A Reader Writes:
I just finished reading the chapter in Mom to Mom called ‘Screening Our Influences’ and my question is this: How does one break away from friends who don’t help us to ‘cultivate a cheerful outlook?’ I have decided that I needed to stop spending time with a girlfriend of mine, and wonder about how to do so with charity. I don’t want to suddenly stop answering her phone calls and emails, but I also don’t want to have a conversation with her that sounds like a teenage break-up.”
First of all, to clarify for those who have not read the book, I do not recommend that mothers lock themselves away in closets in order to avoid contact with anyone who might not think exactly as they do. What I wrote in that chapter in part is as follows: “Because God’s call to motherhood can be such a personally challenging vocation, it only makes sense to surround ourselves with as much support and encouragement in this endeavor as possible … In a world of negativity, every mother should take care to cultivate a cheerful outlook and then to guard her healthy, positive attitude like the priceless treasure it is.”
That said, I think you have the right idea about avoiding a dramatic “break up” with your friend. If you have standing appointments to meet with a person whose influence you consider an unhealthy one, you can begin by canceling some of those meet ups. You don’t need to explain it. We women do way too much explaining, I think. For some reason, we feel like we can’t ever say, “Thanks for inviting me, but I won’t be able to make it” without throwing in some kind of explanation for our refusal. But we don’t owe anybody that.
You can limit phone calls and other exchanges in the same way. Your friend might eventually notice that you are pulling away, but what you are doing is not really different from the way friendships naturally grow apart when two people don’t share values or interests. Of course you should remain cheerful and kind in your limited interactions with this person.
However you decide to handle it, keep in mind that your family should always come first. If your relationship with anyone is hurting your family, you not only have a right to end it, you have an obligation to do so. No explanation required.