February 06, 2008


When I’m working with clients on relationship issues our work almost always begins with strengthening the self.  It’s pivotal that the person has a healthy core in order to sustain a healthy relationship.  Not surprisingly, as the person begins to become healthier s/he becomes more aware of what’s unhealthy.  This can definitely shake up relationships and friendships.

I often hear from people who’ve made a lot of personal changes that they don’t enjoy being around their friends as much as they did before.  They begin to see their friends as unhealthy and they don’t want to be around that energy anymore; at the same time, they don’t want to lose all their friends.  What’s going on?

First off, let me just say this is normal. As people get healthier, they have a much lower tolerance for unhealthy.  As you get better boundaries, you notice the poor boundaries of others…and you want nothing to do with it.  What used to be fun gossip, now doesn’t sit right in the pit of your stomach.  Telling your girlfriend her husband’s a jerk for what he did to her no longer seems like the most helpful response to make.  Talking about superficial things just isn’t nourishing you anymore--especially when your life has been falling apart and you’ve had to do some work to get to center. 

The old ways and the old relationships just aren’t cutting it. All the ways you use to connect with old friends no longer feel good.  Many of them just seem off.  You want to tell them about what’s happening with your marriage but you know they’ll just tell you that your wife’s a bitch or your husband’s a loser, so you don’t say anything.  Perhaps you should just find new friends…

Hold that thought, and do not give up on your old friends just yet. 

If you want new friends, do your best to turn your old friends into new ones.  If you want to change old friendships, then you have to be new in them. 

Change how you interact and see how they respond.  Teach them to be different by being clear about what you want from them.  If you use to only talk about surface things before, begin to share deeper issues.  If you’re struggling in your marriage and you don’t want them to just tell you your partner’s a _____, then let them know how you do want them to support you. 

Don’t assume you have outgrown your friends until you’ve brought the new you into the friendship.  Remember to give your friends the opportunity to adjust to your new changes and perhaps grow with you--you may be pleasantly surprised by how they rise to the occasion. 

If you’re different in the relationship yet they continue to respond in old ways, then perhaps you have outgrown them.  If they don’t meet you, find peace in the fact that at least you tried and now you know…AND be careful not to make that decision too quickly.

CHALLENGE:  If you’ve been working on personal growth and have noticed you don’t like being around your friends as much as you did before, begin to bring the new you into the friendship.  Begin to share on a deeper level, make direct requests rather than getting annoyed at how they do or do not act, and share with them your work.  Invite them to join the process with you and see what happens.  PS:  Congratulations on your own work!!!


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I am so happy to have found this page because I feel like I've been going crazy for the past few months. These 3 years have been like hell for me: bankruptcy, being on social welfare, going back to school, always having money issues, always having to move because I go to school in another town, even got evicted by the police when my landlord lied to the police... And I must admit that I went through all of this in a certain way alone. I think it was too much for my friends to take so instead of listening, they were like "You're overreacting, it's done now, you complain too much...". Then, a couple of months later, they're like" You are so brave, You have suffered so much...". A part of me still resents them for that behavior and I could beat them for praising me after the fact, but being unable to be there emotionally, in one word, to show at least some empathy. They didn't know what to do so for most of them, lending me the money I needed, I guessed, helped assuaging their guilt.

Anyway!!! I am finishing my studies, I've been doing a lot of introspection and putting my life back together. I've figured out a lot of bad patterns in my relationships, I've identified a lot of mistakes I've been repeating, why do I keep doing certain things to myself and I've started to embrace a new ME. The new ME wants genuineness, the new ME doesn't want fear to control her everyday life, the new ME wants to live through her hard-learned lessons. The most important lesson was that I owe it to myself to stop believing that a self-respecting woman keeps everything inside and doesn't say out loud that she's hurting or that there's something wrong. That's how I've been raised and my mom is one of the most bitter and resentful persons on earth, even though she's convinced she has forgotten her wrongdoers. Most of my friends are the shy, quiet ones who are so quick to forgive because anger is a bad thing as per the Bible. They bottle up everything, even with their close friends. I don't want that anymore: you're my friend and you aren't even able to tell me what's wrong with me. On the opposite, when something is wrong with me, you wanna know to take care of my problem for me.

Anyway, I am gonna get to the point: lately, I've tried a new thing, not bottling things up and it feels GOOOOOOOOOOOOD! It's liberating. I am in my thirties and I now feel like I react like a grown up. My relationships aren't on high-school/unhealthy mode anymore. So now, whenever I interact with my friends, they get on my nerves. I keep asking me: "I might be introverted, in the sense, I like being alone, but I've never been this little thing which refuses to get past her fear. Why did I decide to tune into their channel when they have never let me be ME? Always invalidating my feelings because they take pride on bottling up them." I've been distant to most of them and I've noticed that I've always picked the quiet, insecure ones. I did it because I was like them but life interfered dramatically in my case and I need to get the hell away from my old ME because no way, I'm going back to being that miserable.
DEAR E: Way to go! It is very freeing to begin to find your voice. I'm very happy for you and have no doubt the world will open up to you in a whole new way. Maybe your friends will even get curious and join you in this journey. Either way, you're doing great.
Happy 2011!

i've been really good friends with a few girls since high school. In May, i'm leaving and in September im starting college. At the minute, it feels like everything's falling apart, one of the friends only cares about her boyfriends and hanging out with the people in the year below, the other is usually moody and doesn't tell anybody why and the third has found popularity. I even started cutting my arms, and ive found its not the answer, but i need to know what to do about it. Is it all really worth it as im going to college?

