When you work in the self-help sphere, something that you tend to hear often is the word "sabotage". More specifically, self-sabotage. Due to all kinds of issues that really deserve their own word count space, there are all kinds of reasons for why people sabotage their romantic relationships, certain job opportunities and one other thing that I'm gonna tackle today—friendships. I know it probably sounds super Mister-Rodgers-like to say that the best way to be a friend to someone else is to first be a friend to yourself; however, that really is the truth because, the reality is, to sabotage is to "undermine a cause". That said, it really is difficult to esteem your connections with other people when you don't see the true value in yourself, first. Once you do, though, that can lead you to the kind of friendships that are best for you, second. Yep, the two things pretty much go hand in hand.
It's important that I put that on record because, before getting into some of the toxic habits that can easily sabotage a friendship, it's a good idea to ask yourself if you're in a good space with your own self. For the sake of knowing the purpose of your friendships. For the sake of setting healthy boundaries in your friendships. Also, for the sake of not doing some of the stuff that ultimately ends friendships—friendships that actually can consist of mutual love and yet, they can still go super south due to issues like the following seven that I'm about to share with you.
1. Not Being Honest
OK. I know that, off top, when I say "not being honest", it probably looks like I'm referring to people who lie (check out "This Is How To Tell If Someone's Lying To You"). Lawd chile. If you've got friends who lie to you all of the time, there is absolutely nothing healthy about that. I will say that I was once very close to a pathological liar. While I sensed that "something in the buttermilk ain't clean", on a few levels, it wasn't until their therapist required that they spill the beans that I recognized the magnitude of how far the falsehoods actually went. In hindsight, I realize that my codependency stuck around for the BS. Meaning, I overlooked what my gut was telling me because I wanted to be there for them and, in some ways, they nurtured the relationship on other levels (like they were giving and supportive).
Anyway, no one who constantly lies to you is a friend to you (or to themselves). That's not actually what I'm talking about, though. What I'm referring to, specifically, are passive aggressive folks. You know what I'm talking about—the kind of people who tell you they are fine when they aren't. The kind of people who present your friendship as one way in your presence and another way when they are talking to others. The kind of people who give you the impression that you're much closer to them than you actually are (check out "Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?")—and it basically all boils down to the fact that they aren't being real, genuine and/or candid with you. Not necessarily because there is some shady or malicious intent. It's mostly because they aren't letting their guard down enough to reveal who they really and truly are. As a result, your friendship with them is more of a façade than anything else. Hmph. "Façade" is actually a really good word because it means superficial. Superficial is surface stuff. And when it comes to true friendships, staying on the surface all of the time doesn't really work. If not immediately…eventually.
2. Not Taking What You Dish Out
I say it often and I mean it every time that I do—a lot of people out here don't want friends; what they're actually looking for is fans. There are a billion different reasons why. One of them is because a lot of folks are extremely insecure. They're envious. They're always causing drama (usually because they don't trust well, so they are constantly creating problems in their mind). They're negative. They're disingenuous. They constantly live in a state of denial (facts and truth mean very little to them). Know what else? They are usually very critical of others. Here's the really fascinating thing about that—they can't handle it when the mirror is put in front of their own face and you are even a little critical of them.
The best kinds of friends aren't people who only tell you what you want to hear. That's not friendship, that is flattery, and flattery, more times than not, tends to have ulterior motives. So yes, emotionally mature people are well-aware of the fact that sometimes their friends are gonna call them out on their ish, tell them when they are dead wrong, and definitely be the kind of support system that holds them to the kind of standard that will ultimately make them a better individual.
If you've got someone in your life who feels 1000 percent like they are to serve that role in your life yet when the tables turn, they play the victim, lash out or give you the cold shoulder—not only is this a sign that they can't take what they dish out, it also means you are involved with someone who is so internally fragile that they could cause your friendship with them to break. Literally.
3. Not Honoring Specific Needs
Something that I personally think doesn't get addressed enough is the fact that having multiple friendships can be more challenging than having a spouse in the sense that, when you get married (at least in this country), you're with one person. Yes, it can be challenging and trying at times to figure out how to make that relationship, not only work but last; still, it's just ONE person. Friendships? Whew. Real ones are also quite intimate. And since everyone has their own personality, likes and dislikes and even relational expectations, figuring out how to keep your friendships in a good space can sometimes require more time, effort and energy than many actually want to do.
No doubt about it, one of the biggest causes of sabotaged friendships is the fact that far too many people take on that "one size fits all" approach when that couldn't be further from the truth. Since every person you are friends with is an individual, it's important to do things like learn their love language, figure out some of their triggers, learn how some of their past has made them how they are in the present and also definitely figure out what their relational needs are (as they do the same thing for you).
I've got a friend who hates gifts yet needs a good amount of quality time. I've got a friend who hates physical touch yet is really verbally affirming. One of my friends, I don't know if you could ever say anything to hurt their feelings (we've been homies for almost 30 years now). Meanwhile, I have another who is sweet as honey and yet super sensitive, almost to the point of walking on eggshells. Back in the day, I used to be the kind of person who was like, "I'm just me. Y'all deal with it." Yet the older I get and the more I learn that healthy friendships aren't a dime a dozen, I now make adjustments so that my friends can get just what they need from me. No two friendships are just alike. Figuring out what each friend needs in order for your friendship to thrive can definitely help the relationship to go the distance. If you don't do this…well.
