Have you ever had a friend who acted more like a romantic partner? You know, the friend who acts entitled and possessive, jealous of your other friends or mad when you don’t tell them every, single, little thing? Or the friend who demands your undivided attention or is constantly in a state of compare and despair? (You kinda don’t want to tell them the good things that happen for you because you know deep down they feel envious.) 

If you are in one of these complicated friendships it can get to the point where you dread picking up the phone when you know it’s them…which in turn creates feelings of guilt and resentment.

If you are nodding your head (and let’s be honest, we’ve all likely had a friend like this at some point in our lives), then this week’s episode is for you! 

I’m sharing how to get clarity around the state of your friendships and what to do if they are causing you more stress and strain than joy. 

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s possible to renegotiate the rules of engagement or full on “break up” with a toxic friend (it is), click below and let me teach you how!

There are many reasons why we stay in unhealthy relationships. As a therapist and relationship expert for over 2 decades, I’ve had many people through the years ask me what to do about complicated and toxic friendships. 

What I’ve found is a painful pattern (particularly among women) of staying in relationships way past their expiration date for a variety of reasons. While it regularly happens in romantic relationships, I have absolutely seen it happen time and time again with platonic friendships, too. 

Why is it so complicated to have the conversation, take a step back, or end a friendship that long ago stopped being fulfilling or healthy?

You might have a shared history, misplaced loyalty, or fear of hurting the other person’s feelings. Many women I’ve spoken to experience a lot of anxiety and guilt, afraid if they say something, the other person will flip out or blow up and it will be a huge fight.

I say: you can learn to talk to anyone about anything. First, you need to look within to understand your feelings and get curious about where you might have felt like this before. 

One of my favorite insights from therapist Christine Langley-Obaugh is, “We repeat what we do not repair.” 

As humans, we have a tendency to repeat unresolved experiences, behaviors, and relationship dynamics until we can raise our awareness of these patterns, process, heal and consciously choose differently.

When I was younger, I was the “savior” in my friendships. I was the person everyone came to and dumped their problems on. I had repeated experiences with triangulation with other women, where both would come to me to complain about the other behind their backs, ask me to be the go-between, or keep secrets.

It took a long period of time for me to understand there is always a parallel process going on beneath the surface…especially when there’s conflict. I learned in therapy I was playing out my conflicted loyalty issues and my role as the “fixer” in my family of origin inside my friendships. 

If you’re a lover, an empath, a peace-keeper, a problem-solver, or a high-functioning codependent, you might feel compelled to help others and end up overgiving and overfunctioning inside your friendships. (Which, by the way, is an expression of disordered emotional boundaries…jus sayin’.) 

If you grew up in a family with perfectionist or hyper-critical tendencies, you might unconsciously gravitate towards people who give you unasked for advice or criticism. These are just a few examples of how our pasts can influence our relationships in the present.

In this week’s downloadable guide, I’m giving you a tool to identify where you might be experiencing what I call “repeating realities” inside your friendships as well as a friendship inventory to help you identify which relationships might need to change. 

If you are in a less-than-awesome friendship and feeling trapped, I want to remind you: you always have a choice about who is in your VIP section! 

You, and you alone, get to decide who is in your life on a consistent basis, no matter how long you’ve been friends. Friendships are voluntary. There’s not enough room in your VIP section for an unhealthy situation with someone who is not adding value to your life!

I understand it can be tough and feel scary. What I’ve found, especially with female friendships, is they can be as complicated, if not more complicated than romantic relationships. I had a friendship in the past that caused me more emotional stress than any romantic relationship I ever had. Thank goodness my mother talked me through “breaking up” with her all those years ago because I don’t think I would have been able to do it on my own. (I tell the story in the video above.)

As women, we are raised to be close and care deeply about what’s going on in each other’s lives. In the same way, we can become codependent within our family systems, we can transfer those dysfunctional patterns to our friendships. 

I want you to walk away from this knowing every relationship in your life is voluntary (aside from minor children you are parenting). What does it look like to make a shift in your friendships? It starts with learning how to set and maintain healthy, clear boundaries. 

What is and what is not ok with you when it comes to every relationship in your life, including your friendships? Remember: friendships are voluntary. 

You get to choose who you spend your precious time with! Get clear on what you’ve been signing up for and decide if you still really want to be on board for it. If you’ve just been tolerating this person, if you are in pain, drained, or stressed, you get to give yourself permission to make a change. 

Inside the guide, I’m giving you some clear steps you can take to get more clarity around your friendships and take aligned action (if you choose).

The liberation of choosing who is in your life is incredibly empowering. Ask yourself:

Who is in my life right now?

Who do I want in my life?

I want to help you recognize you have choices and whether you know it or not, you are choosing every relationship you are in. And you can choose differently. There is a healthy, strategic way you can step back, be less available or altogether end any friendship. It is 100% possible with the power of boundary setting!

Inside the guide, I walk you through exactly how to do it, so be sure to download it here now.  If you liked this episode and it added value to your life, please share it with the people in your world. 

I’d love to know what you think about this. Have you struggled with a complicated friendship? Drop me a comment below or please, connect with me over on IG @terricole and let’s keep the conversation going!

Thank you for caring about your mental health and the state of your relationships. You people are my people for sure, and as always take care of you.

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  1. Your book is transforming my life so quickly and effortless just shifting my perspective with your book ‘Boundary Boss’.

    1. Hi Keri,
      I’m so so glad Boundary Boss is resonating with you! Thank you for being here and sharing your experience ?❤️?

  2. These videos always make me cry but I know it’s because Terri has given some real talk that has resonated with me! Thank you so much for making these!

  3. Wow – what a great article! When I read this….Have you ever had a friend who acted more like a romantic partner? You know, the friend who acts entitled and possessive, jealous of your other friends or mad when you don’t tell them every, single, little thing?…..I almost dropped my coffee! That exactly describes my relationship with my best friend! I’m looking forward to understanding more about why I’m choosing to stay friends. Thanks ?

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