Nothing will hold you back more than toxic friends. By the time we reach our 60s, you would think that we would have let go of all of the people who make us unhappy. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.
To be clear, when I say “toxic friends,” I’m not talking about the quiet or even sad people in our lives. Sometimes, these people can be amazing friends.
I’m talking about the mean, cynical, dishonest and grumpy people who drag us down. I’m talking about the people who don’t seem to have our best interests at heart.
On some level, we all know that we should let these people go. After all, we deserve to have people in our lives who care for us. Every toxic friend crowds out our other relationships. So, why do we find it so hard to let go?
I’ve seen toxic friends hurt so many women in the Sixty and Me community. So, to dig into this issue, I recently sat down with Dr. Margaret Rutherford for a quick chat. As a Clinical Psychologist, Margaret has seen first-hand how these kinds of relationships impact our happiness. She is the perfect person to help with this problem. Enjoy the show!
According to Dr. Margaret, many of the toxic friendships in our lives started as contextual relationships. For example, many toxic friends started out as colleagues or the parents of our kids’ friends.
Over time, we spent so much time with them that they started to feel like friends, even if they didn’t have our best interests at heart.
Later, when the original reasons for our friendships with these people disappeared, they were so integrated into our lives that we didn’t know how to let them go. The fear of conflict was worse than the desire for peace and respect.
This is all well and good, but, what should you do if you find yourself with one too many toxic friends after 60? Is there a way to spend less time with your toxic friends without causing unnecessary conflict?
The first step, according to Dr. Margaret is to determine whether the person in question is capable of having a rational conversation about your relationship with them. Do they have the “ego strength” to listen to you without feeling judged or criticised?
If they do not have the capacity for self-reflection, it may be better to avoid the conversation all together. Simply spend less time with them and, eventually, you will drift apart. You don’t need to be spiteful about it. All you need to do is start making other plans so that you are busy when you would usually meet with them.
If they are ready to have an honest conversation, Dr. Margaret suggests saying something like “I was so glad that you were in my life when our children were friends. I think that you’re a great person. It also feels like we’re in different places now.” Then pause, assess the situation and, if appropriate, continue with something like “I want us to meet a little less frequently for now. You’re valuable to me and I’d like to continue that way.”
Dealing with toxic friends is relatively easy compared to dealing with toxic family members. After all, it’s not always possible or advisable to cut family members out of our lives, even if you don’t get along with them.
In this situation, Dr. Margaret recommends avoiding excuses. Instead, you can say something like, “When you act like this, I’m not going to be available.” In this way, you hold them responsible for their actions without having to have a discussion.
If they try to pull you back into a conversation, you may want to consider saying something like “I wish I could speak with you about this, but, I don’t think that the conversation would go well.”
If you are interested in looking into this topic more deeply, you may want to check out the book “My Other Ex, Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends.”
Letting go of toxic friends can be one of the hardest things to do in your 60s or beyond. After all, at our age, it feels like we need all the friends we can get. The truth is that there are plenty of people in the world who will love and respect you. When you let go of the people in your life that hurt you, you make room for the friends who will help you.
Do you agree that it is sometimes appropriate to let go of toxic friends, even if you have known them for a long time? What do you think is the best way to get out of a bad relationship? Please join the conversation.