Our girlfriends are our chosen tribe. They pull us out of funks. They bring the wine when we've had a tough workday. They celebrate our babies and birthdays and new hairdos with the fervor of a winning football team. Our girlfriends don't fear telling us when we're wrong and they walk with us as we get it right. So, what happens when your girlfriends exhaust you with perpetually poor life decisions?
Most would agree that the mature thing is to sit them down and say, "Hey, you're wearing me out. I've given all the advice I can give. Your choices are harming you and as a result, I am exhausted and I do not want to stand by and watch. So, I need a break." Being honest, though intimidating at times, is the best way to deliver not-so-great news. But for those of us who feel that being honest and attempting to set boundaries has not worked, ghosting seems to be the next best thing.
As a 30-something with almost twenty years of healthy friendships to celebrate, I wasn't 100% sure what to do when one of my girlfriends started to drain me. I was past the age of talking smack but I wasn't quite seasoned enough to know how to take a break from a friend whose lifestyle was...well, toxic.
For the Living Single fans, I am the mediator spirit of Synclaire and the sarcastic humor of Khadijah, rolled into one. I don't want to see anyone downtrodden or harmed. Ever. However, I have a cap for drama. Recently, a close friend pushed that cap and my mediator spirit almost flatlined.
We've been friends for over a decade. Even though I knew her relationship with her boyfriend was toxic, I didn't say much in the first couple of years. I kept my opinion to myself until she asked for it. I chose to be unequivocally honest. I let her know that from the information she presented and what I witnessed, her boyfriend does not respect her and that he does not value the fullness of who she is. Fast-forward years later and she has not let him go.
The drama has continued and intensified.
I found myself at a crossroads. I don't have the capacity to coddle someone who is not willing to make healthy choices. I was consumed with her problems to the point that I was putting my own major life decisions on the backburner. Perhaps I was a bit arrogant to think that I could help. I now know that I am not equipped, called, or certified to continue being her ear on this matter. I'm just not and that's ok.
So, I stopped answering her phone calls. I needed a break and I took one. I went ghost. Ghosting my homegirl offered me peace of mind when I was just struggling not to curse her out. And, you know, yes, perhaps it's better to be straight up but when you're all tapped out, you'd rather just distance yourself. It's a reality.
While ignoring her attempts at communication and journaling myself through the experience, I realized that I had allowed too many people - not just my friend - unlimited access to me, to my schedule, to my spirit, to my listening ear under the banner of "being a good friend."
Exercising my right and ability not to answer my phone when I do not want to has been one of the most freeing ways I've cared for myself this year. The right not to go into crisis mode when my friend texts me six paragraphs about the same boyfriend who has been cheating on her for years felt like a radical act, staking my claim to freedom.
Sometimes, we're so caught up in establishing and loving our tribe that we build codependency into our relationships without realizing it. (Yes, it can happen even after college.) We want to ensure that we're there for one another and that we exemplify what a good friend should be but that can often lead to us overextending ourselves. And overextension can lead to a mess of problems, including but not limited to, resentment, pettiness, isolation, and disinterest.
Some crosses aren't ours to bear. Some problems aren't ours to try to fix.
Being a good girlfriend to our girlfriends does not mean we are their saviors, therapists, or pastors. It simply means that we commit to doing life with one another in as healthy a way as possible.
In just the first week of not interacting with my girlfriend, my sleep was less restless and I could think with more clarity and focus. Her troubles were taking up less emotional space and I could begin to redirect that energy to my own path.
Once I was able to find the peace of mind I'd been missing, I called to let her know I would not be in contact for a while. I didn't say how long and I didn't blame her. I kept the focus on me, letting her know I had a series of huge life decisions I needed to tend to and would be out of contact. She accepted that graciously.
While our girlfriends are all of the wonderful things, there is room for evaluation and repositioning. Being a good girlfriend doesn't mean blindly accepting harmful behavior.
Loyalty to a fault is not admirable or commendable. It's unhealthy and a disservice to all parties involved.
I'm not yet equipped with the language, energy, or desire to jump 100% back into a relationship with my friend. I'm just not. So, the best thing I can do is love her from a distance and take care of myself until I can.
Featured image by Getty Images
Originally published on August 26, 2019