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“Your friend does sound like a total pain in the ass, honestly. But you’re anxious mostly because you don’t know how to set boundaries with her. Instead of telling her what you want and what you will and won’t do, you lie to her, make excuses, avoid her, and let off steam about how awful she is with friends. That’s how most people are in their 20s, and I have a ton of empathy for feeling stuck there. I’ve been stuck there for decades with a few different friends, in fact, because I love complicated women who are full of anger and love to talk a lot of shit. I would never have admitted that when I was younger, but that is totally my type of lady. After all, isn’t the world completely insane and fucked? Who isn’t driven crazy by the enormous mountains of bullshit tumbling down on a woman every goddamn day of her life? Who doesn’t sometimes dislike pretty, confident women who never seem to show their asses, even under duress?

But if you want to know interesting, intense people — and I know I do — you’re going to discover that a LOT of them are also careless and confused and ruled by shame. And you won’t know which of them are complex, difficult, and ALSO amazingly loyal and great, and which of them are complex, difficult, and ALSO totally not worth the effort UNLESS you ask them for exactly what you want and inform them (without shaming them!) when they hurt you. 

And even beyond this particular friendship, if you want to grow up and become stronger and more open to the world in general, it’s crucial to learn how to tell people — even difficult people — what you will and won’t do for them and how you would like to be treated. I get that most people don’t talk that way. I get that most people are openly afraid of direct statements like “I don’t think I can do that for you” or “I don’t really want to hash out what’s wrong with my close friends with you. I get that you don’t love them, but I do.” Many people dislike it when you assert healthy boundaries, in fact. As women, we are essentially schooled in the art of NEVER HAVING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES. But fuck that noise. Freedom and happiness are impossible when you can’t ask for what you want and say what you mean without apology. You can be kind about it. You just have to try.”

Ask Polly: ‘Should I Dump My Toxic Friend?’


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