Real Girl Lifestyle

The Real Deal: Real Girl’s advice column

Posted on: May 3, 2010

Sometimes all you need is an objective voice to see a problem in a new light.

Perhaps it’s because I’m the daughter of a psychotherapist, but over the years I’ve been told I’m a good listener. Send in your questions to realgirllifestyle@gmail.com, whatever the topic–beauty, fashion, health, weight loss, relationship, career. Let’s see if we can work together to find some Real solutions.

Dear Real Girl,
I have a girlfriend who has been with me through the roller coaster ride of the past ten years. She’s a very sweet person, but she’s also a drama queen…I always feel drained after spending any time with her. She talks about her problems (always bigger than mine, in her opinion), and she talks about her achievements (always bigger than mine, in her opinion) to the point where I barely get a word in edgewise. Since we only see each other maybe three times a year, I feel like I should just suck it up since we have such a history together. When do you know that it’s time to let a friend go?

Fellow real girl, I hear you. Yours is not an easy situation, and in fact I’m more a proponent of ending a friendship than most. Like any relationship, if it winds up hurting you or taking away from your general happiness, is it worth it? But before deciding to break ties with someone, it helps to evaluate the emotional scales and see if a tipping point has been reached.

We all have different friends for different things. There are your “hang-out friends” for fun activities, your close sister-friends who just get you and whom you can always be yourself around, your friends who give great advice, old friends you see once in a while to relive nostalgic times, and the list goes on. You seem to know what category this friend falls into–here is someone who’s been with you through a lot. She’s gotten you through some rough times in the past, and it sounds like you value that role she played in your life. Often, old friends know a different side of you–one that might not mesh exactly with who you are now (or who you want to be), but that will always be a part of you. That past version of yourself, whether it’s from high school, college, your wild 20’s, whenever, shouldn’t be something you need to fully let go. It’s there to continue to inform your actions and decisions as you move forward. And so having someone in your life who knows that former you can be both comforting and a reminder even to yourself of who you used to be. A friend who’s been there for you in the past can be invaluable in the future, since this person might have a deeper understanding of what you’ve been through and what you need. For that reason, “breaking up” with old friends takes far more consideration than deciding to step away from new ones.

So here are some questions to think about. 1) Do you have other friends from those ten years with whom you are closer and feel better around? 2) How much do you value the role this friend played during that roller coaster time in your life? How meaningful to you is the history you have together? 3) Is this someone you could look to for guidance should you need it in the future?

The above said, Real Girl has herself painfully separated from very good friends in the past, and each time I have felt healthier for it. After the initial pain of separation, there’s a wash of relief that comes from knowing someone who caused you some measure of pain or mental exhaustion is no longer in your life. It’s like any relationship–ripping off the band-aid is often much worse than finally letting the wound heal. Even if you only see this person three times a year, try to imagine what you’d feel like without those three times. Do you imagine relief? Do you feel dread when you know you’ll see this person, and would you feel much better without that dread? Are you remaining in the friendship out of feelings of guilt or obligation?

In essence, it’s time to measure the scales. Imagine the possible outcomes of staying or leaving: Will the sadness of losing your past friendship with this person, with all its nostalgia and history, outweigh the relief of never having to see her again? And if your heart doesn’t answer that question, then see if you can work out a compromise. Would you rather see her once a year instead of three times? Or is there some activity you can do together that lessens the likelihood she’ll talk your ear off with all her problems and accomplishments without caring to hear about yours?

I hope considering these questions will make your decision easier. And I hope, whichever way the scales tip, you’ll wind up feeling more balanced in the end.

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