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Susan Shapiro Barash

New Year's Resolutions When it Comes to Friendship

New Year's Resolutions When it Comes to Friendship

As the holidays are upon us, most of us make plans with our friends,as well as with family members. In fact, friends are often intentionally invited to family events to mitigate tension and be a sort of buffer zone.

It's an old trick, and one that has long been effective. Some women swear that their best friends are almost referees at Christmas dinners with their mothers-in-law. Of course this makes sense because our friends are supposed to be our loyal, staunch supporters who, by definition, delight us and whom we seek out. Sometimes, however, this isn't the case, and we find ourselves trying to remember how and why this friendship ever came to be. By the time we get to this point in the relationship, we're usually in too deep to simply duck out. And, as I've pointed out before, for women in particular, breaking up with a female friend, despite the negative aspects of the friendship can be devastating.

That being said, a New Year is fast approaching and the minute we've unwrapped our presents, it's almost New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve pushes the envelope when it comes to our friends in two ways: a) since Christmas is officially over, we suddenly realize which friends have snubbed us when it comes to December 31st festivities and which friends we feel obligated to, having promised to 'stop by' or ‘drop in' at their uninspiring bash. In many cases, neither scenario is about a friendship worth keeping, and the time has come to confront our feelings about it.

New Year's resolutions, in general, always sound better before they're put to the test, which includes those pledges to rid yourself of the friend who drains you, uses you, has betrayed you, or merely no longer holds your interest - after all, life is short and very hectic. Few of us have the courage do it, let alone justify it, throughout the year, and that indicates that as a resolution it might not hold water.

Forty-six percent of the women in my study reported that they feel ‘guilted' into staying friends when they do not want to be in the friendship anymore, ninety-four percent said they'd had some kind of falling out with a close friend but only forty percent left the relationship after this occurred. Women explain their reasons for not leaving the friend as the following: a) a shared past, b) mutual friends, c) children who are friends, d) loneliness, (i.e. "rather this friend than no friend at all"). So, while in theory it works to ditch the friend as the New Year begins, along with all those other vows to lose weight, or find more time to relax, breaking up with a toxic friend seems to be the toughest pattern to break.

Despite how one might truly feel about a friend or two, and even armed with determination to begin 2010 without the burden of that relationship, most of us will not disentangle, but trudge on, perhaps even having brunch with such friends on New Year's day.


About the Author

Susan Shapiro Barash is the author of eleven books of nonfiction women's issues and teaches gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College.