How Do I Break Up With A Destructive Friend?

Morning friends,

We’ve been talking about our shadow and different parts of ourselves over the last few weeks. This week, I want to do something different – even a little weird but I think it might be very helpful for some of you to grasp more fully your shadow and/or the different aspects of your interior landscape.

Let’s look at the fairy tale Cinderella, a classic fable that we are all familiar with. If we examine each of the characters of this drama as parts of our own interior selves, we can discover a lot about what’s happening or things that need to happen internally if we are to grow.

First, there is the main character, Cinderella, who is innocent, sweet, way too nice and accommodating girl. Next there is her father, a shadowy masculine character that is not present in the story but appears unaware and clueless as to what is happening at home.

Cinderella’s stepmother is greedy, cruel and jealous and her two daughters are foolish, vain, and lazy. We also have the fairy godmother; an ideal magical rescuer and the handsome prince, who eventually rescues Cinderella from her horrible family drama.

Now ask yourself some questions: Get a pen and paper and write out your answers.

What part of you is too nice? Too accommodating? What part of you does whatever anyone wants because you are so sweet?

What part of you is psychologically asleep, unaware of your meaner parts? Unaware of the danger and destruction around you?

What part of you is mean, making petty demands on yourself by threatening you or scaring you into doing whatever anyone else wants?

What part of you diminishes your worth, dismisses your talent, and relegates you to the status of a servant or slave?

What part of you just wants to laze around, be pampered, have an easy life with no hassles or responsibilities?

What part of you is jealous that other people have it easier than you do, or have more resources?

What part of you tries to wave a magic wand, hoping to make everything better, to make all the bad things go away.

What part of you wants to close your eyes and pretend you are at the ball in a beautiful dress instead of a slave to other people’s demands?

And last, which part of you is the handsome prince, strong and confident who longs to help you break free from your wicked stepmother and stepsisters and free you from the cruel demands of others?

Journal the thoughts and feelings of each of these different parts of yourself. (We’re not talking about similar characters in your external story – only your internal story right now).

How do these parts keep you stuck, safe, afraid, asleep, pretending, or empowered?

What parts have the loudest voices? What parts have the most control over your emotions and your outward actions?

Owning your various “selves”, getting to know your “less attractive parts” can help you bring them before God, as well as make the hard decisions and choices that will move you forward towards wholeness and healthiness. Once we start being aware of our own internal drama with God’s help we can make better choices in our outer lives.

The Apostle Paul struggled with is own unknown parts. He said, “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong, it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life- that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. BUT THERE IS ANOTHER POWER WITHIN ME THAT IS AT WAR WITH MY MIND. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.”

“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.   So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now, there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 7:17 – Romans 8:1

Remember, the most dangerous and destructive force in our inner life is our own blindness – once we “see” ourselves more clearly, prayerfully asking ourselves probing questions, then we can begin to submit each of these different parts to God for cleansing and restoration, so we are no longer victims or slaves of these unknown parts and can move forward in God’s grace and truth.

This week’s question: My husband and I have been close friends with a couple at church for 4 years. But over time I’ve realized that my friendship with this woman is destructive. She doesn’t respect my boundaries, is critical and negative and when I try to talk with her or stand up to her, she explodes in anger or says I’m crazy and need to be in a hospital. My husband and I have had enough and want to end this relationship. Is this OK, or are we just running away?

Answer: In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul says as much as possible, be at peace with all people. It seems to me that you have tried to work out the problems in your relationship with this woman to no avail. She won’t hear you, won’t respect you, and won’t change her behavior that you find so hurtful. Therefore I don’t think you are running away, but rather you accept that this friendship is destructive towards you and therefore, you can’t allow her to be close to you any longer.

Since you’ve had such a close friendship for many years, I understand how hard it is to tell her you are done with your relationship. The next time she approaches you to “talk” about things, suggest to her that you go to a third person for mediation.

