Sometimes you need space. Sometimes hanging with the same people becomes too much to handle. You begin to know them well, too well in fact, and it becomes necessary to take a breather. Like clockwork, friend A will cancel on you, and friend B will forget to pay you back for dinner. It may not necessarily be at that toxic stage, but it’s beginning to grate on you.
The reasons for why don’t seem nearly important as the essential truth that yes, you need to get away, It’s hard to temporarily ice someone out without doing some lasting damage. People are fickle chemicals, under the right conditions they can become volatile. But life’s too short to feel social stress, and I guess the only person that you really owe anything to is yourself (and your mother. Unless your mother is Joan Crawford, and in that case, you’ll need another self-help article entirely). You might feel scared to say what you want to say, but chances are, life will be scarier if you don’t say it. I was walking home with a friend the other night, concerned about another social matter entirely, and she told me this little gem: “If they can’t deal with you being yourself, then you’ll always be unhappy.”
Part of being yourself is defining your boundaries, setting limits to what you will and won’t take. It may seem noble or brave (or even at times tough) to believe that you can take everything, but there comes a time when you can’t, and when that moment comes, you’ll do one of two things: implode or explode.
If you need space, sit them down, grab them a coffee (or a hot chocolate), and take a deep breath. Emphasize your desire to keep this friendship (or relationship) going. Reassure them that it isn’t over (unless it actually is), but that you need to disappear for a while to, as reality show starlets say, “just do you.” Depending on the closeness of your relationship, you may be able to (nicely!) tell your friend why you’ve decided to take a breather. Don’t forget those ‘I feel’ statements, and speaking from a place of concern, rather than a place of blame. This isn’t about telling them that they need to change, it’s about expressing that you need to take some time for yourself.
Then breathe. You’ve done the hardest part. Maybe not.
The toughest part may just be figuring out what to do next.
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