Losing friends is a sad reality. Sometimes when you break up with one friend you run the risk of losing several others.
When you have a toxic friend, most people will tell you that the best thing you can do is to end the friendship. What they don’t tell you is that there may be a few surprising and occasionally negative repercussions from following their advice.
One of the things that I discovered the hard way was that when you break up with one friend, losing friends that you love is a possibility .
I had a group of work-friends, who over time morphed into close friends. We’d spend holidays together, and when we were all still single we had a standing Valentine’s Day date—kind of a losers club with better cocktails. We’d go out for dim sum, have high tea in fancy hotels, or attend French film festivals. We all had a lot in common because we were movie-geeks and all had the same type of sarcastic humor.
My friends supported me when my dad passed away, when my favorite cat got sick and died, and when I had to have surgery. I knew that I could count on them and that they would always be there for me. Losing friends in this group didn’t feel possible.
In fact, I loved my friends so much that when I met this amazing woman Emily (not her real name) through a theater group we were both in, I couldn’t wait to introduce her to the group. I secretly hoped to integrate her into our squad.
My friends absolutely loved my new friend, and we started to include her in our activities. She was extremely sophisticated and had lived all over the world, so when it came to dim sum, she knew not only what to order but could order it in Cantonese. For a while it was great—I had friends for group activities and friends for one on one talks.
At first, the newest member of the group, Emily, didn’t target me with her hypercritical and judgmental nature, she chose one of the original members who was known for being contrary and difficult. When my ex-work friend complained about Emily, the rest of the group didn’t take it seriously, we just thought our OG friend was being overly sensitive and argumentative.
Then one day at a birthday celebration for Emily, with some of her friends, I made a social blunder involving the friend of a friend. Once I realized what I had done, I quickly apologized but it was too late. I had been forever tainted and tarnished in Emily’s eyes.
After my social fail, Emily would bring it up repeatedly as an example of how I had failed, how I was a disappointment, and how I needed to change. I tried apologizing again, promising to never repeat my mistake, and when that didn’t work, I tried to be the perfect friend. I hoped by always having a positive and upbeat attitude that Emily would stop emotionally bullying me, but she was still able to find fault with me.
Every lunch ended in Emily criticizing me, and me crying in my car. I couldn’t handle the friendship anymore and quietly disengaged myself from her. I told my friends that they didn’t have to choose between us but that I preferred not to spend any time with her.
It didn’t take Emily long to figure out, that I no longer wanted to be friends. I resisted any requests Emily made to talk it over as I knew any conversation would only end in her calling me out and me feeling like crap.
Then something happened that I never expected my friends did choose, and they chose her. Losing friends I loved so much went from a non-existent thought to a reality. I was no longer part of the group; the group that I was a founding member of no longer existed. The aftershocks of the breakup had eroded the entire foundation upon which our friendship had been built..
The friends who I thought would always be by my side dumped me. They didn’t understand why I had felt I had no choice but to stop being friends with Emily and thought that the problem must have been me. They thought I was the toxic one, and no matter how I tried to explain how awful Emily was no one was would believe me.
I tried not to let the fact that I had lost a bunch of friends affect my self-esteem, but honestly, it did a number on me. I felt as if no one understood me or had the ability to see things from my perspective. I was blocked from my ex-friend’s social media, and social events that they had, so of course, I felt ostracized and lonely.
The good thing is that I learned who my real friends were and who had my back. It’s better to have a few good friends who aren’t judging you, than a big group who make you feel bad about yourself.
While I still mourn some of those lost friendships, I’m glad I did what I did, even if losing friends was the negative consequence. Because, in the end, I took care of myself and my well-being.