Say something like this:  “We’ve tried talking about this many times, and we haven’t made any progress. I don’t want to talk about it anymore without a third party present so that both of us can get a new perspective, hopefully we can get unstuck and bring some healing to our relationship.”

Being with a third party might defuse her aggressive tendencies toward you, so that she can really hear your concerns and God might use the other person to help her see what she is doing more clearly. If she refuses mediation, then at least you have made every effort to bring about a true peace to your relationship rather than just cave into her demands. I would not talk with her alone any longer since she has been verbally abusive and explosive.

I also want you to know that God doesn’t require us to be in a close friendship with every person. It’s not even possible. Jesus ministered to many people but was only close with a few. Yes, we are to love everybody but we can’t be in close relationship with everybody.

When a relationship is difficult and/or destructive, you can make it better by yourself by guarding your own heart and tongue, but you will never make it healthy and good all by yourself. If she can’t look at herself and what she’s doing in the relationship dance, then at this time you’ll need to accept that. (Tweet this)

If you’ve done all you can to try to turn this relationship around and nothing has worked, it is time to step back from it for you both to get some healing.

Continue to pray for her and keep your heart open to the possibility of reconciliation in the future. Perhaps you may never be close again but with God’s help you can be at peace with one another.

Friends: When you’ve had a female friend become destructive, have you ended the relationship? If so, what did you say or do? If not why not?

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  1. Dora on February 18, 2015 at 8:31 am

    I don’t know why but this area of friendship has been a very painful one for me.

    I had a friend who was hurt by the church and I said something that offended her and she completely cut me off and then if she did see me she wasn’t kind at all. That totally tore me up. I tried to apologize but it wasn’t until a few years later she would even entertain talking to me and we became friends again, but she treated me like I owed her something or not sure why but she was controlling. Finally after an incident of this, I asked to meet with her before church service and showed her the printed out text messages where she was getting nasty with me and said I feel controlled and I think we should be casual friends for a while.

    She wasn’t happy and we didn’t talk for like a year and I could see she was angry, but now we can talk and be okay together. I just know I have to have some boundaries there because she has a strong personality.

    Another “friend” sucked me into a friendship with gifts and flattery. She kept calling me her BFF and then she got offended with me and replaced me with another friend and then was indifferent to me. It was a total shock and my heart was completely broken. I even left the church because of it. I tried to send her a letter but she was completely silent and it still bothers me to this day and it’s been about 3 years.

    So I would say if she is saying mean things about you, that is not love. When would you ever say something mean about someone you care about? I would say focus on loving yourself by standing up for yourself like you would if you had a little sister and someone was being mean to her. God see’s infant value in you.

    There could be lots of reasons she may be “acting out”? She could be fearful or who knows what issues are going on.. did something happen maybe she is offended by or something? Regardless, that would still not be a reason to treat you badly.

    I think the third party could be good, if you can find someone impartial. I had a third party “help” with my situation, but she actually made it worse. I was sharing my heart with this third party, but the other person was lied about me behind my back to her and didn’t care, so for me, just be thoughtful about who you choose if you do that.

    I think what worked best for me was to make the decision to be casual friends and provide the evidence of what she was doing to me and just step back a bit and she actually got mad and walked away from me. But that was fine because I couldn’t take more of her controlling. It was kind of sad but freeing. When I saw her I would still try to be kind but she was too mad for a while.

    I think there are ways to disconnect a bit without completely cutting someone off. I think complete rejection is well, I don’t like it and I always hope there is some way to work things out even if it is just giving each other some room in the relationship for a while because things are becoming a little off kilter.

    Best Wishes,

  2. Pamela Brooks on February 18, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Whoa! Your past few blogs have been such an encouragement to me, Leslie! Wielding the sword of God’s truth so powerfully in my life– both sides! The truth about the Cinderella-shadow side together with the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Bless you!
    ~Pam– praying for the courage to actually *do* your journal exercise!

