5 Make-Or-Break Friendship Moments (And When To Call It Quits)

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Self, Family

The last F in BFF doesn't always mean forever.

By Jen Doll

Bummer, since new research shows that women seek close one-on-one friendships, whereas men collect a loose-knit posse.

"Compare our 'face to face' relationships of having coffee and the 'shoulder to shoulder' experience of two guys watching the game," says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of The Friendship Fix. That dynamic makes our bonds more intimate—and more explosive.

Despite women's rep for being great communicators, some make-or-break friendship moments can leave us speechless. Here, five scenarios based on real-life stories...and how the eff to handle them with the care they (and you) deserve.

1. "Christine and I have been buds since our twenties. We've had great times together—granted, many of them involving alcohol. I got married and had kids, but her life hasn't changed very much. She showed up drunk to a holiday dinner and nearly dropped my 2-year-old son. Then she got pissed when I got upset."

What went wrong: These two are in different life stages now, though neither has openly addressed it. "Getting married and having kids is one of the biggest reasons female friendships drift apart," says Bonior. You may think things haven't changed, but time is tougher to come by, and the children are now your top priority.

Defuse or detonate? Let's address the third friend in this situation: Captain Morgan. If you were truly just drinking buddies, that ship has sailed. Chances are, other mutual interests kept you together, says psychiatrist Amy Banks, M.D., author of Four Ways to Click.

So she nearly dropped your son. Not good. Still, women tend to globalize an isolated incident. Ask yourself: What about all the times she listened to me bitch about diaper duty, or had my back during a rough patch at work? She deserves another chance.

Frame it as "I care about you and am worried about what happened," rather than "You need to control your drinking," says clinical psychologist Jill Squyres, Ph.D. It comes from a place of empathy, not judgment. And make time for QT. "Once a month, have brunch with her, away from your kid," she says.

2. "I was going through a period of depression when my closest friend, Melissa, abruptly broke up with me on the sidewalk. 'I can't hang out with you anymore. My therapist says you're toxic. I spend more time in there talking about you than myself.' I haven't seen her since, and it's been hard for me to get close with anyone again."

What went wrong: "In healthy relationships, it's instinctive to want to help pals through difficult times," says Banks. So yeah, you kinda lost the friendship lottery here. But remember that it's not always about you. (When you're depressed, everything feels like it is.) "She might have something going on in her life and can't be around negativity right now," says Banks.

Defuse or detonate? This friendship may be ovah, but in the future, know this: You can't unload all your drama on one person, says psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of Better Than Perfect. "Putting that burden on others isn't fair." Instead, a professional therapist can unpack your problems and help you open up to people without feeling vulnerable.

3. "Denise and I have a blast going out—shopping, karaoke, movies—when I can get her out. She'd be happy just to chill at home. One night I got so annoyed about always having to make plans that I said I wasn't going to call her. If she wanted to be my friend, she'd have to call me. She didn't."

What went wrong: What should have been a discussion escalated into an ultimatum. She took this as a personal attack when it's a personality difference, says Lombardo. Some people are planners; others show up. As frustrating as it is for a Type A person, this "issue" likely wasn't even on the friend's radar.

Defuse or detonate? Depends. "Some friends never initiate anything, but we still love to be around them," says Bonior. "You should address the resentment, though. Say, 'I feel like I'm the one keeping the friendship afloat, and it makes me feel like you don't care.' If she responds, 'I'm not an initiator,' say, 'Fine. What if we have a standing dinner date and we alternate who makes the rez?'" If she still makes no effort with plans, it could be that she's just not that into you.

4. "After I helped her score a job at my office, Katie and I got close, fast. Within three months, she moved into my building, started going to my colorist, even dated my husband's friends. Then I lost my job. I got a lead for a new position, and she acted like my biggest cheerleader. Turns out, she went behind my back and got the gig for herself. When I confronted her, she said she 'won fair and square.'"

What went wrong: It's easy to place all the blame on the opportunistic friend, but a teensy bit of the onus is on you. "Sometimes when it seems like you're soul mates, it's that the other person doesn't have a firm sense of identity." Read: She wants yours. The ego stroking might feel like flattery at first, but it's dangerous, says Banks.

Defuse or detonate? Get away. "When someone is imitating you in multiple realms of your life, that behavior is pathological," says Squyres. Or you're being used. In either case, you need to look at why you were so quick to let her in. "Some people naturally exploit others," says Squyres, who recommends keeping your eyes wide open. It's smart to be as wary of a new girlfriend as you would be of a new guy in your life.

5. "Megan and I were always BFF's until she met a new group of friends through CrossFit. Now all she does is hang with that crew, and when I do see her, she's talking about them. I feel like we're growing apart. I don't mean to sound possessive, but I want my friend back! And I never want to hear about CrossFit again."

What went wrong: It may feel as if you're growing apart, but ask this: Are you legitimately getting the blow-off? It can seem like a personal insult when you and your best friend no longer share all the same interests.

This scenario is particularly loaded because your buddy is bettering herself. (Be honest: Does that bring up doubts about your own choice of extracurricular activities?) "One thing's for sure: It's unreasonable to expect people not to evolve," says Squyres.

Defuse or detonate? Have you actually told her how you feel?

"I miss you" is handy, says Bonior, because it doesn't place blame—and it's true. Clearly, burpees are a part of her life now, and that's not your thing. Make plans around activities you're both excited about.

If your friend is still MIA after a heart-to-heart, you might need to let her go. Whatever happens, use this as an opportunity to focus on your own personal growth, says Squyres.

This article was originally published at Women's Health. Reprinted with permission from the author.


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