Breaking Up With A Friend
Ghosting her would have been easy.
I met Stacy when our kids were in elementary school. She has three, just like me. We bonded one afternoon after sitting for hours on the swings, talking as our kids ran around the playground. We were happy and relieved to have found each other.
Our afternoons were spent on my front porch or in her new house. We took the kids for lunch, met at the park and regularly enjoyed girls’ nights out.
New friendships are like an exciting new romance — sometimes we ignore the signs that make us uncomfortable because we’re too busy enjoying the novelty of it all: Finally, a woman I can talk to! Someone who is on the same page and has time to get together!
After a few months, it became pretty clear that Stacy was a negative person. She was always taking personal digs at everyone around town. If we bumped into someone, she’d start talking about their financial state or how bad their kids were at baseball.
One afternoon, we saw a lovely woman we both knew while we treated our kids to Happy Meals. After a nice exchange with her, Stacy leaned in and said, "Did you see her expensive phone? She's on subsidized housing, you know. She shouldn't have that phone."
I chewed my son's cold fries, heart pounding, faced flushed. "When we first met, you never talked about people like this,” I told her. “Who cares how much money they have or how they spend it?"
She looked at me like she had no idea what I was talking about and laughed. "Well, that money comes out of our taxes. I just don't think it's right."
"You don't have to think it's right, but I'm beginning to think you have a problem with everyone. I wonder what you must say about me," I said, trying to lighten the mood but legitimately worried.
We finished our lunch and piled the kids in the car. I hoped she’d take my request to heart. Nope. For a little while things got better, but, sure enough, negativity started clouding our conversations.
Ghosting her would have been easy. The last time I spoke to her, I told her that a lot of the women she talked shit about were my friends. She didn’t say, “You know, you are right. I need to ease up,” like I was hoping she would. She was mad. I got a snide “whatever” laugh. The only exchanges we’ve had since are tight smiles at our kids’ events.
Gossip alone isn’t a good friendship foundation. There were times I let myself get sucked down her rabbit hole, but I always regretted the things I’d said.
Studies have found that being around toxic people can weaken our immune system and make us sick. Negativity is contagious — no wonder I felt bad after hanging out with her. Breaking up with a friend may feel extreme. Confrontation isn’t fun, and you may even miss the person.
A little gossip is fun, but it’s better to surround yourself with people who build you up. Plus, I’m tired of ducking behind the meat counter when I see meanies approaching. Aren’t you?