    • Leslie Vernick on February 18, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      Thanks Pam, You are always an encouragement to me.

  3. Anon on February 18, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    I suspect there is some overlap with being in an abusive marriage and being in “church” and controlling friends. There was for me. I had a friend who knew about my marriage issues, fancied herself to be “preparing for an evangelistic ministry” who continued to tell me things like “God will not fix your marriage until you obey him and pray for your husband” and “God won’t heal your marriage because you are angry at Him.” I didn’t think she had any authority to speak to my motives or how God was going to respond (like a vending machine) to my “obedience.” I stopped calling her. We were busy so she didn’t notice right away. I quietly “unfriended” her on Facebook because she was posting inappropriate selfies and I didn’t want to see them anymore. I wondered if I did the right thing, just trying to “phase out” the relationship. Well, her true controlling colors came out when she realized what was happening. She called me and my husband on our cell phones at 1:00 am and left 10 minute tirade voicemails. She sent me 30 text messages that included things like “You are listening to demons…” I was afraid for myself and my family at this point and told her that I would contact the police if she attempted to contact me again, My point is that, because I know that this blog addresses Christian women that are abused, these are some of the controlling types I have found in “church” during my marriage ordeals. Hardly supportive. 🙁

    • Leslie Vernick on February 18, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      Sadly there are all kinds of people in the church, healthy, unhealthy, saved and unsaved. Those who are self-aware and those who are totally blind. Those who are seeking God, and those who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. That is why we are told to learn to discern good from evil.

      • Anon on February 19, 2015 at 7:07 am

        Because I have gone to Evangelical churches I have assumed people there are saved or they wouldn’t want to be there. Thanks for your reply. I won’t assume that anymore.

  4. Jackie on February 18, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    I would love to do the Cinderella journaling. However I must have missed the past blogs about shadows in ourselves. Exactly what do you mean when you say “what part of yourself”. I get the characters and how they reflect tendencies within ourselves. But I don’t know how to answer what part of me internally are doing these things?! What parts do I have? Does my question make any sense? Hopefully! Lol

    • Leslie Vernick on February 18, 2015 at 11:57 pm

      Jackie, In the January blogs I have talked about our own “shadow” self. This is just the next installment. So go back and read the front part of the January blogs about shadow and I think that will help you catch up.

  5. tawnya on February 18, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    This is great ! I have experienced the more I get healthy the more I move out from toxic behaviors. From family to friends. I believe in truth and walking this road of healing, I will not go backwards. God paid to high of a price to open my eyes and set me free. I have been given tools and resources to soar and teach my kids and I to be a private garden and not a public park. God bless all of you and may God be the source upon which we draw our healing from as these questions get reflected upon. He has a beautiful plan and I’m honored to be molded by him daily!! Bless you Leslie may your teachings and reaching go far and wide. In Jesus name amen!!

    • Leslie Vernick on February 18, 2015 at 11:56 pm

      Thanks Taynya.

    • Pamela Brooks on February 19, 2015 at 8:13 am

      Love that! “Private garden vs. public park!” Thanks!

      • Melanie on March 3, 2015 at 5:42 pm

        Me too!

  6. Jayne on February 19, 2015 at 12:33 am

    Iwas in a codependent relationship. I needed her and she needed me to need her. She would be super flattering with me but in public, i.e. church, she would totally ignore me. I would always change my schedule etc. to help her with things she needed done. But it wasn’t reciprocal. It was very one-sided. I became addicted to her because I thought she could do something for me, where she could love me perfectly and always be there for me. I would get an emotional high every time I was with her. I began to see the relationship for what it was. She didn’t like that I was seeing the truth. She manipulated and twisted everything where things were my “fault”…always. It came to a big head because I wanted to talk with her about something in her life and she totally freaked out on me and said some pretty scary things about the devil regarding me and was very threatening. I was shaken to the core. We and our husbands met with our pastor 3 times. She was a master at conversation, super persuasive and always sounded right. She and her husband were in a leadership position in our church. There were other issues that had to be addressed by our pastor, namely control issues and what sounds like spiritual abuse. They left the church. There was a lot more peace after that. Thankfully our pastor saw through her and didn’t buy her crap. I was all about reconciliation but she wouldn’t face what were the issues truthfully. I got a letter from her two years after this and she wanted to rebuild trust. I think not. There was a time where I was open to that but not now….not the way they left the church in a really bad way. I had to see my own destructiveness and thank God I did….I read Leslie’s book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship.” It helped me SO SO SO much!!! I’m a different person now, praise God. I really thought for the longest time we would reconcile. We didn’t but it’s OK.

