Friendships can be rewarding, supportive and enduring. According to the Mayo Clinic staff, good friends have the capacity to lift your mood, reduce stress and make you generally happier. Unfortunately, some friends have the opposite effect, making demands on your time and energy that end up being detrimental to your well-being. Overbearing friends, in contrast to healthy ones, can stress and depress you, because they dominate you and the friendship you share. Ending these kinds of toxic friendships can be a challenge because these individuals may have a very different perception of their behavior than you have.
Communicate your feelings, with a positive approach. Communication can be the most effective way to clarify how you feel and how your friend's behavior is affecting you. Start with something positive, such as a positive and factual trait that you admire in her. After you've established a more positive feel to the conversation, explain the overbearing behaviors that your friend is specifically performing and how they make your feel. Don't infer meaning or intention behind your friend's action, because this can change the dynamics between you in the conversation. Explain that you can't continue to sustain the friendship because it simply isn't healthy for you.
The boundaries have been established verbally. Now it's time to reinforce them behaviorally. Initially, your now ex-friend will likely protest your decision vehemently by trying just about all approaches to communicate. If this doesn't occur, then you've achieved your goal and broken away, but the reality is that someone who is overbearing needs other people to dominate, so your former friend may continue to struggle to keep the relationship, and not because she truly values you as a friend. Remember that you have provided an explanation and you aren't obligated to reiterate it, so don't respond to communication once you have explained that the friendship is over.
Find opportunities to connect with other people who aren't overbearing. Whether you seek friendships at work or at your favorite activity, you can find opportunities to initiate and nurture healthier friendships that aren't built on the inequality that is characteristic of overbearing friendships. Be selective about individuals you might consider nurturing into friends and remain aware of behaviors that are characteristic of overbearing tendencies. These can include attempts to control you, frequent and unexplained mood changes and using anger to control your behavior. These characteristics typically become evident fairly quickly in a friendship and can begin even before you have established that you are friends at all.
Expect that you might lose other friends when you break away from an overbearing friend. People who are overbearing may also share friends with you who aren't comfortable breaking the bonds of friendship. While their dynamics may work, remain confident that they don't work for you and stand firm on your ground. The friends over whom the overbearing person maintains her control will choose sides and you may be left standing independently for awhile. The upswing is that you also have the opportunity for a fresh start, without an overbearing friend and without people who encourage her behavior.
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- Health and Counseling: Division of Student and Campus Life State University of New York at Geneseo: Limit-Setting
- University of Southern California Center For Work and Family Life: Creating Healthy Personal and Professional Boundaries
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Making and Keeping Friends - A Self-Help Guide
- Johnson State College Vermont: Developing Healthy Boundaries
- Mayo Clinic: Friendships: Enrich Your Life and Improve Your Health
Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.