The Toxic Friendship

My daughter is battling with a toxic friendship.  Unceremoniously "dumped" by a friend completely out of the blue, a pattern of events is starting to take shape which suggests this friendship is more trouble than it's worth, but ultimately the decision is my daughter's.  It is her life, but daily I fight the urge to get involved and call time on the whole thing.

It all started as I mentioned in an earlier post on Teenage Friendship Conundrums, the day of her Grade 1 music exam.  She emerged from school sobbing uncontrollably.  Apparently she had messed up one of the pieces.  We hugged and I tried as best I could to console her.  Nothing I said, however, made any difference. It was not until much later that the story about the friend emerged and she explained that whilst she had held it together for most of the exam, her emotions overwhelmed her and she had lost concentration.

My immediate reaction on learning the truth was "little bitch how dare she!".  My maternal heckles were raised and I was mad.   My daughter had practiced day and night for weeks for that exam and was, as all her friends knew, absolutely dreading it.  A real friend just would not do that right before her exam.   To my daughter, however, I offered a sympathetic ear and cuddles aplenty but gently encouraged her to enjoy her other friendships.  Be polite to the "frenemy" yes, but no more.  She deserved to be treated better than that.  Life, however, just isn't as simple as that though is it?

It was clear as the days passed my daughter was in emotional distress, struggling with the the whys and wherefores of the situation.  There had been no explanation and she was torturing herself trying to work out where it had gone wrong.  One minute they had been chatting and making plans for meeting up over the weekend, the next it was all over.  She had shared things with this friend that she had not shared with anyone before apparently.  This friend had really got under my daughter's skin.

Friendships are what make the world go round,  without them our lives would be very empty and desolate and throughout life we are constantly learning who our real friends are.  As an adult, however, it is easy to forget the value placed by adolescents upon their friendships.  As they move to secondary school and progress through the tween years into the teenage world,  their friendships mark a significant chapter in their development, they are symbols of their autonomy and independence.  These aren't friends that we as parents have foisted upon them through our own friendship network, but ones they have formed themselves.  It is about much more than sharing the same interests.  They have invested time and effort in seeking out friends who they have an emotional connection with as they mature both socially as well as physically.

After intially ignoring my daughter completely, both in the presence of other mutual friends and even teachers, the "frenemy" suddenly apologised.  Her explanation was that she had struggled with my daughter's extrovert nature as her preference was to be more introverted. My daughter enjoys her own company and will happily pass up an invitation to come home and just chill by herself, but ultimately, however, she could not see why anyone would not want to enjoy multiple friendships and was that really a reason to end their friendship?   Also,why hadn't she discussed it with her and told her how she felt rather than behaving the way she had.

The apology was accepted, but my daughter pointed out to the "frenemy" that she had really hurt her feelings and that her trust and confidence had been broken.  It would take time for her to come to terms with the situation and she was not sure they could return to the way they were.  When she told me, I felt so proud of her for handling it so maturely.

Gradually over the weeks the "frenemy" has become closer to her again.  They are hanging out again, chatting and exchanging messages.  Rightly or wrongly, I urged her to err on the side of caution, not wanting her to be hurt again, but ultimately knowing that she had missed the role the "frenemy" fulfilled in her life.  They shared interests and conversations that were unique.  Not that her other close friendships were any less important but this one was different.

Then last week it all changed again.  The frenemy posted a social media message questioning my daughter regarding some arrangements she had made for some friends to come to our house during the time she was not speaking to my daughter.  A barrage of messages continued, each more damning and incomprehensible than the last. Baffled, bemused my daughter did not respond.

Positive friendships are needed for healthy development.  My daughter has asked us for advice and I am confident that we are all on the same page in terms of recognising the red flags of the controlling and unhealthy nature of this friendship.  We all hang onto friends that are no good but I am hoping that my daughter will start to distance herself and put her energy into developing the friendships that don''t cause her any angst.  In the meantime the "frenemy" has apologised again, blaming exam stress for her outburst.  As for me I am not sure that if happens again I will be able to stand back anymore.

Have your children been affected by a "frenemy" situation?  If so how was it settled?  I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts.

 

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17 Comments

  1. June 11, 2016 / 1:21 pm

    Oh gosh – I remember this well from my school days and sadly at only nearly 10 I can see this starting for my daughter. So far she has distanced herself from one girl but these things are very tricky. Thanks for linking to #sharewithme – hope to see you again

    • June 12, 2016 / 5:19 pm

      School and how to handle relationships is such a big learning curve for life generally. It’s great your daughter is on top of it so early. #sharewithme

  2. June 8, 2016 / 1:06 pm

    Yes I agree with you Debbie. Whilst I think this is a toxic friendship she still has to figure it out for herself and she will in time. Thanks for commenting. #BloggerClubUK

  3. June 8, 2016 / 1:16 am

    This sounds like a very jealous girl who seems to need your daughter to be her friend only and is trying to manipulate her into doing this. I think your daughter will see through her in time, and cut her loose, but until then, I think you need to let her make her own mistakes and be there for her when it all comes crashing down.
    Thanks for linking up to #BloggerClubUK 🙂
    Debbie

