Friendships make our world go round just a little bit easier. A tough breakup, fighting with your family, work woes…your friends can be what see you through. Friends dry your tears when you cry, hype you up when you’re losing self belief, pick you up when you (metaphorically) fall, laugh when you (literally) fall….Through the good and bad, the true ones stick around. The best friends come along naturally, often you won’t even realise the strong bond you’ve formed until one day, when the shit hits the fan, you look up and they’ll be right where you need them; at your side. Do what you can to keep that person. That person rules.
On the flip side, just like in romantic entanglements, sometimes friendships can turn out to be pretty toxic. Even the ones that start out looking the most promising can turn into ones you want to forget and I have had my fair share over the years. Here are my tips for identifying those toxic friendships and how you can get out of them.
Friendship Red Flags
You feel worse for having spent time with them. Have you ever come away from seeing a friend feeling a little downbeat? A bit drained or insecure? I definitely have and if you have answered yes, consider this your red flag alert. This isn’t normal. I once had a “friend” a long time ago that would make little jokes at my expense in public. Isolated, they seemed like light humour but combined over time, these things can tear a person down. That person did not stay in my life for very long.
They talk poorly of people close to them. The best advice I heard about people was about a year ago and it really opened my eyes. Pay close attention to how a person talks about their best friend when they are not listening, it is how they talk about you when you are not there. PAY 👏🏼 ATTENTION👏🏼.
They ignore your messages. There are reasons why some people may not be great at replying; personal circumstances, family issues or mental health can all play a part. HOWEVER, if you have a friend, not struggling with any of the above, who consistently takes 12 hours to respond to a question or starts a conversation then drops off after you reply…at the very least call them out on it. 99% of the time they’ll say 1) I didn’t get it (bitch please…) or 2) Sorry I didn’t check my phone all day – it’s 2020 everyone checks their phone over the course of a normal day.
They show no interest in your life. If you think you have a friend that’s pretty self centred, next time you chat make a note of seeing how many questions you ask about them before they return the favour. Any more than 5 and we’re looking at some serious self-centred behaviour. Friendship goes both ways. Likewise, if you find yourself getting called on only after a breakup or for your baby-sitting services ask yourself “What value is this person bringing to my life in comparison?”.
They don’t pass the 3am rule. You’re having some kind of life crisis, it’s 3am and you need help. Does this person pick up the phone if they see it ringing? A good friend will pick up and talk, a best friend will be out the door before you have to ask.
They make a point to highlight your weaknesses. Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt like they gave you a backhanded compliment? I think this is about power play and is often so subtle you don’t notice. For example “You’re SUCH a nice person so I don’t mind that you’re not that smart.” Rude!
You regularly seek their validation. A pro manipulator will make you believe that you need them to be your best self. This makes you question your own ability to make decisions for yourself and you’ll be more and more dependant on the opinion of the very person lessening your self-esteem in the first place. Pretty dark, right? Friendly advice is great but remember, the only permission you need to make decisions about your life is your own.
Ways To End a Toxic Friendship
The Confrontation. Always tempting, often more rewarding in your head. This depends on the circumstances but I would say that if some bad behaviour has taken place that an individual should be held accountable for, some honest face to face communication could be beneficial. However, if a friendship has gotten to this point it is highly likely you are not dealing with the kindest of person. So unless you can picture a good ending, sometimes it is better to leave the showdown for your imagination and walk away gracefully. It’s a 10/10 for closure though…
The Phase Out. Perhaps you are trying to avoid that big confrontation or maybe you’re trying to avoid hurt feelings (on both sides). Phasing someone out of your life is probably the least dramatic way of ending a friendship. Slowly stop reaching out first or starting a conversation. Avoid agreeing to plans, especially one to one. You can still be polite and courteous whilst limiting communication. This will be hard at first, especially if you have grown any unhealthy dependencies on the friendship but try to persevere and focus on the end goal.
The Block and Delete. Brutal but occasionally necessary. If someone is bringing harm to your life and causing you any unnecessary stress just by being in it, block their number and social media. In any other circumstances however it could leave some unanswered questions and other people may get involved if the other party reaches out to a mutual friend.
The Social Distancing. How very 2020. Sometimes it’s not possible to remove the person from your life; maybe they are a family member or perhaps a work colleague. In these instances it is best to just try and distance yourself from them as much as you can whilst still respecting the fact that they have to remain in your life. Avoid social settings, limit text messaging and don’t share personal updates. Also crucial – in the case of work colleagues try really hard to stay out of office politics! Stay polite and courteous but put boundaries in place to avoid any upset.
I hope that you found some use from the above, just remember that you are your priority and your happiness is key. I’ll leave you with some final points that I like to try to remember:
- Friendships are great but they are not mandatory. It is better to have no friends than bad friends.
- It’s okay to have acquaintances. Not everybody you get on well with needs to be your next best friend, or even a close one.
- Some friends are for seasons, Some friends are for reasons, Some friends are for life.
- Don’t make someone a priority in your life when you’re only an option in theirs.
- Whatever you’re feeling, your feelings are valid.
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