It’s easier to break a connection than it is to build one. Here are 7 ways to destroy your friendships and key relationships.
Relationships are the greatest source of joy, or the greatest source of pain. There’s no real middle ground. Whether it be friends, significant others, key business partners, or people we wish we were closer to, our interactions with each other frame the best and worst moments of our lives.
In one of my sets of relationships at the moment, there are several people extremely hurt by someone’s actions and the actions that surround their actions. It’s difficult to deal with and has resulted in years and years of angst and estrangement. The relationships between a number of people are greatly strained and have resulted in a number of flow on impacts to people’s health and wellbeing. It’s even sadder and more difficult that there exists failure to identify that anything being done is actually wrong or harmful to others.
It’s had me thinking about all the ways that people hurt each other and ruin the most important relationships in their lives – namely their friendships and other key relationships. Most of the time, we don’t really recognize the impact our own actions have on others, but we are acutely aware of the actions that have caused us to shrink back or to want to severe ties with certain people. And it gets so much harder to maintain friendships and relationships over time. Many people would rather not have friends at all due to the pains and the difficulties they’ve encountered with others.
But all of us need people in our lives. We need friends and loved ones. We need embrace and support.
Mother Teresa said that loneliness is the most terrible poverty that exists in our world today. Are you lonely? Do you stay awake at night wondering who is on your side? Who are you able to share your life with? I can tell you with certainty that anyone who says with their words that they don’t need anyone carries a large weight in their heart at the thought of having to do things alone.
We need to stop acting in ways that frustrate and disconnect the very relationships that our hearts are crying out to enjoy. Here are 7 sure fire ways that you can destroy your friendships and key relationships.
#1: Don’t go to most things you’re invited to
In Japan, there’s a company known as Family Romance which provides people the ability to hire friends for all sorts of occasions. From birthday parties to hangouts, you can hire fake friends (actors) to come and spend time with you at your next event.
The sad thing is that many people get invited to birthdays, dinners and games nights, but when you keep failing to show up, people start to give up and look for people to fill those numbers through means such as these.
As an introvert, I am aware that introverts are especially guilty of this one. You’ve had a big week, your emotional reserves are low, you’re looking forward to Netflix or playing Destiny 2 online, and then boom. You forgot it was your friend’s birthday on Saturday night. That dreaded “can we catch up this week?” text comes around. Someone wants you at their wedding or cultural dinner.
How often we fail to recognize just what it communicates to people when we don’t turn up, or when we don’t make up our lack of appearance at something. It communicates a distinct sense that the person is not valued by you.
Now, you might be okay with that. But if you’re finding that the number of deep and meaningful connections in your life is sorely lacking, it might be because you keep bailing on things, especially important things.
It can take a bit of effort to turn up somewhere if you’re tired, and it can be okay if you need a night to yourself to recover from things.
But not every week. Not every time someone invites you. That’s a sure fire way to set fire to that bridge and slowly push someone out of your life.
You can stay home and hang out with your screen your whole life, or you can go out there and build some more meaning into your relationships. It all starts with turning up.
#2: Only ever meet on your terms
Are you looking to destroy your friendships in a hurry? Try always having it your way.
Always be the one who is right. Never allow someone else to have a moment. Eat what you want to eat. Watch the movie you want to watch. Seems innocent enough, and it’s only fair that you do get to have your way and pick the group activity or have your idea be the one we go with.
But every time? That’s exhausting. Not for you, but for others.
Once again, it’s the issue of value. Your friends and loved ones love you so they’ll do things you like, but if you never stop and ask them, “Hey, what would you like to do?”, or “Where is a good spot for you to meet?”, you’re going to be running their emotional bank account a little thin.
Unless that’s what you’re trying to do. But I don’t think you want to be intentionally ruining your friendships.
Balance it out.
#3: Only have a limited number of people in your life
Have you ever heard the expression, “Us four and no more?”. Or have you decided to live by the mantra that you only need a handful of people in your life? Well, I’m sure you’re having a pretty good time, but I’ve got to tell you something that your friends are too nice to tell you:
You’re putting a lot of strain on them. If you don’t believe me, why don’t you be brave enough to ask them next time how they’re going with being one of your few supports in life?
You can’t get all your emotional needs met by only a few people. It’s unrealistic, and more than that, it’s unfair.
I always think of a beach umbrella and a park shelter or a gazebo. Once they’re set up in the ground, you can find a good amount of shade under either of them. They both offer a decent amount of room. You’re going to be protected by a lot of things under their care.
But which one will last longer? Which one will sustain in its efforts to give to others? The park shelter. Why? Because it has more support.
Imagine building a skyscraper like you’re trying to build your life. If you have this attitude that you only need a few people, all your attempts to build higher and higher are eventually going to result in the base of the building tumbling down, because you had one support holding up the whole building when you really needed quite a few. Living that way, you’ll fall to bits if one or two besties have to go to another party that night, or they are texting someone else, or they’re married with kids and have to juggle a few more priorities, or they’re too overwhelmed with the pressure you’re not even aware you’re placing on them and need a break.
