is because we don't know how to handle someone we may like and/or enjoy spending time with who still manages to find a way to make just about everything be about them (or at least they give off the impression that they couldn't care less about you). Ugh. Just ugh.

If you know you've got someone in your life who takes more than gives; never compromises; plays the victim role to avoid responsibility or accountability; has unrealistic expectations (in general); is passive aggressive or even pouts when they don't get their way; is cool ONLY if they are doing better in life than you are; can always dish it out (advice, opinions, etc.) but can't take it to save their life (literally); sucks at listening; doesn't honor your requests or boundaries and/or always expects you to change because, in their eyes, you are the only one who really needs to—I want to dedicate this article to you personally.

Basically, if you're the Issa to a Molly in your life (if you watch Insecure,you get just where I am coming from), here are some tips on how to handle that kind of person while trying to maintain your own sanity in the process.

Ask Yourself: Did I Know They Were Selfish from the Jump?

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In relationships, the topic of red flags tends to come up a lot. You know, stuff that you saw, oftentimes at the very beginning that, for whatever reason, you ignored, only for it to take a chunk out of your butt later on. Believe it or not, red flags exist in friendships too. One of the friendships that took me for-e-ver to come to terms with started by seeing them perform. Afterwards, while people were trying to talk to them, they only seemed to give energy to the folks who were basically riding their jock. Like, if someone wanted their autograph or had a compliment, they were all ears. But if someone wanted to share what they had going on in their own world, the person was basically dismissive AF.

Looking back, throughout the years, that's what our friendship looked like, more times than not. So long as it was all about focusing on their life, they had all the time in the world. But if I had a need, it all depended on if they could "fit me in" or not; or worse, if they cared or not. And yes, that is pure Grade A selfishness.

It's also a part of the reason why I wrote the article, "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'". So, why did I keep this selfish friend around for so long? It's because, while selfish is a trait that they had, there was some good that they also brought to the table. This brings me to my second point.

Jot Down Five of Their Better Qualities

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I know everyone is basically coming for Molly's neck these days, but let's not forget that Issa could be pretty selfish too. I mean, was there ever a time when they went out together and Issa covered the tab (or didn't expect Molly to)?! Plus, while Molly has seemed to lack self-awareness and she definitely falls into the "dish it out but can't take it" category, she did drive Issa home to see Lawrence in the middle of the night, only to come back over with some wine to console Issa after Lawrence did Issa dirty (or gave Issa a dish of some karma, based on how you look at it). Molly did offer Issa her crib when Issa moved out of her apartment. People have mixed feelings about Molly not telling Issa that Nathan came by on her 30th birthday, but I can see how Molly thought that she was helping at the time. I could go on and on, but the point is that, if Molly was total trash, I doubt Issa would stick around so long.

That's why, for overall perspective's sake, I think it's a good idea to jot down some of the better qualities that your selfish friend may have. In my case, mine was spiritually supportive. They were intelligent and insightful. We have similar values (other than them being selfish as hell). They could honor confidentiality like nobody's business. And yes, all those things were and are, still very important to me. The reason why it got to the point where their self-absorption outweighed everything else is because, when I would find ways to bring my needs to their attention and they continued to ignore them, their "bad character trait" started to seem more and more like blatant disrespect and who wants to be friends with someone who doesn't respect them? That said, point three.

Ponder How They Are Self-Absorbed and If/How It Is Affecting the Friendship

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One of the reasons why a lot of us tend to tolerate a selfish friend far longer than we should is because it's not until we're really in some sort of pinch or bind that we realize, just how much they have a tendency to leave us high and dry. Or, another possibility is that, while they are mad selfish in one way, they might be somewhat accommodating in another. For instance, when it comes to the friend that I've been referring to, something that I recognize is they liked being an emotional caregiver. What I mean by that is, while I was trying to figure out some of my childhood trauma and baggage that resulted in some pretty toxic relationship patterns, they always had a shoulder. But once I got stronger and I was looking for their support when it came to professional achievements, growing platforms and other areas of achievement, somehow, they were always "busy". I started to realize that even their emotional assistance was self-serving; they liked it when they were put in a position of feeling like they could help or "save" me. Soon, I started to realize that it made them feel good when I was feeling bad because then they felt like they had the upper hand.

That's why it's also a good idea to figure out how your friend's self-absorbed ways are directly manifesting in your friendship with them. Are they "mildly" selfish (like maybe they are always late which, yes is also a form of selfishness)? Or are they so selfish that you feel like you are constantly getting the short end of the stick?

The one thing that you should always keep in mind when it comes to your friendships is healthy ones consist of both people meeting each other's needs.

A friend showing up 15 minutes late to a movie sucks, but they did show up. A friend continually not being there for you when you need a favor, you need to talk or you need their help—that is setting you up for being in a dynamic where you are constantly being used and taken for granted, NOT for being in an actual friendship with someone.