  7. Robin Baumann on February 19, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    I have recently had a similar problem with a friend, I felt very confused about. I dont think our relationship was destructive, as I quit responding before it became that. Recently, I have been through a great deal of healing quickly- and so as I changed, it seemed our relationship needed to change. It became harder and harder for me to be with my friend. She would say she was going to do something with me or for me, but it was all talk. She never reciprocated unless I insisted on it somehow. She was very unkind with her words and inconsiderate the things she would say, knowing I was in a destructive relationship. I believe things got hard partly because I was healing– and she was not. She had been sexually abused as a child, and seems to be in denial and it causes a wall in our relationship. It got to a point where there was no honesty and I no longer had anything I wanted to share with her. At one time, she was a faithful friend. But I think- when lives change drastically like mine did- relationships have to change also. I didn’t reject her completely, I just refused to have a ‘texting only’ relationship. Im now trying to forgive her for some of her offenses. I think it will take time.

  8. Aleea on February 19, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    Part; Percent Part; How it makes me feel
    1) Too nice; 25%; empowered
    2) Psychologically asleep; 15%; afraid
    3) Mean, scaring you; 20%; pretending
    4) Diminishes worth; 19%; stuck
    5) Laze around; 5%; asleep
    6) Jealous; 1%; afraid
    7) Magic wand; 5%; empowered
    8) At the ball; 5%; pretending
    9) Handsome prince; 5%; empowered
    What parts have the loudest voices?  Too nice to others; to mean to myself; afraid and stuck.  What parts have the most control over your emotions and your outward actions?  Too nice; too stuck; too much pretending.
    I suspect I create that internal drama to gain control and try to distance my heart from people hoping to keep my heart from being hurt.  In keeping my heart from being hurt, I also shut out and shut down any incoming love making me feel unempowered, stuck, afraid and lonely.  Is the goal to just observe, be more balanced or not create the drama or protect our heart better or? I guess I would say like I don’t feel like I deserve love but that is a lot of moving parts.

  9. Leslie Vernick on February 19, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Yes you are so right, there are lots of moving parts. The goal is to observe, without judgement, but to be aware of the energy and power of each part over your choices and decisions. Then, you can start to make some shifts.

    • Aleea on February 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

      Are all those personalities inside us the factory of ourselves, our CORE? If that CORE has issues the results show up everywhere and in all kinds of problems? So, the factory or CORE is the real level to work at? We can focus on say an eating disorder, but the real issue (-back at the factory of my very being, -back at my CORE) is that I am not “guarding” my heart well –or- “guarding” my heart so well -with all kinds of drama- that it doesn’t allow me to bring love into my life? If that love came into my life (not even romantic love, just love) I wouldn’t even have that eating disorder? Oh, my gosh, -could it actually be that simple? Getting the love is the same as repairing the factory of myself, my CORE thus solving my problem?

      Observe, without judgment, but be aware of the energy and power of each part over your choices and decisions. Then, you can start to make some shifts. What is the healthiest guide to the shifts, that which maximizes Love (God)?

      I don’t have many friends, currently, so I am just speculating here but I think it is safe to say that everybody is going to hurt us, -a lot. We are going to hurt them too, -a lot, even if we try -oh so hard- not to. We just have to figure out (with God’s help?) who is worth suffering for and who is not worth suffering for?