DEAR ELLIE MAE: I'm sorry to hear about your friends and know how painful it can be to feel like you're losing them. You need to know though that their actions are not about you. It's about them trying to figure life out just like you. Cutting yourself is a harmful way for you to deal with stress. You have a lot going on right now with college coming up. leaving home, making friends, being a teenager etc. The last thing you want to do is start a habit to deal with stress that will cause more stress in the long run. Talk to your school counselor and learn other ways of handling stress. You have too much of your life ahead of you to be doing something so damaging to your core. You need to know that you have inherent worth regardless of who chooses to hang out with you. Stop selling yourself short and realize you deserve to speak up for yourself and have awesome relationships. Talk to your friends and tell them what you're seeing and how you're feeling. Give them the opportunity to work things out. You said in "this minute" which tells me this is a new pattern after many years of a good friendship. See it as a moment in time and address it. Your friend who's depressed sounds like she could also use a heart to heart talk. Work it out--don't run from it.
Most importantly--get into counseling to help learn effective ways to stand up for yourself and handle hard feelings. You deserve it.
Warm regards-Lisa

My friend, you can pretty much call her my girl friend, we both party all the time... but about a year ago I stopped and have found other things I enjoy doing instead of drinking and partying. I work out all of the time and changed my diet and lifestyle completely. It seems like her and the group I hang out with have nothing in common anymore and I feel like I have out grown them and that life style. What should I do?

DEAR MATT: It sounds like you're making positive life changes and your girlfriend is not. I suggest that you talk to her about this. Be honest about what you'd like form her and the relationship and see if she's willing to meet you. If not, it's likely that you will not be able to stay in this relationship. As we get healthy, we're less able to settle for unhealthy.

Before you make that decision however, give her a chance to decide if she's willing to change.
Take Care-Lisa

How do you share on deeper level though? Everytime I tried to evoke a bit of heart to heart conversation my friends just freak out or simply be lethargic--unless something really big happened (e.g my grandma died). I've always been there for my friends but when I expect just a little bit of mutuality, they're acting as if I ask them an unrealistic favor. And all I asked for was I need a friend I can talk to. I end up talking to a stranger I've only known for 3 weeks. Like now I'm feeling trapped between whether I should just give up on the friendship and have no friends at all. This has been on my nerves for a long time.
Also guys always freak out from the slightest display of emotion, especially from another guy (I'm a man btw). Sometimes I just wanna express that I really care for them, I appreciate their company but then they accuse me for wanting them sexually. I just don't get why they always take my love for real friendship the wrong way. Things just get over-complicated all the time with male friendships. What would you suggest?

DEAR WILL: There are many men who are looking for true friendships with thier buddies but are struggling with exactly what you're talking about. Unfortunately our culture teaches men to be tough, don't talk about feelings, and don't be emotional or remotely affectionate.

My suggestion is you start to test the waters with the friends you have. Begin by sharing a small piece of personal information (E.g. stress at work) and see how the person responds. If he responds by listening and sharing a bit about his stress, then you can share a bit more. Inch your way along with this one friend and see if it can build. If no friend shows potential, I would begin to explore new friends via mens support groups or through any avenue that is likely to attract men who are into more personal growth and authentic relationships.

Would love to hear form other readers on this topic...Can any men relate to this?
Take care-Lisa

That is a good suggestion. I have been friends with someone for more than ten years. The problem that occurs to me now is that I do not care for her behavior. It seems that as I have been growing she is self-destructing. She gets depressed about her life, but she is not willing to change anything. I feel as though I've tried to help for so long but I can't help her unless she's willing to help herself. I've lost patience when it comes to listening to her problems because it is the same thing over and over, because she's not changing anything. She has deep emotional issues that she needs resolved but when I try to tell her she needs more professional help all she says is "I know I know." I often think about ending the friendship, because it is a very one-way friendship, but then I worry that she'll feel like she has no one. Any suggestions?

Dear Christina,
You may want to start setting limits with her before you end the friendship. When she starts complaining you could let her know that it's really hard to hear her complain when you know she's not going to do anything to change it. Let her know that when she's ready to really change things, you'd be happy to help her problem solve however, until then your request is that she not vent to you about the subject. Let her know that you care for her and you can't sit back and watch her allow her life to be miserable. If she wants a number for a therapist you'd be happy to help her find one.
Often, it takes an honest friend to be the wake-up call for someone. Whether she "wakes up" or not though, you need to take care of yourself and set limits on this friendship.
Best of luck-Lisa

What a nice suggestion. Seems like often the knee-jerk reaction would be to move on from such friends. Why not give them a shot? Last night, it occured to me that this is a way of creating possibility for the idea you have posted on your website: "Be the stone that sets a ripple of relational change in motion across the waters of the world” LMB

The comments to this entry are closed.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference PERSONAL GROWTH AND LEAVING FRIENDS BEHIND: Making old relationships new:

Connect with Lisa

Icon Email

Icon Twitter

Icon Facebook

Icon Linkedin

Icon YouTube

Icon Blog Feed

Subscribe to Straight Talk 4 Women

Enter your email address to receive
updates every time I post

Powered by FeedBlitz

Listen to Podcasts

Purchase Products

Attend an Event

Training for Therapists