When a friend seems to be saying, “Go take a hike”

Published: April 23, 2012 | Last Updated: April 23, 2012 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading


Dear Irene,

I’m a college senior. My best friend and I have been fighting
and generally having problems all year. Over the past two years, we spent most
of our time together. I honestly thought we enjoyed spending that much
time together.


When I was really stressed out because of a huge assignment, I
asked her to go on a hike with me to get away from school and relax, and she
agreed. Later that day she called back saying she couldn’t because she had
homework to do and that she was going to hang out with another friend to do it.
I was furious, because it felt like I was being left for some small assignment,
that she probably wasn’t even going to do anyway. But on the hike, I managed to
convince myself that she was doing work and that I was wrong to be mad.  


The next day I saw her and she admitted she hadn’t done any
work; I acted like that didn’t bother me and I hadn’t been mad. I asked to hang
out that night to do homework together. She agreed but completely forgot about
me because she was busy hanging out with a different friend.

We were at odds for a good two weeks after this but managed to work it out, and
decided that we still wanted to be friends. But the rest of that semester we
never got very far. I was a little stressed with my own projects, and my friend
was extremely stressed about school and plans for the future—so much so that
she was snippy and mean to many close friends.


She kept saying that she had issues because a lot of people in
her past have left her, and particularly people she thought were close friends.
But even then, there were good days periodically when we had fun hanging out
together and things were easy.

When I came back from winter break she had completely changed in
many ways. As far as I understand it, she decided that our relationship needed
to start over from the beginning again. She thought the good days the previous
semester had been fake. We have had conversations fairly regularly to see what
the other is thinking, determine where we are as friends, and clear up
misunderstandings—and we have made some headway but we still fight or
misunderstand each other frequently, and it is still awkward.

Stupidly I keep mentioning the past and how different our
relationship is now, and she takes that as saying she isn’t good enough
anymore. I feel attacked because there are things I used to do that aren’t okay

I’m having a really hard time staying hopeful about all of
this. My family and other friends keep asking why I put up with this and
saying that I should just give up the relationship. They all think that it’s
her fault we are fighting. But when I talk to her she always mentions how I
mess up and hurt her.


I really don’t know what to do. And I don’t know how to stop
annoying her. Am I a toxic friend? 

Signed, Amy



Dear Amy, 

The senior year of college can be quite stressful. Students have
to leave familiar people and places behind and make plans for the coming year.
I suspect that both you and your friend are in similar circumstances: each struggling
to find ways to get your work done, to relax, and have some fun.


Because you and your friend are having problems now, doesn’t
invalidate the good friendship you had for two years. More recently, she hasn’t
been as supportive, responsive and reliable as you would like her to be. Her
mind may be elsewhere or she may be gravitating to other friends.


When relationships require this much "work," it means you are
basically rubbing each other the wrong way. You may be seeking something from
her that she isn’t able to give you right now. It doesn’t mean you’re toxic or
she’s toxic—the relationship just isn’t working. Not all friendships stay the
same over time.


While it may be frustrating, you really don’t have a
choice except to step back and give your friend (and yourself) more space. You
can only change your behavior, not hers. Spend more time with other friends and
acquaintances on campus or do things, like hiking, that you enjoy doing on your
own. Find ways to stay in touch with your friend in a positive way. Perhaps,
seeing each other on a more infrequent basis and having lower expectations will
lead to less conflict and fewer disappointments. Or it may be that the friendship
has simply run its course. Most friendships, even very good ones, don’t last forever.

Hope this helps. 

Best, Irene



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Comments (4)

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  1. Iyamacat says:

    Great post, my friend from south africa has a good saying “we’re not eachothers cup of tea” instead of toxic. Also, moving on our seperate ways instead of the word dumping, as it is harsh like toxic but doesn’t take into account individual situations.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi. I understand I think about your situation as it is kind of like one of my old friendships. And neither of us is “toxic,” either. (Back in the day you used to just say you rubbed each other wrong. Now, everyone likes to use the word “toxic” to describe people. Not me. My friend was my dear friend for decades. I could not describe her or anyone I care about as “toxic.” And that includes me.) But she tends to fib a lot and at some point it got in the way, for me. You’re right that keeping in touch loosely can make the hurt worse. She would not or could not see how her white lies and fibs created a problem with trust and wouldn’t or couldn’t get help for this, but kept trying to stay in touch. I finally had to tell her why don’t we just move on in our separate ways. It was like yanking off a band aid. Hurt a lot. And I’m still regretful. But, no it’s not a matter of being “toxic.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    Irene’s response can be for any age group. I find consolation in her words. My good friend of seven years has broken up with me. She’s not toxic and I’m not toxic but our friendship just doesn’t work anymore. She is loosely staying in touch with me. On some level, that makes the hurt worse but on another level, it keeps the door open for the future. Even if our friendship doesn’t reignite, I can remember the good times we had and remember Irene’s words that most friendships – even good ones – don’t last a lifetime.

  4. Anonymous says:

    when i was a senior in college one of my best friends (who was also one of my housemates at the time) picked a huge fight with me and ended our friendship. i was totally flabbergasted and did understand AT ALL what on earth had happened. years later we were both invited to a wedding (it was over 4 years later) and she apologized to be about the way she had behaved. she said she had issues with saying goodbye and simply did not know how to deal. i was deeply grateful that she talked to me about it and while we did not reconnect as friends (our lives had gone separate ways) i no longer felt animosity or resentment and could remember the friendship we did have fondly.

    trying to understand why people behave the way they do at times could literally drive you mad.

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