      I want more love in my life (not even romantic love, just love) but I am blocking it out because of. . . Because of. . . I don’t even know. Maybe it will come out in the journaling but I don’t see how we tell with all different those moving parts and roles. Maybe I don’t know how to guard my heart but I don’t feel that I can’t guard it. I’ll observe the different parts until I see something I am lead to make a change on.

      Great exercise and fun too –thank you –a lot.

  10. […] SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick […]

  11. annette on February 24, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    I saw in my self that being in an abusive marriage had turned me in to a mean spirited person ,I hated my self. But only after I made changes in me did that anger go a way. I still find it hared sometimes to deal with my husband and hold my self together. I’ve come so far in the Lord the past two years since opened my eyes to who and what my husband is.It’s a tiring life living with a man who loves his anger and looks for reasons to use it.

    • Robin Baumann on February 24, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Annette, I was married to a man I thought loved his anger also. Then his anger turned into rage. We have been separated for over a year, because I went to counseling and began my own process of getting well. The more healthy I became, the more I saw the extent of my husbands anger and manipulation. It wasn’t possible, for us to live together anymore. I am still in counseling, and this week and probably for several weeks, I am journalling all the scenes of my life, that I can recall, where I was very wounded by abuse. Ive been so surprised, to see all I had forgotten. When I first went to counseling I knew he was angry, but I didn’t realize the cost I had paid for staying in the relationship with him. This week as I write my story out on paper- I have to tell you it kinda sucks to see how awful I had it. All I tolerated as I hadn’t recognized yet the evil and all the situations that were really unbearable. I just stayed in secret, hoping someone would come to my rescue. I am out now. And I keep thinking, my story ought to be on a crime show on tv. How can this be real??? I am learning so much about anger, rage, abuse, evil……. its so ugly.

  12. Aleea on February 25, 2015 at 6:07 am

    I totally lost control of my Cinderella journaling. So many parts, percent parts, guessing at parts, guessing at how it makes me feel, but this time I did not judge myself for doing so. I can choose to go back and pick it back up. I don’t really understand why not judging myself is so important but it seems it is. 
    Instead of journaling time, I just got on my face before the Lord and started seriously praying: Lord, I have all these parts: afraid, pretending, stuck, asleep, empowered.  It’s a minefield. Too much is going on and everything is morphing just by trying to journal and define it. Lord, I leave the navigation to You who knows the way. . .  So, simply here is where I am at:
    I am not in any way sure but I would guess that all those wounded personalities came from love (God’s pure love) not being adequately applied to all the various areas.  So which one of these models works? (-Neither?)
    Husband: Complete me. Read my mind and see all my old wounds from childhood and my life and go in and heal all of them with your love.
    Lord Jesus: Lord Jesus, complete me. Read my mind and see all my old wounds from childhood and my life and go in and heal all of these parts with your love.
    Even when my husband is absolutely wonderful, he is not equipped like Jesus (PURE Love) to heal me. He can not read my mind or even totally understand his own. He has all of his own wounds and his heart is leaking love too. This is why it is so important to journal with Jesus first?  This is why Jesus has to be first. Then we are more complete and have enough clarity to do the Cinderella journaling? 
    And when it gets bad, I turn around and pick up myself at 5 years old and say “I love you.” Jesus is parenting me and I am parenting myself. If I can figure all this out, I will share it with my husband.  He is just a broken little boy using worthless drama to protect his heart too. We are both burning up any incoming love with worthless, unnecessary drama, in all its forms.  We both have ineffective ways of protecting our hearts.  It’s taken me so long to hear that from the Lord. I am also working on: Are the things I am living for worth Christ dying for?

  13. Leslie Vernick on February 25, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    So true. Don’t take these metaphors literally that you have to have every part or know what percentage – just use them to explore. The Holy Spirit is the one who will turn on the lights, not our own naval gazing. But it’s helpful to just be open to new ideas and thoughts about what’s going on inside.