Call Them Out from Time to Time

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If you just read all of that and now you're heated as all get out, before you go off on your selfish friend, there's an additional point that I must make. Again, selfish people are self-absorbed. This means that they devoted way more of their time into what they want, what they need and how they feel than just about anyone else. This means that sometimes what you desire from them ends up slipping through the cracks. It's not always or necessarily because they don't care about you; it's just that they care about their own selves more. So, if you do feel like there is enough about the friendship that is worth, at least trying to preserve it, it can't hurt to bring up what your feelings and concerns are to them. If they value you, beyond what you can do for them (some of y'all will catch that later), they will take note and try and step outside of their "me bubble". Be patient during this process. Old habits can be hard to break; especially selfish-related ones.

Require Reciprocity

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Reciprocity. It's one of my favorite words and I will never apologize for it. Real talk, if it had been a part of my everyday vocabulary in high school, I probably could've avoided a lot of the relational bullshishery that I've experienced over the years. That said, reciprocity is about there being a mutual exchange between two individuals. When you've got a selfish friend in your life, reciprocity is going to come off like a foreign word to them, but you know what they say—"Never apologize for having high standards. People who really want to be in your life will rise up to meet them." Hey, if your selfish friend is so caught up in themselves that their actions give the impression that they could take or leave you, release them. Make room for people who know that reciprocity is a given in healthy relationships. Let the selfish friend be their own friend. Hmph. Wish them luck with that while you're at it too.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone "Friend"

10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend

7 Signs Your Friendship...Actually Isn't One

Is It Time To Initiate A 'Friend Divorce'?

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.

It was a cold winter night in Chicago, more than a year ago. Your girl was scrolling through the fifty-eleven million options on Netflix to find something interesting to watch. I spotted this new show, The Circle, and have not looked away since. Produced by Studio Lambert and Motion Content Group, it premiered in January 2020 and has become my new favorite type of game show. Hosted by Michelle Buteau, The Circle is about contestants who are isolated in their own apartments and can only communicate with others via an online social media platform.

On season 2 of The Circle, the world fell in love with DeLeesa, the contestant who would eventually be crowned winner of the cash prize. She won the game by playing as a single dad named Trevor, who is actually her husband. As a true fan of the series, I figured it was only right to sit down with DeLeesa and Trevor to get the deets on how marriage has been for them IRL. So, let me take y'all back into time real quick, to the beginning of their love story.

It was 2007, and DeLeesa was starting her first day of school as a college freshman. She was getting adjusted to her new dorm and was introduced to her new resident assistant, *drum roll please* Trevor St. Agathe. They quickly became friends and Trevor helped DeLeesa find different activities around campus. After a year, they decided to take things to the next level.

Now, 14 years and two beautiful children later, the married couple have been focusing on doing whatever it takes to create the best life for their children. Since college, the power of commitment and open communication is what has kept DeLeesa and Trevor by each other's side.

One thing that we can all learn from The Circle and social media in general is that everything is not what it seems. When I connected with the couple, DeLeesa wanted to get the story straight about her and Trevor's love story. "I feel like people look at couples on social media and they think that things are perfect when that's not true. We went through stuff, too. We just figured out how to overcome it and move together as a unit."

In this installment of xoNecole's Our First Year, Deleesa and Trevor share how marriage is about work, navigating through the ups and downs, and prioritizing family. Here's their story:

How We Met

DeLeesa: I got to school early because I was starting [college] a semester late. I met him, we became friends, and I developed a little crush on him. One day, we were hanging out in his room and he just didn't want me to leave (laughs). So we were messing around for about a year. Exactly one year later, I told Trevor that I am not going to keep doing this unless he becomes my man. If he didn't make me his girl, then we were done. (Laughs)

Trevor: I tried to ride it out as long as I could (laughs). At the time, I was thinking, since I'm still in college, I shouldn't be tied down. But I knew that if I didn't make it official, she was going to leave. So, she was right, and we took it to the next level.

First Impressions

Trevor: I thought she was absolutely beautiful. She was pretty and the new girl on campus. So I knew she was going to get lots of attention. But I didn't want to be on that with her, so I continued to just be a stand-up guy. At first, it was the normal student-and-RA relationship. She would ask me what activities she could do on campus and I gave her a few suggestions. For a few days, we continued to hang out and I started to realize the chemistry we had between us.

DeLeesa: When I first met Trevor, I wasn't even thinking about going that [relationship] route with him. I was new to the school and I just wanted to be his friend. But because we shared bathrooms in the dorm, this man would just walk around in his towel sometimes. I couldn't help but notice him more after that. I just thought 'He is fine!' (Laughs) He was so nice and he never pressured me into anything, but, he knew what he was doing.

Favorite Things

DeLeesa: I love that he has unconditional love for me. I feel like that no matter what I do or no matter how mad he gets, he is still always going to be by my side for anything that I need. We have been together for a long time. Even though we had breaks in between, he has always been there for me.

Trevor: It's not just one thing for me, but I can sum it up: DeLeesa is everything that I wish I was. She is very much not afraid of what other people think and she is very determined to go after what she wants. She has that go-getter mentality and it is so attractive to me.