4. Not Being Appreciative
There is a friendship that I had from my 20s right up until I turned 40. Around that time, I had to transition out of. There were a couple of issues within it; however, the one that had me be like, "Yeah, that's it" was the fact that this person had become so entitled that I basically couldn't stand to be in their presence anymore. All of us know certain things that we do well, right? Well, something that most folks know about me is I'm a pretty big giver—and I definitely enjoy blessing my friends. Yet this individual, I had done so much for them, that it got to a point where they started to expect it—and even acted like I was out of pocket when I would say "no", at times. So, why did I stay around for so long? Because they had other good qualities. They kept things in confidence. They prayed for me like no other person would. We had years of history and had supported one another through many people, places, things and ideas. Yet, that lack of appreciation thing really started to take its toll.
Appreciation is a really big thing in friendships. It's not just about being grateful; it's also about making sure that your friend knows that you are aware of what they bring into the friendship. It's about doing things that express how much you value them. A wise person once said, "Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them. You have to figure out who's worth your kindness and who's just taking advantage." Listen, you can love someone all day long. If you don't express that in a form of gratitude, you still could lose them, though. Straight up.
5. Not “Customizing” Each Friendship
To a certain degree, I've already addressed this point. Still, it's important enough that I think we should go, just a bit deeper. Remember how I said that no two friendships are just alike? OK, say that you're ready to buy a new couch. At the end of the day, all couches have basically the same function. Yet things do come into play like the design, the color, the fabric that it's made out of, the size, etc. Based on what you prefer, you could end up with a couch that you hate or one that you absolutely adore.
Friendships are similar in the sense that some people just want a movie date or wine tasting buddy. Some want a person who they can share their deepest secrets with, knowing that it won't go anywhere. Some want someone who they can be on the same page with when it comes to spiritual insights or professional goals. My confidant and I don't talk nearly as much as my godchildren's mother and I do. At the same time, my confidant knows that they can ring me at 4 a.m. to discuss or vent about whatever. Meanwhile, my godchildren's mom has a very taxing career, so we have to schedule time to spend time together; plus, I've gotta be super flexible in the sense that the schedule could actually change at the last minute. There's no reason to become frustrated with either dynamic. They are individuals. That's just the way it is.
One of the best things about having really good friends is the details that you know about one another. You get each other's preferences. You know one another's quirks. You don't compare them to other friendships that you have. You see each other as true individuals. Unfortunately, far too many friendships get sabotaged because folks loop their friends all in together in the sense that they give everyone the same kind of focus when things really need to be more…customized than that.
6. Not Being Proactive
I will say this until each and every single cow in the world comes home. One of the biggest causes of broken relationships, ANY KIND OF RELATIONSHIP, is the fact that far too many people opt for being reactive rather than proactive. What I mean by that is, they get lazy in their relationships and so they wait until their friend is irritated or even angry or hurt before putting any real attention into the friendship. If you know that your friend is big on birthdays, stop missing it and then circling back with a "happy belated" greeting card. If you know something seems a little "off" between you and your friend, don't wait for things to get worse; ask questions in order to gain some clarity. If they've pointed out to you a trigger, do your best to avoid stomping on it with your words and actions. Don't wait until a special occasion to do something special for them. And more than anything, try and be consistent in the good things that you do. Consistency is a superpower that truly doesn't get all of the credit that it deserves.
One of my closest friendships, a part of the reason why it has remained that way for so long is because we both are proactive in the sense of wanting to make the other feel like they are on the radar and not taken for granted. Proactiveness shows others that they are on your mind. Proactiveness shows that you want them to continue to be a part of your life. Proactiveness prevents you from being lazy in your friendships—so that you don't have to constantly try and fix things by acting reactively.
7. Not Allowing the Friendship to Evolve
Let's conclude this with a huge friendship sabotage issue. Two of my favorite quotes on personal evolution is, "Many people don't want to see you grow and evolve because growth intimidates those who live complacent lifestyles" (Unknown) and "Life is about evolving. Don't stay in a situation that's not helping you grow mentally, spiritually and emotionally" (Unknown). A very huge life reality is, you can't evolve without change and as you change, that can cause your friendships to shift to some extent. Maybe you've taken on a new job that requires that you move. That is going to shift your friendship. Maybe you're single and your BFF is about to get married. That is going to shift your friendship. Perhaps you're pregnant. That is going to shift your friendship. Or you might've just lost someone very close to you. That is going to shift your friendship (death changes people; that isn't talked about enough either). Honestly, if you're making the most of every day of every year, growth is going to transpire—and that is going to shift your friendship. Especially since your friend is probably growing too.
This is why flexibility, to a large extent, is so important. You've got to love and respect your friends enough to give them to space to transform as they get older, are exposed to more and learn more things. In return, they need to do the same thing for you as well. If you keep trying to hold people to who they were in college or when they were single or, to some extent, who they were last year—it's only going to lead to unrealistic expectations, a certain amount of frustration and, at some point, it could result in your friendship with them ending.
You get old and mature enough and you accept that a lot of friendships don't have to consist of big problems and huge "fall outs". Still, if you're not staying ahead of what can sabotage your friendships—those seemingly little things that can become huge over time—you can still lose precious members of your tribe. Good friends are hard to come by. Do everything in your power to avoid toxic habits that could end up sabotaging them.
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