  14. Aleea on March 15, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Leslie, your comment about the Holy Spirit turning the lights on makes all kinds of sense to me (–I really understand that and I am extremely careful not to grieve Him and keep inviting Him in.) I have dropped the percentages but am still on the journaling front observing what is going on, watching the movie and not being caught up in lots of the dialogue — it is constant drama with my competing desires, each claiming to be “me” –it is just ridiculous! For example, the super-ego (I guess that is what it is, I’ll call it that.) coming in and “like a boss” trampling over the tender child-like parts of myself that are beautiful and free. I am asking the Holy Spirit for discernment regarding the part of my Soul to align with and which parts to repent/ turn away from completely (-but maybe I need that “boss part” at times too? —I can’t just jettison it?) If the Holy Spirit of God does not help me recognize my true self, I’ll never see it.
    Leslie, everything that stands up acts like it is “me”…All I am going for is a deeper experience and reality of Christ’s REAL LOVE!  Christ’s LOVE is what I am constantly making the effort to put into words in all of my posts here because I think Christ’s LOVE heals/ fixes just everything (-because it reconfigures the very factory of myself). I actually believe that’s the love everyone is always trying to bring into their lives often in ineffective, dramatic and dysfunctional ways. -It is not because people are not important and good but they are just not adequately equipped to bring the kind of healing love only God can provide. I think if we can clean and keep cleaning our hearts, God’s love can flow into us and once in possession of real love, we have the courage to step off the treadmill (not living for others, living only for God, loving others, etc.) I really believe accepting Real Love is about choosing to receive what is already here “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. …” So, connected to the True Source of Love (The Lord). . . .my outer (present day personality) selves are just roles that I can hopefully stop (like a costume that is ours for a certain time?). But they are NOT my real Self. . . .-And yet they certainly look real. I have confused myself again –man, I am good at that. It’s like my expertise, confusing myself.
    Anyway, nothing has been so peaceful, calming and NOT confusing as just being still on my knees before God, just listening, like you recommended. I can’t believe I never thought of that before (just listening, vs. going on, and on and on to the Lord.) I keep experiencing –God’s LOVE, — my Soul saved –by and in Jesus Christ. …But scriptures flood my mind from all over: “You, come and follow me, –wonderful Lord!!!…Then. . . . .Let the dead bury their own dead –What??? …Then. . . . . “for I have come, not to judge the world, but to give life to the world”, –wonderful Lord!!! I am perfectly serious when I say this — there are no coincidences! Obviously, I don’t know how it all works, and believe me, that would be a very, very, very long post for everyone to endure if I began to describe all my thoughts that I’ve gathered and scriptures worked through on this subject. Anyway, I know what I am after: Connecting and aligning my abused self (selves) to the Love of God– transforming into something of much more depth and beauty than the boringness and slavery of my pettiness, wounds and hurts!

  15. Vee on February 24, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Leslie,

    I’m struggling in a friendship and was hoping you might be able to give me some advice…

    I have a friend (with whom I used to be so close) who is overwhelmed with taking care of two kids. I want to show her grace and give without expecting anything in return. However, I am hurt that she was too busy to spend any time with me while I was isolated and struggling with PPD (at the time she didn’t have kids and had more free time). She considers me one of her “closest friends” and invites me to her house, parties, etc… but can’t seem to respond to text messages or show up for me when I need her. At one point she informed me that she was “busy for the next two months” when I tried to get together. I’m not sure whether I should talk to her about this because I doubt she’ll change and, honestly, I’m just over this friendship. Do you have any thoughts??

    • Leslie Vernick on February 24, 2020 at 2:59 pm

      How about I answer your question in a future blog?

      • Vita on February 26, 2020 at 1:52 am

        That’d be great! I’ll be sure to subscribe so I don’t miss it 🙂

        Thanks, Leslie

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