Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's a Crime...To Lose a Friend

ROBERTA: It truly is criminal to lose a good friend, so here's something a little different for true crime Tuesday: My friend Dr. Andrea Bonior, talking about how to fix your friendships.

ANDREA: Research for my new book "The Friendship Fix" was illuminating, inspiring, and at times downright terrifying. As many lovely stories as I found of friendships that went the distance, there also were some horror stories worthy of an NC-17 rating. Of course, not all friendships are meant to last forever, and some toxic ones deserve to get the boot (the sooner the better). But many otherwise solid friendships can be ruined by common friendship crimes, whether they be misdemeanors or felonies. Here's how to make sure you're not the assailant.

Top 10 Friendship Crimes Never to Commit:

--Forgetting Reciprocity: Yes, she might have a bigger house or be a much better cook than you (those fajitas are amazing!). But that doesn't mean that she's comfortable doing 99 percent of the hosting, or that you can't do something in return once in a while.

--Ganging Up: Love triangles aren't just for Movies of the Week-- they happen in platonic relationships all the time. And while being part of a friend group of three, four, and even thirteen can be an amazing experience, sometimes it collapses under the weight of them-against-me.

--Breaking Confidentiality: People like to talk about other people: it's interesting, it's understandable, and it's inevitable. But when it's something that's particularly sensitive or that you don't have permission to share, think again. The payoff isn't worth the betrayal.

--Holding It In: Sometimes what kills the best of friendships begins as the tiniest of issues, and simply simmers until it explodes later on. Perhaps there's something bothering you about your friendship dynamic, but the awkwardness or guilt you'd feel at bringing it up makes you zip your lip. But bringing it up subtly and gently in the early stages is infinitely easier than risking an all-out meltdown later on.

--Succumbing to the Green-Eyed Monster: Pangs of envy are common and natural in friendships, even though you might feel terrible for having them. But allowing yourself to have mixed feelings when your friend scores that awesome corner office as you're still living paycheck to paycheck will actually help you move on. The more you try to stuff it, the more power you give it to take over.

--Being Scared to Apologize: Sometimes the best of friendships die because of a single slight that hardened into a polar freeze. Perhaps you faded on plans, or dropped the ball on something your friend was counting on you for. But rarely is it the initial mistake that ends the friendship: far more often it's inadequate damage control. The more quickly you can take action with a meaningful apology, the less likely your friendship will wither away in the aftermath.

--Dragging Down your Health: More and more research shows that it's our circle of friends that matters most in our health habits, regarding everything from our eating and exercise, smoking and drinking, to negativity and pessimism. At their best, friendships raise the bar and make us each want to take better care of ourselves. At their worst, though, they're an actual health hazard. When you think that it doesn't matter to anybody but yourself that you're going down a dangerous path, think again.

--Pulling A Disappearing Act: We all know "that girl," who vanishes from the planet as soon as she has a new man, a new promotion, or even a new line-up of Must-See TV. Interestingly enough, though, no one seems to ever admit that they're the guilty one. It's natural to pull back a bit when you get busy or preoccupied, but don't treat your friendship like it has an on-off switch.

--Forcing Business Into Pleasure: Of course you're excited about your new skin-care business, or you have so much fun throwing jewelry parties. It's reasonable to expect a bit of support from your friends. But engaging in high-pressure tactics or talking about nothing but your new business is bound to leave you without friends-- or customers.

--Forgetting to Prioritize: For some of us, the problem is not how we treat our friends as much as how we treat ourselves. We often deny ourselves that much-needed get-together or trip, because we feel guilty for taking the time to prioritize our relationships when there are so many other duties beckoning. But nourishing your friendships-- and allowing yourself to make time for them-- also makes us a better spouse, parent, and all-around human being.

Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and author who specializes in relationship issues. She is best known for "Baggage Check," her mental health advice column in the Washington Post Express, and recently released "The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up With Your Friends" (St. Martin's Press). Frequently cited in other media, she makes regular appearances on Washington, DC NewsChannel8's "Let's Talk Live," writes Psychology Today's Friendship 2.0 blog, and is a featured expert on Brooke Burke's Modern Mom blog. Follow her on Twitter @drandreabonior or find her at www.drandreabonior.com.

ROBERTA: Thanks for stopping by Andrea! We'd love to hear your stories about friendship--or feel free to ask questions for Andrea--she'll be here all day.


  1. That's a terrific list. Much food for thought.

  2. Thank you! It's so easy to let bad patterns seep in gradually, even in the best of relationships. Makes it worth it to do a 'checkup' every once in a while!

  3. What an interesting post today--one I think I'll be mulling over. I have had to learn to give toxic friendships the boot. Difficult, but once that lesson is learned it sticks, I think.

    I know what I need to work on is letting friends know on a regular basis just how important they are in my life.

  4. Sounds like a great book. Especially for younger women who are still working this stuff out.

    I have to say that once I had children, my MO was not to place any additional demands on my friends and not hang around with anyone who was too demanding.

    But I think friendships change as we age and mature - but I bet that's in your book!

  5. What makes a friend too "toxic" to try to hold onto? And how do you know if you're BEING a toxic friend...
    it could happen.

  6. Thank you so much!
    Yes, toxic friendships can sometimes be hard to spot, at first. I think there are a couple of signs, though. Like that you don't like who you are when you're around that person, or you find yourself feeling drained every time you're together, rather than rejuvenated. Or maybe you find that you don't really want the best for them, or you don't really trust them. Or maybe they're bringing you down so much that you worry they're not good for your health! It's often so hard for us to let go, though.. because we feel so guilty. Loyalty is a powerful thing!

  7. Andrea, it's so great to see you on Jungle Red, and as always, you are soooooo wise.
    xox maddee