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My toxic friendship

I don’t want to be friends with this guy anymore but I’m scared he’ll hurt himself.

It’s good that you care about him, says our elder, but you aren’t equipped to help him. Don’t let him drag you down.

Dear EWC

I’ve been in a friendship with one of my friends — let’s call him Q — for eight to nine years. I’m 16 now and in junior year of high school. Q recently has been getting on my nerves and being overall annoying. Yet I still play online/video games with him just because I don’t have many other people to play video games with. But in person, I just don’t feel all that comfortable around him. He’s often annoying; I feel I have to say something but he’s sensitive. Sensitive in a way that if I mention something or call him out on something, he goes quiet or will just stop talking to me. At this point, I feel that I’m not in a healthy friendship. I feel if I were to stop talking to him as a whole, it would destroy him. To a point where he would harm himself. Which is not an exaggeration — Q has threatened to harm himself in the past, with a friend who has stopped talking to him. He’s depressed and doesn’t like life that much. How he suffers from bad parents, how he suffers from different disabilities. Such as autism, MPD (multiple personality disorder) and ADHD. Basically, he has a lot to deal with. I mean I don’t want him to suffer, I just don’t want to be his friend. I’m not sure if I should try to fix the friendship or leave it entirely. Recent drama doesn’t help when there are rumors saying he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old, just earlier this year. He was 17.

KayKay replies

When a friendship is unhealthy, I would treat it like any other toxic substance and avoid it. If you were in a smoke-filled room and couldn’t breathe, wouldn’t you leave? Nothing would need to be said — no excuse or reason given. Friendships can die of neglect and often do. From your letter, I think you would be okay with still playing video games with Q but just don’t want to be around him in person. He obviously has serious mental problems that you are not equipped to deal with, and other than accepting that about him, you can’t help much.

As far as his threats to harm himself, or rumors of sexual assault, that is not your responsibility. Other than reporting this to a trusted adult, you are not qualified to deal with such threats. If he becomes quiet, aren’t you much better off because then he’s not being annoying? That’s a very passive-aggressive behavior, which only works if you let it. When I was a child, I used to pout for hours until I realized it didn’t work. No one seemed to notice. I’ve had to learn better ways to express myself. In that, you would be helping him. Saying, “I guess you don’t feel like talking. See ya later.” and walking away is one way to handle this. You aren’t powerful enough to “destroy” anyone by refusing to engage — again this is a manipulative, controlling behavior — which he may, in fact, believe. It’s above your pay grade to try to protect him from himself.

Also, if you are determined to tell him how annoying he is, please try to use “I” statements, such as “When you do (such and such), I feel annoyed. I prefer you to do (other behavior.)” This is not an attack, it’s just a statement of your feelings.

Here is an analogy to illustrate what to do with a person who is suffering. Pretend that he has just driven his car into a ditch and can’t get out. When you see him stuck, do you drive yourself down in the ditch with him? Or do you stay up on the high ground and send for someone who is qualified to help? You can only help from a position of strength and well-being, so don’t let yourself be dragged down or controlled by unhealthy behavior. It’s wonderful that you are sensitive and care about him, but try to be objective and realize your limitations.

I hope he gets the help he needs.

Letter #: 438332
Category: Friendship

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