"DeLeesa is everything that I wish I was. She is very much not afraid of what other people think and she is very determined to go after what she wants. She has that go-getter mentality and it is so attractive to me."

Wedding Day

Trevor: On our wedding day, I was crying like a baby when I finally saw her. That is my fondest memory of that day: seeing my wife-to-be from a distance and instant water works. (Laughs)

DeLeesa: I really enjoyed our first dance. Our wedding was pretty big, and I planned the whole thing. I was very hands-on and it was hard for me to just have a moment and be present. But when we had our first dance, that was our time to just be with each other and not worry about anything else. It really hit me that we were married at that point.

The One

DeLeesa: Well, the thing with Trevor and I is that we broke up a lot. We reached nine years of being on and off. By that time, we said to each other that this would be the last time we were going to break up. We were going to try our best to do everything that we could to stay together. And if we didn't work out, we were going to go our separate ways. For me, I really wanted us to work because I did see him as my future husband and my children's father. So it was the conversation we had to not break up that was my "you are the one for me" moment.

Trevor: It was something that I always knew. Young Trevor would say, "If I had to get married, this is who I want to marry." When I knew it was time to take things more seriously with her, it was after we had that conversation. Another confirmation that DeLeesa was the one was when we had to move to Canada from New York. I thought to myself that this woman must really love me to pack up and move to another country for me. This woman trusts me so much and she is my forever.

"The thing with Trevor and I is that we broke up a lot. We reached 9 years of being on and off. By that time, we said to each other that this would be the last time we were going to break up. We were going to try our best to do everything that we could to stay together."

Biggest Fears

Trevor: The questions that popped into my head were, "Can I do it?"; "Can I be a good husband to her?"; or "Was I truly husband material?" You can't take a test for that or study to get those answers. You have to just do it, apply your morals and values, and do the best you can. What has helped me with this is continuing to reaffirm how we feel about one another—affirmations that let me know that she is happy and I am doing a good job. Marriage isn't that much different from what we have already been doing this entire time. We just wear rings.

DeLeesa: My biggest fear [is related to the fact that] I am a very independent person, [so] if I do not like something, I can be out, quick! So with me, I questioned if I could stay put and fight through the bad times within a marriage. I would question if it is worth sticking it out since this is a lifelong commitment. What has helped me get through that is reminding myself that I can still be independent within my own marriage. I can still do things on my own and still share my life with someone I really care about.

Early Challenges

DeLeesa: I feel like I have been really good at keeping my relationship with my friends balanced with my partnership with Trevor. So when we first got married, my personal challenge was me trying to juggle between being a good wife and still making time for my girls. I really didn't want to lose sight of who I was in the process of marriage.

Trevor: My work at the time forced me to travel a lot. So when you are in that honeymoon phase, it's important to have quality time together. It was hard with my job to enjoy life together as a married couple in the beginning. Yes, we have been together for a long time. But this was different. Not being around my wife as much as I wanted to was really hard for me and the both of us. Our communication started slacking and we definitely struggled during that time.

Love Lessons

Trevor: There's two lessons that I have. One lesson is that I am a husband first. I have spent a lot of time not being a husband so it can be easy for me or anyone to continue to behave that way. But my wife always has to come first, no matter what is going on in life. When you're married, you have to reinforce that. My second lesson that has helped in our marriage is making sure I do things in order to make her life easier. It can be the simplest thing, but for me, it is a huge priority.

DeLeesa: My biggest lesson is being able to learn from each other. For example, if he is doing simple things to make life easier for me, I am learning from him how to show up for him to make him happy. It can be easy to just receive everything he is putting forth, but it has to be give and take for us.

"I am a husband first. I have spent a lot of time not being a husband so it can be easy for me or anyone to continue to behave that way. But my wife always has to come first, no matter what is going on in life. When you're married, you have to reinforce that."

Common Goal

Trevor: To do everything in our power to ensure that our girls have the best possible life. Everything that we do at this point is for them. Before children, I may have moved slower working toward certain things, but there is definitely an added fire on how we approach things because of them.

DeLeesa: I agree. The number one goal is to be the best parents we can be. We want to set up generational wealth and we want them to be culturally aware. We want them to grow up and be proud of everything we have done for them.

Best Advice

DeLeesa: My advice would be don't go looking for advice, honestly. A lot of people are going to have an opinion about your life and sometimes that may not be the best for you. People can have different intentions and may give you the wrong advice. So I feel that if you need to vent, then yes, have someone to confide in. But don't take their word as facts. Try to figure out your marriage for yourself. Stick to your intuition and what you want to do, no matter if you are being judged for it.

Trevor: The things that matter are to be patient, listen close, choose to be happy, and love hard. I also think when people come to terms with the fact that marriage is work, then it is more possible for people. There are honestly more things to be happy about with the person that you marry. You have to keep all the things that you love about that person at the forefront to get you through. Once you do that, you will be fine.

Follow Deleesa and Trevor on Instagram @leesaunique and @trev_saint and their family page @itsthesaints.

Featured image via Instagram/Leesaunique

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