For many of us, navigating friendship was a perilous business through the kid years until we hit our stride as adults. In college, we learned to set healthy boundaries and pick friends based on common interests rather than popularity. Most of us grew up and out of cliques and exclusionary behavior, but occasionally old habits rear their ugly head and people morph back into high school divas when they feel out of control.
Peer Pressure Grown-Up Style
Krista was so excited when Mary joined her small group at church. After experiencing similar tragedies in their lives, their immediate connection was obvious to all. But Gina, who had initially invited Mary to join their group, deeply resented their growing closeness. Gina claimed Mary as “her” friend and initiated a bizarre course of events to turn Mary against Krista, all the while acting like she was still Krista’s friend.
Now these were grown up women with kids of their own, but Krista felt like someone had dropped her back into the middle school lunchroom. Gina did everything she could to interfere with Mary and Krista’s relationship, from interrupting lunch dates to making up negative stories about Krista and spreading rumors on social media. Krista was baffled at the toxic drama from a woman whom she considered a friend. Finally, Krista confronted Gina, who in a fit of tears told Krista that she had invested a lot of time in Mary and wasn’t going to let Krista get in the way.
Playing Games & Manipulation
I love the Snickers Bar commercials where an overly dramatic actress is acting cranky and cantankerous until they feed her a candy bar and she transforms back into a regular guy. The message is loud and clear: hunger turns us all into divas. But what we often forget is that any kind of hunger – a hunger for love, security, identity or even God – can drive us into unhealthy behavior and turn us into someone unrecognizable.
Gina wasn’t a bad person; another friend had recently wounded her deeply, and then Mary came along and showed compassion to her in a dark time. Because of this, Gina craved Mary’s attention in an unhealthy way. When it was clear that Mary liked Krista better, something snapped in Gina, and her brokenness spilled out into control and manipulation to get what she thought she deserved: Mary’s friendship.
Someone Has To Be The Adult
One of the hard lessons Krista learned through this process is that setting boundaries with high-drama friends is not easy. The truth is that healthy people repel unhealthy people because they don’t tolerate crazy behavior. Krista realized that while she loved Mary’s company, she didn’t enjoy the neediness of Gina. Close friendship with Gina meant being available for the bombardment of texts and calls every time there was a crisis – which happened on a daily basis. It meant being sucked into a high-maintenance friendship and getting lashed out at often when her expectations weren’t met.
When I met with Krista, I reminded her that we all occasionally hurt one another, but our behavior in the aftermath will determine the course of our relationships. I encouraged Krista to forgive and try to offer empathy over Gina’s jealousy, but not to forget or condone this type of behavior because it was extremely unhealthy and damaging. Krista needed to set firm boundaries and not allow Gina to get away with any more of her manipulative games.
I also encouraged her to talk with Mary about how much it hurt Krista for her to stay friends with Gina when she was treating Krista so badly. Krista decided to be tough but loving and pull back from both relationships to give herself space to process her pain. She was upfront with both women about her feelings and felt at peace once the war ceased over Mary’s attention.
Moving In The Same Direction
Krista ultimately realized that her true friends were people moving in the same direction as her. Friends don’t gossip about your failures or bring negativity into your life; instead, they are a vault you can pour your heart into. If a good friend hurts you accidentally and you can work through and get past the offense, then the glue of friendship will grow stronger. But if a friend hurts you repeatedly with no remorse, then it’s time to question if this is a true ally or not.
Krista chose to stay cordial in demeanor but keep her guard up around Gina, recognizing her volatility and instability. Mary, on the other hand, tried to stay close to both women but ultimately came to the same decision as Krista after experiencing her own dose of Gina’s drama. Gina eventually left their small group and hopefully found healing from the pain that was creating her toxic behavior and damaging her ability to hold on to friends.
True friendship is worth a little drama, as Krista and Mary discovered, but a high-drama and high-maintenance friend isn’t really a true friend in the long run.
You may also be interested in 3 Questions To Ask Yourself When You’re Considering A Friendship Breakup