There’s usually a lot of spite associated with people who are depending on only a few to be their only friends. Eventually these people aren’t going to be able to give you what you need and you’ll lose these excellent friends and loved ones, all because you didn’t want to add a few more extra voices in your life.
#4: Never deal with, or be honest, about with your personal issues
In the situation I described above in my own life, there is a common thread of unresolved and undealt with issues. Things that people have held on to for years and never done anything about them. All of a sudden, an external situation exacerbates the tension they’ve kept bubbling just below the surface, and a much larger number of people are suffering as a result.
A lot of people say they want connection and close friends, but few people would ever be willing to tell anyone how their life is really going.
If people can’t ask you personal questions, then they don’t know you as a person. You have to be willing to go there with people.
“Oh well I’m waiting for someone else to go first”.
You’re going to be waiting a long time, because they’re probably thinking the same thing.
If you put as much effort into your friendships or loved ones as you do into your career, you would live a totally different life. In order to get a job, we present ourselves as we are, we’re willing to be interrogated by a committee in order to get ahead, we’re ready to be scrutinized in detail about our past work, we’re ready to engage in difficult and probing training and questions in order to better ourselves in an office or labour environment.
And yet we can’t engage in enough real talk to make a difference in our lives. We won’t seek out counsellors or professionals who can help us work through the larger issues. We keep up our facade and don’t really ever invite anyone in.
You’re heading for the destruction of all your close relationships if you maintain that course. Believe me, I’ve seen it firsthand. It’s not pleasant for anyone.
Deal with it now, or all the ones you care about will be dealing with it later.
#5: Be inconsistent
This is a simple one. Act like a yoyo. Be on one minute, then disappear the next.
It throws people off when they think they can count on you to be somewhere, and you suddenly aren’t. It’s painful and a real relationship ender.
NB. For more on a related phenomenon, check out Ghosting Is The Worst Phenomenon in Modern Relationships.
#6: Ignore or neglect your existing friends
What if the best friends you could have right now were the people you already know?
I think friendships can be hard because people are seasonal. Not everyone who comes into your life is going to stay. Notice I didn’t say “meant to stay”, because that doesn’t encompass enough of the picture. There are all sorts of reasons people can move on from each other – for right and wrong reasons. I wrote a lot about this, and had a lot of people resonate strongly with The Season Of Friends.
I think it’s always worth asking yourself, “Why aren’t I friends with this person any more?”, or “Why aren’t I as close to this person as we used to be?”. A lot of people struggle to make new BFFs when they already had a number of close friends who they could still be close with, if they just worked out the misunderstandings of human interaction and the distance that time without contact can create.
Instead of building a new bridge, maybe you need to revisit and renovate some existing ones. Call that friend you haven’t seen in 5 years, reply to that text message you were meant to reply to 8 months ago, go to that birthday party with those people you haven’t caught up with in a while.
When people leave your life, make sure they’re doing it for the right reasons. If there are any people who could still be a blessing to you as a friend and you could still be a blessing to them, it’s worth following up.
Many times, friendships are destroyed by moving on too quickly. Maybe your new best friend is your old best friend, waiting for you to rediscover each other again. Intentionally.
#7: Hold on to past hurts
Misunderstandings happen. People fail to communicate. Friendships can be destroyed when two people both have crap going on in their lives at the same time and are unable to support each other through difficult times. Sometimes that’s how life goes.
But if you’re still blaming that person for not being there for you a few years ago, or not knowing that you were going through a tough time alone (maybe you didn’t tell them?), you’re going to destroy that friendship. If that’s what you would like to do, maintain an attitude of unforgiveness and keeping holding that grudge.
The sad thing is many people get older and start to have less and less people in their lives. And one day they’re in their seventies and eighties and there’s no one coming to visit, no one calling, and no one able to get close because of the walls of anger and bitterness that have been built and reinforced over decades of living married to a grudge.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably already at an age where you are at risk of allowing a root of bitterness to corrupt and erode the connections in your life. All of us are. All of us are capable of harbouring harsh feelings and reliving conversations and moments that have long since passed.
But if you don’t release your pain and forgive, you’re going to die alone.
Or worse – you will become a repeater of the actions you hated. We are destined to repeat what we cannot forgive. Whether you mean well or not, you may be repeating the negative behaviour in your friendships that originally hurt you so badly.
Let it go. Open up again.
There are many, many ways you can destroy your friendships and key relationships. I asked a few people earlier today for some of their ideas and each of them could write a similarly lengthy piece on the issue.
At the end of the day, it all comes back down to value. Do you value your friendships enough to instill those people with value? And do you value yourself enough to face facts and deal with the things that get in the way?
People regularly call me a relationship guy, and I’m just as passionate about friendships as I am about any other relationship in life. The friends you make and keep can be as an important decision as the person you marry. And isn’t love friendship on fire? The above 7 things can also destroy a marriage or dating relationship, too.
Let’s do our friendships right. Let’s keep our key relationships healthy. May they be in our lives and in the lives around us the rich and rewarding experience they were intended to be.
How about you? What are some ways you think you can destroy your friendships and key relationships?