Conflict with a friend affects my mental health

Hello Haya

I find it difficult to deal with a friend who is used to doing too much of everything. I recently reconnected with this friend after four years. Despite letting go of his past problems, the same toxic patterns of behavior began to resurface. This time she is super excited about her upcoming birthday and has invited all her friends, even the ones I’m not that familiar with.

Unfortunately, due to my 14-hour work day and financial difficulties, I cannot attend his celebrations. When I told her about it, she cried and cried for hours. She even made up a story for her fiance, who then called and pressured me to attend the birthday party. The next day, I received about 10 voice notes, including one from his mother, implicitly urging me to reconsider my decision.

It’s not about me being a bad friend or being angry, it’s about him being unreasonable despite being well aware of my limitations. We are both adults but it is hard to make him understand that life can be different for everyone. It’s a tricky situation and I’m not sure how to handle it. Any advice on how to deal with friends like this?

– Made with toxic friendship

Dear Disappointed Friend,

What you are experiencing sounds extremely frustrating and difficult. Obviously, this situation makes you feel tired, overwhelmed, and second-guessing yourself.

While you’ve provided a comprehensive overview, it would be helpful to understand the reasons for ending the friendship in the first place, who initiated the reconnection, and whether past issues were discussed when you reconnected four years later.

The repetition of the toxic patterns you mentioned raises concerns, suggesting that these dynamics may have been present in past relationships.

Let’s dive right in and explore constructive ways to navigate this difficult situation.

Start by communicating with confidence and expressing empathy. Make it clear that although you accept and understand the importance of his birthday due to pressing work demands and financial constraints, you are unable to make it. Use “I” statements to confidently express your limitations. For example, say, “I can’t attend because of my work schedule and financial constraints,” or “I know your birthday is important to you, and I really wanted to be there, but I won’t be able to make it.”

Then, create space and establish open communication, allowing her space to express her feelings and perspectives.

You can also offer an alternative solution by suggesting a later celebration for her that works for both of you.

It is important for you to set clear boundaries by stating that certain behaviors, such as guilt, are not acceptable. Communicate your expectations. For example, say, “I value our friendship, but I need you to understand that I cannot take responsibility for things beyond my control, and I don’t value guilt.”

Finally, I urge you to objectively evaluate friendship. Consider whether the relationship brings more stress than joy, and assess the balance between positive and negative aspects.

Some useful tips related to this are listed below.

See the value of the company. Ask yourself if the relationship brings you more stress and negativity or joy.

Check yourself. How does this relationship make me feel? What value does he add to my life? How do I feel next to him?

Healthy relationships bring out the parts of ourselves that we like best about ourselves.

Also, work to recognize unhealthy patterns and behaviors in the relationship and use this as an opportunity to examine your own patterns that may need your attention. Relationships serve as mirrors that reflect our undiscovered sides.

Returning to a damaged and unhealthy relationship without addressing the underlying issues does not lead to meaningful change, which requires effort on both sides.

Changed behavior (starting with recognition and working toward changing behavior) is the only true apology. If, despite communication and setting boundaries, there is no positive change, consider making a choice that is consistent with your well-being. I can’t say what it will be like for you, you’ll have to research and see what works best for you.

Remember that you cannot control the actions of others, but you can control your own. Some people won’t be ready to change, and that’s okay. You have to decide what is important to you. What we complain about are most often indicators of where we need healthier boundaries.

Based on examining all of the above, come to a conclusion about how you choose to appear in a relationship.

Understand that people show us who they are, it’s our choice to believe or not, and remember that people’s behavior is how they feel about themselves.


Haya Malik is a psychotherapist, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner, corporate wellness strategist, and trainer specializing in creating organizational cultures focused on increasing wellness and mental health awareness.

Send him your questions at

Note: The above tips and opinions are those of the author and are specific to the survey. We strongly advise our readers to consult relevant experts or specialists for individual advice and solutions. The author and assume no responsibility for the consequences of actions taken based on the information presented here. All published pieces are subject to editing to improve grammar and clarity.

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