We talk a lot about romantic relationships and how to disentangle ourselves from them. But what we don’t address as often is extricating ourselves from a friendship, even if its prominence in our lives is just as (if not more) significant. Friendships demand time, energy, and commitment, just like romantic relationships do, and if you’re holding onto a friendship that is toxic for you, chances are you’re not living your best life and it’s time to break up. The trick is in recognizing when you are actually in an energy-leeching friendship, whether it’s worth saving, and how to cut the energetic cord if need be.
When and How to Break Up With a Friend
1. Spot the Toxic Friendship
There are obvious signs of a toxic friendship – outwardly physically or emotionally abusive – but the secretly insidious one can actually appear healthy and positive for all intents and purposes. That is why taking stock of you friendships is so crucial.
Years ago, I began to reflect of my friendships – even my closest and supposedly healthy ones – and what I found was startling. Some of my friends whose personalities I loved and sought to hang out with most also drained me of the most energy and left me feeling insecure. I realized that I was peeking into their lives more than they were into mine. While I enjoyed listening to the play-by-play of their melodramas, I realized I spent most of the time absorbing their energy and then giving off none of my own. I felt used.
Other signs that a friendship is more bad than good are if when you are around said friend, you don’t like how you act, you feel bad about yourself (you feel pressure, shamed, or constantly in argumentative mode), or you simply don’t like or respect the person anymore.
Jona Genova, energy healer, meditation teacher, and founder of Samadhi for Peace, sums it up: “Like everything in life, relationships should demonstrate balance. Are you always the listener? Always the giver? Chances are you’ve fallen into enabling this pattern.” The solution, Genova says, it to “take action towards growth by turning the tables on your friend. You can lean into your responsibility for a healthy partnership by speaking up for what you need. Let them know, ‘I’d really like to talk.’ This sets the stage for you change roles. If they can’t take on the position of listener, let them know you feel an imbalance. If they don’t make shifts and you feel that you’re not getting as much as you’re giving, it’s time to think about moving on.”
Take mental notes and observe what it is that is throwing you off. Is it fixable and worth addressing? If not, consider cutting the energetic cord.
Genova advises how to cope, particularly if the problem is you. She explains, “Your energy flow in and out is your responsibility. It's impossible to cut out every draining person in your life, like your boss or that annoying person in line with you. What is possible is to take control of your own porosity. This means you decide how much of their energy flows into you and how much of yours flows to them.”
2. Cut the Energetic Cord
Breaking up with a friend is not much different than doing so with a partner. Depending on the friend, however, it doesn’t always have to be confrontational.
First, consider setting new boundaries. If a friend is simply overwhelming and you need more space, then restrict the amount of time you spend with him or her.
In some cases, you can let the friendship fade slowly, especially in the lack of investment feels mutual.
Then there are cases in which you have to formally end the friendship, particularly if you and your friend aren’t on the same page and you suspect that he or she doesn’t see the end coming.
Regardless of the circumstances, when it comes to cutting the energetic cord, there’s no need for drama. Genova says, “Be compassionate. Just ignoring someone or being cruel will likely result in confusion and energetic attachments. Move away from who is right and who is wrong by reframing your perception of energy to be about balance rather than good or bad. It's an empowering shift because when we realize there is no good or bad energy, we are no longer afraid and our divinity can guide us in doing what is healthiest for all involved. A great book to help through break ups is Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav.”
3. Keep Tabs on Ambient Energy
Moving throughout the world is a constant motion of energy exchange, and how we deal with that energy is crucial to our mental health.
Genova continues, “I've read that our energy bodies extend 33 feet beyond our skin. Think about that. It means that we're overlapping other people throughout our days. We're all moving through this world with different levels of porosity. Some of us are really open to energy. Others, not as much but we are all somewhat permeable. Salt baths are great remedy for sore muscles and are fabulous for our energy body. I find them to be really supportive for healthy boundaries, especially so for empathic types. A weekly bath in Epsom salts will result in naturally being able to distinguish your energy from the energies around you. This is really powerful for anyone, particularly for those who are sensitive, in helping professions and prone to taking on energy from their environment.”