Photo by lilartsy

As we all have experienced, the last two and a half years have been extremely taxing on the entire world. From changes in the work force, to change to your home life, to changes in friendships, this global pandemic has left nothing off limits. For me, personally, one of the hardest things I had to learn to navigate in all of this was a change in friendships. We all have our opinion on COVID and we all made decisions for the betterment of our families.

Two years ago, when COVID first was announced, everyone was unsure what was going to happen. For a little while my husband and I weren’t too concerned, there wasn’t a lot of information surrounding COVID yet and we had hoped that it would only be a few months of this new “normal.” We went out and we masked up. We didn’t distance ourselves from too many of our family members in the very beginning; however, we did limit our circle of friends, but as the pandemic went on and we started to do our research and we saw how each wave was happening, we decided to distance ourselves more and more from, not only friends, but family too. I have parents (who we saw literally everyday) that are extremely high risk at adverse reactions to COVID and about 1/3 of the way through the pandemic, I was also diagnosed with a condition that they considered and autoimmune condition, which put me in the higher risk category. So, for us, this was the best decision to make for our family.

It was clear right from the beginning that one of my closest friends and I had a differing opinion on COVID and how to handle it. We wore masks out, they did not. When we talked about the potential of a vaccine being rolled out, we said that there was no doubt we would get the vaccine; they were/are wildly opposed to the vaccine. No big deal, right? Everyone has the right to have these opinions and make choices that are in the best interest of their family. In the beginning things weren’t awful, we had a mutual understanding that we would never agree on this topic and that was fine. 

Photo by Liza Summer

As the pandemic drew on, ebbing and flowing, it became pretty clear that my friendship likely would not withstand this storm. In the beginning we kept our opinions to ourselves about how the other one was handling the pandemic. Out of respect for our friendship, I kept my thoughts to myself on how they were handling the pandemic. They would invite us over and if it was in the middle of a wave, we would decline the invitation and we told them we wouldn’t be coming to see them until the wave was over. At first it wasn’t a huge deal but as time went on the offhanded comments about how we were handling the pandemic started. At one point we weren’t even seeing parents because, for us, it was too irresponsible with all of our high-risk family members. We would even explain this to our friends and it honestly did not matter to them, sometimes I had the feeling that they were above our family and required us to visit in order to be friends.

Eventually my mental health started suffering. I honestly would get such bad anxiety anytime I would see a message pop up from my friend. For a while I did my best to ignore it. I tried to not let it get under my skin. After all, we are all entitled to our own opinions. However, it became more and more apparent that there was not a mutual respect in our friendship and this friend would continually cross the line. I even tried to set up boundaries, saying things like “we all have a different opinion and that this is mine and please respect it; you don’t have to agree with how we are handling this, just like I don’t have to agree with how you are handling the pandemic. But please be respect that these are the choices we are making.” And maybe for a month or two it worked and I think it mostly worked because I just distanced myself from that friendship. At this point it was not beneficial for me and I went into hiding, so to speak. 

At this point it wasn’t just a differing of opinions and a lack of respect in the friendship, which honestly is a key importance to make any relationship work, but there was also a new side to this friend that I saw and it hurt my heart. I won’t go into too many details here, but let’s just say I saw a while new side that was so far from the person who I am and what I value that it was hard to look at this person the same way again. 

What happened next probably isn’t a surprise to anyone. Anyone watching from the sidelines knew this was going to eventually happen. I knew this was going to happen. Everything that had been building had finally come to a head. And as I do take responsibility for not communicating my feelings sooner or in a healthier way, there was/is still a huge lack of respect in this friendship. And, in my opinion, respect in a relationship of any kind is the key to a healthy relationship and if the respect is only one-sided, I really don’t think the friendship/relationship can ever be healthy and beneficial to each person involved. Over the last 2 years, I have come to realize what really matters in this world and life and if you are in a friendship where you may feel like you’re not being respected, I highly encourage you to talk to the other half and explain your feelings and if that does nothing then I think it’s best to cut ties. The last couple of months I have had such a greater sense of peace of mind than I have in the last 2 years. This was definitely a toxic friendship and it was part of all of my mental health struggles, especially in the last several months. 

Please know that this is not something you have to suffer through. I honestly thought that I had to put up with this. I didn’t have enough self-respect to understand the damage this friendship was causing. And if this friendship doesn’t just impact you, but your children or a significant other, be sure to talk to your spouse regarding the impacts this friendship is having on you and your mental health because this can also be a huge factor impacting your decision to end a friendship. If it’s impacting your mental health, it needs to be dealt with. It cannot be swept under the rug and ignored or it will boil over and that is way worse of a situation to be in than just accepting the friendship is over. It is not an easy thing to do, but in my experience, your mental health will thank you for putting it first!

Let us know in comments if you have a friendship “breakup” due to differing opinions on COVID? Did COVID expose traits in a friend that you were maybe unaware of or ignorant to? How are you doing now that you had this breakup?