One of my earliest posts dealt with the issue of gossiping and the role that talking about others has in friendships. But there is another function of this that I did not address, and one that I think can be rather illuminating. Do you ever find yourself repeatedly complaining to and confiding in a friend about the same person all the time? 99% of the time, I believe this is the tell tale sign of a friendship that no longer holds a positive or necessary role in your life. It’s difficult to admit that our relationships can evolve and die out over time, but I believe the complaining serves as a way to rationalize and validate something you may already know, but don’t want to admit: that that friend is simply no longer right for you, or in some cases, not at all who they once seemed.
But this post is not about the value of letting go of these toxic or burdening friendships, but rather the role that the person you’re confiding in plays. It’s a position I’ve found myself in time and time again. I love being a listening ear to the people in my life – so much so, I’ve made a career out of it! I welcome vent sessions and like working through issues and offering tidbits of advice. But it’s an interesting perspective when I am consistently the one that others turn to when complaining about the frustrating, and sometimes plain mean, friends in their lives – only to watch them continue cultivating that friendship, more than our own. I think a lot of it stems back to my appearing “desperate” to hold onto friends; I tend to be the nice, dependable, flexible one that isn’t going anywhere, and that can sometimes lead to being taken advantage of, even in the most subtle of ways.
It’s a special feeling to know that you can be someone’s confidant, but I also think my willingness to endure frustrations in my friendships in order to avoid isolation has ended up placing me on the backburner of others’ lives. Although this is a specific phenomenon I myself have encountered, I have to believe that this happens to the fellow people pleasers of the world; if my experiences with girl bullying have taught me anything, it’s that you are never the only one encountering these problems.
So why do those friends fight for those problematic friendships, when they have more reliable and comfortable ones elsewhere? A possible explanation has to do with the sheer fact that women are more likely to define their worth by their ability to have successful relationships. So when a friendship seems to be faltering (for good reason or not), our reaction is to cling on, ignore the red flags, and tolerate. It’s easier to give priority to the relationships that are hanging by a thread than to the ones you know won’t leave you, but this often sends the wrong message to the latter friend.
If you’re noticing a trend of girls tolerating and enduring friendships (on both sides of this issue), you’re not wrong. This is what lies at the root of girl bullying. The threat of isolation is so great, that we settle for unfulfilling, uncomfortable, or even dangerous, friendships because the alternative seems far worse. We need to change this mindset. By their very definition, friendships should bring joy, peace, support, and laughter to our lives. We need to teach the girls who constantly hold on to negative relationships that it’s okay to let them go, and teach the girls who feel taken advantage of that it’s okay to ask for and expect more from friends. Show those tried and true confidants they’re appreciated through action. Communication is the key; whichever side of this post you find yourself on, turn into the friendships where the issues lie in order to create solutions, rather than to others to complain.