A few weeks ago, I published a post entitled ‘Knowing When It’s Time To Let Go of a Friend’. In hindsight, posting it was a terrible idea.
That kind of thing is the kind of thing you shouldn’t do until you are certain you have every side of a story. Until you are certain that you are correct. Needless to say, I wrote and posted that at the height of a disagreement between two friends of mine, that I was caught up in. I told myself I wouldn’t take sides, and yet I very clearly did.
That post has since been taken down. Honestly, there are things in there I’m ashamed of. Bits and pieces of the advice itself, but also the way I spoke about people, how biased I was. Of course, if a friend is manipulative then it might be time to reconsider, but I labelled someone as manipulative when I shouldn’t have.
Something I have since realised is that actually, we can all be manipulative. When it comes to an argument, to two friends fighting over something, and the remainder of the friendship group being left to pick sides, there will be manipulation. There will be the bending and twisting of words to make someone seem like the better option.
People manipulate. It is part of our nature – we want our way, and we will do what we can to get exactly that. Often, people do not consciously manipulate others, I think. It really is just something that we all cannot help but do. That’s not to say it isn’t wrong, or that it’s excusable, of course. People shouldn’t manipulate, I’m just saying that you don’t have to be ‘manipulative’ to manipulate.
And in a lot of situations, the blame can also lie with the one being manipulated. It’s a skill to recognise when someone is taking advantage of you, and controlling you, and we are all responsible for stopping that happen to ourselves.
Every friend you have in your life is likely to at least try and manipulate you in some way. You are likely to try and manipulate others, even if it’s as simple as where you go for dinner. Of course, consistent manipulation on more serious matters, with lasting effects, is a much more dangerous thing, but if we all ditched friends because they were manipulative all the time, then no one would have any friends left.
Of course, if someone seems to be making a habit of nasty, hurtful manipulation, then it really is a good idea to think again about your friendship. But please, do not take my previous advice. Don’t end a relationship with someone just because their own insecurities have led to you being made to do a couple of things you didn’t want to do. It is not worth throwing away a friendship because someone unintentionally uses you to fulfil their need to be wanted. What it is worth doing is being aware, and not letting yourself get too caught up in things, while also continuing to be there for said friend.
There are genuine reasons to end friendships. Manipulation can be one, when it’s to a serious extent. But when it comes to this, it’s important to look at them with other people. If they manipulate everyone, then clearly they have some issues that need working out. But if it’s just you? In the nicest way possible, do something about yourself. Don’t be so easy to manipulate, because you will encounter problems later, and they will be much more serious than your friend forcing you to go to a party you don’t really want to go to.
But also, watch out for how your friends act towards their other friends. Not choosing sides in an argument is great, but if one person is clearly acting badly towards another, if they’re spreading rumours, or if they threw someone under the bus, or are using them as a scapegoat, then they probably aren’t someone you want to be close with. If they turn on one friend, what’s to say they won’t turn on you? Not getting involved is a good way to stay out of drama, but to an extent, you need to look out for yourself. I understand, I really, really do, understand not wanting to abandon someone, but there are more subtle ways to add distance than dropping someone out of the blue.
People who don’t apologise remain to be problems. Apologising, admitting you’re wrong, and moving on, is a vital part of any healthy relationship, really. And if someone can’t manage that, then you’re going to struggle to have a fully functional friendship. I don’t doubt that it might be fun, and these people tend to be the most reckless and interesting people, but when things go wrong, you will lose out, and it will hurt. By all means be friend with these people. Be there for them. Support them. Expect them to do the same. But don’t expect it to be an unendingly forgiving and generous relationship. There will come a time when they do something wrong, and then fail to apologise for it. If this person is so much a part of your life that you’re completely heartbroken, then, as much as the fault is with them, it is equally with you, as harsh as that may sound.
I understand what it’s like to be a teenager, with your group of best friends, who you think will always be by your side. That you hope will always be by your side.
But when you form those friendships, at twelve or thirteen years old, none of you know enough about yourselves, or each other, to know if it’s a good idea. At school, you end up friends with whoever is convenient, and that can, later on, lead to destructive friendships. Just because when you were fourteen you thought you could trust these people with anything, it doesn’t mean that two years later you’re going to feel the same.
I’m not saying you’re going to want to cut people out of your life. But continuing to be undyingly loyal to someone who isn’t the friend they were two years ago will get you into trouble.
The people who, for years, were my absolute closest friends, are now good friends, whom I still love, and care about. But I can now recognise that just because they’re the ones I was with when I got drunk for the very first time, it doesn’t mean that they will always be the people I can trust, and find comfort in.
Teenage friendships are messy. Our teen years are when we screw up, when we learn, and when we change. It doesn’t make sense that we will be the same people coming out of them as when we went in. And we won’t be, and nor will our friends.
People grow up. People grow apart. That’s just how it happens, and it isn’t necessarily a disaster. Maybe it’s just a sign that you’ve changed. Maybe it’s just a sign that one or both of the people in the relationship are not the same anymore, and are no longer compatible.
Or maybe the people mature, and the relationship matures with them. That can happen to – with time, and changing, and growing, a friendship moulds around these people and follows them.
It’s great when that happens. It really is.
So there was a ramble, about things I’ve learnt lately. People change, and that doesn’t make them bad. It just makes them different, and sometimes, it’s not a different that you want to be a part of. Don’t be afraid of telling people that, or acting on it. Life will go on. There will be other best friends.
Have a lovely week, and don’t die before you come back.
Lots of love,