Don’t we all yearn for a friendship like Oprah and Gayle’s? A relationship so empowering that it can conquer any challenge. Weighing lady O’s camaraderie against my longstanding relationships, I naively assumed that once friendship crossed over to the BFF zone, it became an unbreakable bond. Little did I know that the strongest relationships survive because they are governed by some unspoken rules. Here are 10 surprising issues that can cause the deepest friendships to implode.
1. Speaking negatively about their partner
No matter how strong you think your friendship is, passing negative comments about your friend’s, spouse will likely put a dent in your relationship. Exhibit A: Your friend begs you to share your views on her trifling boyfriend so you make it known that the dude is a good-for-nothing leech. You were blunt because you believed that because you have been friends since the Jackson 5 were a band, you don’t need to filter your words. Well, you are wrong. Very few people can handle an undiluted opinion even if it is the truth. So whether your friend receives your opinion defensively or calmly, there is a 90% chance that she will recoil from you. Then, she will run to her man and tell him that you think he is a good-for-nothing leech. In the end, you will be become a persona non grata. Why? Because he makes her toes curl and you don’t.
Solution: Self-censor, self-censor, self-censor! Did I say self-censor? Yep! Even when your opinion is solicited, choose your words carefully. You can still be honest by filtering the sting off your truth. It doesn’t mean you are being fake; rather it is a sign that you understand the intricate dynamics of romantic relationships.
I once had a friend who borrowed money with Job-like humility. The moment she got the money, she had more confidence than Donald Trump. But getting close to the repayment time she would develop an interesting case of amnesia and pretend I never did that online transfer… Money can push any relationship to the brink but it is particularly tricky when you lend money to someone you love. While, you would like to maintain the friendship, if the borrower starts avoiding your phone calls, you could easily become a modern day Shylock.
Solution: Don’t lend money you can’t afford to give. If you lend money to a friend who dishonors your agreement, you have to decide how important the friendship is. If the person means a lot to you, think of the debt as donation and never talk about it and never lend them money again.
Once upon a time, my mum had a BFF. Thick as thieves, they had seen poverty and wealth together and had become so close they considered themselves as surrogate to their children. One day, my mum disciplined her friend’s daughter like she would her own – with some sound African licks. Immediately, 3 decades of friendship came to an abrupt end. If you understand that even the most disrespectful child holds a sacred place in a parent’s eyes, you will know that scolding a friend’s child can be grounds for automatic dismissal.
Solution: Parenting is sensitive subject. Never tell someone how to raise their children and don’t discipline their children either. As a friend, I believe your role is to be a good listener. If you feel the need to make a comment, say empathetic things like “I am so sorry you are going through this.” Or you can say “do you want me to recommend a therapist?” Actually, scratch that. Just keep your mouth zipped and listen.
4. Knowing too much
Everyone has a past, and sometimes when you know too much about someone’s shady history, you become a liability - especially when you have the tendency to refer to that forsaken era. For example, perhaps your friend used to be a stripper but he now is a high-rolling CEO. He may treasure the relationship because of the history you share or they may feel threatened because you remind him of his twerking days. Don’t be surprised if you are dropped at the slightest mishap.
Solution: Not everyone is comfortable with their history so don’t be the one to bring up the past.
This cliché that snuffs the light out of any relationship. It speaks to the urge to bury your grievances to avoid conflict. The deeper you bury your emotions, petty grievances morph into painful experiences and before you realize, there is an impermeable wall between you and someone who used to finish your sentences.
Solution: Address your gripes, no matter how trivial they may seem. Last year, I tried it with a friend who is really bad at keeping in touch. Hashing things out was great. He acknowledged, apologized and promised to do better. I vowed to be more understanding and less critical. Buoyed by the success of this pow-wow, I decided to clear the air with another friend and fell into the next trap.
No matter how altruistic it seems, sometimes hashing things out can do more harm than good. When I called my friend to discuss my burning issues, she felt attacked. She brought up issues that I thought we had resolved 10 years ago and the conversation quickly dissolved into a tearful screaming match. Eventually, we made up, but the conversation reminded me of the hidden dangers of conflict resolution. Sometimes airing things out can actually lead to detonate a friendship
Give the other person ample notice and discuss one issue at a time. Try not to maintain a non-confrontational air by using words like “I feel…” avoid accusatory words like “You are…” But to be honest, sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie because you just might open Pandora’s Box.
So you are a born again Christian or you’ve seen the light thanks to Allah or Budda. You spend all your free time at your prayer palace and when you are not there, you are quoting scriptures to your friends. If you continue to preach to them, you may be perceived as self-righteous and judgmental. Do not be surprised if your friends feel slighted when you refuse to indulge in the worldly activities you used to delight in. Tread carefully because not knowing how to handle your faith and your friendship can lead to alienation.
Solution: Be subtle. Faith is a personal journey. Let your new life exude so much love and kindness that you become a walking advertisement of your religion. When you do this, your friends will come to you - you will not need a pulpit
You are an eager romantic who wants a lonely friend to be drunk in love. Well, hold your arrow Cupid, or you will find it at your own back. When you set up two friends and it works, you bask in the glory of being a great matchmaker. However when it doesn’t, you will find yourself in a precarious position. If you decide to take sides, one party will call you a traitor. If you stay neutral, you will be labeled a coward. Bottom line, the nature of the relationship with either one, or, both of them will change.
Solution: Don’t be an overt matchmaker. When you sense a love connection between your friends, host a party and invite both of them. Then allow the laws of magnetic attraction work. However, if you are really, really desperate to help a single friend, hook them up with a copy of 50 shades of grey – the trilogy will get them over the dry hump.
This supposedly happy occasion can become a fiasco. Aside from petty family drama, the task of choosing bridesmaids and groomsmen means by default you are bound to offend someone. Unfortunately, many people view the bridal party as a determinant of rank. The dilemma thickens when friends resort to emotional blackmail when vying for the spot of maid of honor or best man. When all of this is combined with the stress and cost of planning the event, weddings can be the source of bitter feuds.
Solution: Weddings are expensive and emotional but it is not the defining moment of a friendship. Be accommodating, practically everyone (bridezilla and groomzillas included) deserve a pass for the way they act around their wedding day.
10. Living together
I experienced the shock of my post-adolescent life when I assumed that because a girlfriend and I shared the same sense of humor and cleaning habits we could live together. Two months into the arrangement, I realized that living with someone exposes you to another layer of their personality. You find out about their mood swings, sleeping habits, temperature preference, financial priorities…Because you get on like a house on fire doesn’t mean you will not want to set her on fire. Lessons learned. Good friends don’t always make good roommates
Solution: If you have to live with a buddy, you have to be tolerant of their quirks. Frankly, you may be better off living with a stranger, but if you must live you’re your friend, give each other space. Set clear expectations and respect boundaries