“We need to talk.”
The four dreaded words that strike fear into all of us. “We need to talk” is almost never the start of a fun conversation. It’s usually about how you’ve done something wrong. Or how the relationship isn’t working for the other person. And while we all dread those four little words in our romantic relationships, I’d argue that hearing them from your best friend is even worse.
I hate drama within friendships. I firmly believe they should be easy relationships. If a friend calls to cancel lunch at the last minute, I don’t immediately think it’s about me. She’s busy; we’ll reschedule; it’s fine. And I assume my friends will cut me the same slack as well.
But then there are the friends who seem more interested in the process of the friendship than the friendship itself — the ones who want to talk about why I had to cancel lunch, whether it was something she said or did, whether she still thinks we’re as close as we once were. And it’s those kinds of conversations that make me want to scream.
I am blessed with a wonderful network of tell-it-like-it-is female friends who call B.S. on me when I’m lying to myself; who are there for me when I’m crying over something big or small; and who offer the advice that they believe is right, not always the advice I want to hear. I adore my friends. Well… most of them. Most of the time.
The less-than-stellar types of friends
I have friends who only talk about themselves (and sometimes, I worry I turn into one of them myself when life gets a bit overwhelming). I have bossy friends, scatterbrained friends, friends whom I call five times for every one call of theirs. I even, I confess it, have a friend or two whom I don’t trust, but whom I’m afraid to ditch entirely — keep your friends close and your frenemies closer. And if you’re honest, I bet you’ve got some of these less-than-stellar types of friends, too.
This week an excellent new book hits the shelves about female friendships and why those relationships can be so fraught: Toxic Friends by Susan Shapiro Barash. Barash argues that in an era where we wait longer to marry, are more likely to divorce and, as women, are quite likely to outlive our spouses, female friendships are more important — and complicated—than ever.
Losing a female friend can have more repercussions for a woman than breaking up with a boyfriend or a husband, argues Barash, author of 10 previous books on gender and relationships. Maybe this is why we girls often hold on to those destructive, toxic friendships.
Based on surveys and in-person interviews with 200 women of all ages and backgrounds, Barash finds that there are ten types of female friends:
- The Leader (who rules the pack)
- The Doormat (it starts in high school and never ends)
- The Sacrificer (she’ll do anything for you, always)
- The Misery Lover (always down and out)
- The User (it’s all about what she can get from you)
- The Intimate Frenemy (Insincere, sabotaging-through-a-smile)
- The Trophy Friend (status, power and conquest in motion)
- The Mirroring Friend (you seem to share it all because you are going through the same things)
- The Sharer (open, gives of herself and her emotions)
- The Authentic Friend (gives, receives and is the real-deal BFF)
With chapters devoted to each friend type, Barash provides vivid examples and advice on which friends we tolerate, which friends we must ditch and which friends we should keep for life — plus how to be an ideal friend yourself. As a bonus, on her website Barash includes two quizzes to determine who your toxic friends are and what kind of friend you are.
I hope never to have to have a “talk” with another friend about the status of our relationship. But as much as I hate friend drama and would love all friendships to be easy, Toxic Friends is an interesting, eye-opening read that encouraged me to examine both the less-than-stellar friends I’ve got and the precious-as-gold girlfriends I treasure. Check out the book — and take the online quizzes. What kind of friend are you? Are you in a complicated friendship? Then send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll dedicate a future column to your stories.