  4. June 2, 2016 / 4:49 pm

    I remember these kind of friendships from my teens, they are so hurtful and really do have a huge impact. Well done to your daughter for standing up for herself, I can only imagine how hard this is on you as the Mum to watch! I dread those teenage years…. #BigPinkLink

  5. June 2, 2016 / 1:32 pm

    Your daughter sound like a very mature little girl – you must be so proud! As a secondary school teacher, I see a lot of the fallings out, especially between girls. I always want them to realise that life after school is so different and friendships change, develop and disappear. #BloggerClubUK

    • June 2, 2016 / 8:42 pm

      Thank you for your comment. She was insistent that she would handle it herself and i think she is doing it well but it’s nice that you think so too. School friendships are so enormously important until the next stage of course and then it’s all forgotten. #bloggerclubuk

      • June 2, 2016 / 8:45 pm

        As you say we all go through it but it’s definitely harder watching your offspring going through it themselves. The teenage years are the most formative I think. Thanks for commenting. #bigpinklink

  6. June 1, 2016 / 7:42 am

    Frenemies – it’s such a girl thing and being a mummy of 2 girls I’ve had so much experience of this. It’s so hurtful and so toxic for them and as a mum you feel their every emotion and want to make it better for them but they are so young to try and make those decisions when all they want at the end of the day is not to cause a drama. One of my girls has just managed to break away from a frenemy which has been plaguing her for 18 months – the difference in her is like a breath of fresh air and she feels so much happier but it’s not a quick process – these things take time – let your daughter know that it does pass and she will get stronger . Hope it resolves soon lovely #bigpinklink

    • June 1, 2016 / 1:04 pm

      Boys just don’t seem to have the same problem, they drift away from mates and then come back to them with none of the emotional drama. In the time the “frenemy” stopped talking to my daughter, she was back to her old self and now they are back conversing there is a cloud around again. I think it will pass but as you say, I don’t think it will be quick or at least not quick enough for me anyway. Thanks so much for your thoughts. #bigpinklink

  7. May 31, 2016 / 4:22 pm

    Oh I just knew I was going to relate to this post when I read the title. It is so hard isn’t it? I thought the main issue was going to be getting mine to steer clear of the wrong boys, not the wrong girls (although I’m sure that will happen soon enough!)

    Mine is 11 and just about to go to high school so younger than yours, but we have had a frenemy type situation all the way through primary. Only recently has it become really difficult and if I’m honest I can’t wait for them to go to high school.

    It’s so hard to stand back, but we have to and I know that ultimately they will sort it out for themselves, and blimey it would be a lot easier without social media.

    Best of luck to your daughter xxxx

    #bigpinklink

    • May 31, 2016 / 4:31 pm

      Poor you, that is tough, no wonder you are ready for your daughter to move on. We have found the whole secondary school thing fantastic and this has been our first “worry” so to speak, but I think my daughter is starting to see her for what she is at least. The hardest thing is definitely standing back. Thanks for commenting and good luck at the new school, a fresh start is always good! #bigpinklink

  8. May 31, 2016 / 7:16 am

    I really hope that your daughter can stand back from this friendship too-as you say, there are too many ‘red flag’ warnings that this girl possibly has ulterior motives, underlying issues, and that her behaviour is unlikely to change. Children nowadays also have the added pressures of social media, where this type of behaviour is now inescapable-the barrage of messages your daughter received must’ve exacerbated the situation no end. I suffered an abrupt ending of a friendship when I was at school-this girl had been my best and closest friend for years. I was never given an explanation for it, ever, and it still haunts me as an adult, so I definitely don’t underestimate the impact childhood friendships can have on a person. I really hope this is resolved for you all.
    Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink

    • May 31, 2016 / 11:30 am

      Yes I agree, there is something else motivating her behaviour. I am hoping my daughter will be able to gradually distance herself sooner rather than later. I am sorry to hear you experienced something similar. The end of a friendship is tough at any age but when you are young it seems like the end of the world and the lack of an explanation is extremely hard. Thanks for commenting. #bigpinklink

  9. May 30, 2016 / 8:07 pm

    Yep the bit about her frenemy ignoring her in front of people. Yes yes yes! My eldest (who is only about to turn 12 so a bit younger than yours) has gone through hell at school and sadly the girl who is her taunter gets away with it as the teachers thinks the sun shines out of her wotsit. The worst thing is that all the other kids know what she is like and were very upset when my daughter got pulled into a meeting between this manipulative clever girl and the teacher. Her friends wanted to have their say and explain that my daughter had done nothing wrong but the teachers are blind and deaf. I could write reams about it here but am just exhausted! Good luck to your daughter. #BigPinkLink

    • May 31, 2016 / 11:23 am

      That sounds terrible, you must find it really hard to stand back. It is great that your daughter has such supportive friends though who were prepared to step in and back her. My daughter’s other friends have been so fantastic when she has been down and I find myself constantly reminding her that she is so lucky to have the support of so many other mates. I hope things settle down for your daughter. Thanks for commenting. #bigpinklink

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