Just like romantic relationships, friendships can be tricky beasts. We sometimes think of relationships as coming and going, but friendships lasting forever — but this, sadly, is not always the case. Unfortunately, sometimes friendship breakups happen, and they can be just has painful and heartbreaking to deal with. But what happens when you are friends with someone who is toxic — as in, they are impacting you negatively (whether they mean to or not) — what do you do? Will disappearing from their life altogether (i.e. ghosting) make things better or worse?
To answer the question of whether ghosting a toxic friend is healthy, we enlisted the help of Clinical Psychologist Dr. Amy Kim. Her approach was straight-forward and logical: “I advise clients to first get very clear about the circumstances of the relationship and cultivate as much objectivity as possible. Then, a person should bring as much awareness to the ways in which this friendship is affecting them.” Of course, that might well mean going back in history to evaluate specific incidences that have occurred in said friendship, but the emotional clarity you will achieve at the end will be worth it.
Kim went on to suggest seeking professional support if you find yourself in a particularly toxic friendship. “Therapy can really help a person to develop an objective stance on the matter. Increased awareness will help to guide the next steps: ‘Ghost’ them? Set boundaries? Talk to the friend about the problem with the hope of improvement or a resolution?” Naturally, that’s all easier said than done! However, it does remind us that there are options in every difficult circumstance, and we should feel empowered to make the right choice when we’re ready.
Being empowered means thinking clearly and arming oneself with all the information. “Basically, I encourage people to make a well-informed decision; sometimes people can be hasty about ending a relationship when perhaps just setting some boundaries (implicitly or explicitly) could have been sufficient,” Kim explained. “That being said, if a friendship is clearly toxic, a person has every right to immediately abandon the relationship, no explanation needed.”
It makes sense; if you gotta go, you gotta go (just make sure you are asking yourself the right questions beforehand).
If you are experiencing a toxic friendship, know that there are many others who have gone through a similar situation and come out the other side. Although you might feel anxious or insecure about seeking help from someone you don’t know, a therapist will give an unbiased opinion on the matter, and that might be all you need to approach (or discontinue) the friendship with confidence. To locate a therapist in your area, Psychology Today is a useful resource.