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I don’t think I ever really knew what having or being a true, genuine friend was like until more recently. Pretty sad, right?
I don’t know how I didn’t know that. I mean, isn’t that something that we as humans are just born knowing how to do?
In any case, I was rarely a great friend to anyone and even now, I’m still working on it. I’m sure if I dug down deep and sat through hours of therapy, I could figure out why this is. I’m thinking it has something to do with insecurity and being unhappy with myself, because that’s usually the culprit. And you attract other people who are like you.
So there you have it – I was a sucky friend for many years, and I allowed even suckier friendships to last far longer than was healthy.
If you’ve read my other posts, you know I like to tell a little story to lead into the meat of the post. But this time, I’m going to skip it. There are sadly just too many stories I could tell – I can’t decide on only one.
Instead, I’m going to share some signs of a toxic friendship with you. This is based not only on my personal experience of being a not-so-great friend, but also on some experiences I’ve had with people who weren’t good friends to me either.
First though, what do I mean by a toxic friendship? Put simply, a friendship is toxic when you are not getting anything good from it, and what you are getting from it is just weighing you down. If it’s a friendship that isn’t making you happy or you’re putting in all or most of the effort, then why are you in it?
9 Signs You’re in a Toxic Friendship
So how can you tell that you may be in an unhealthy friendship?
Your friend judges or criticizes you. Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams. – Henry David Thoreau
Dude, the world has enough critics, don’t ya think? Your inner circle should be your support system. They should be the ones who lift you up when you’re at your worst, or who cheer you on when you’ve decided to go after another crazy idea. If you go to a friend with a problem, they should not make you feel worse about yourself. If advice is given, it should come from a place of love and ideally because you asked for it. If you share your dreams, they should encourage you to pursue them.
Also, sometimes you just need a sounding board, and you’re not looking for advice. Your friend should be able to pick up on that and respect it. If you lost a family member, they know to just sit quietly by your side as you cry on their shoulder. If you’re starting a new business venture, they are ready to sign up as your first customer. They are not telling you what you should and shouldn’t be feeling or doing.
They make you feel guilty. Real friends were the kind where you pick up where you’d left off, whether it be a week since you’d seen each other or two years. – Jojo Moyes, One Plus One
Does your friend give you a hard time if you don’t call her every day on your way home from work? Or because you seem to spend too much time with your husband and you don’t make enough time for her? This is likely coming from a jealous or an immature place. Either way, it’s not right.
Life is busy and most of us are juggling multiple priorities.
It’s especially difficult to find time for your friends if they aren’t all in the same circle. For instance, you have a close friend from work, a close friend from high school, and a cousin who is also a close friend. None of them know each other, so it’s not like you can all meet up once a month and catch up with all three of them. Add work, a partner, and a couple kids and it’s a wonder you find time to take a daily shower. That’s completely understandable! If one of your friends constantly and wrongly accuses you of not giving enough attention to your friendship, it’s time to move on.
You find that you are always reaching out to them, but they are rarely initiating the contact. If you stop trying to contact them for a few weeks, what happens? Do you hear from them at all? If not, they may not care about you as much as you care about them.
They aren’t there for you when you really need them. Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. – Oprah Winfrey
Your friend is always up for hanging out when you’re in a good place, but when you find yourself in a dark place, he/she is nowhere to be found. This person is not there for you through thick and thin. They aren’t your ride-or-die chicks. If your friend tells you that you’re bringing her down or dragging her through the dirt with the problem you’re currently facing, then she doesn’t truly care about you.
They are competitive with you. Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success. – Oscar Wilde
“Oh, your kid is three and you’re just potty training him? My kid was potty trained the day he popped out of my hoo-ha.” Witch, please.
Being a mom is tough so when you have a victory, no matter how small, you want to celebrate with someone! If you’re excited that your son kept his pants on for a full day and didn’t flash the handyman, then call your bff and let her know! If she doesn’t share your excitement and reminds you that her son is fully clothed in a coordinated outfit at all times, then she’s bursting your bubble and that ain’t right. She’s more concerned with proving how much better she is than you at whatever, instead of being happy about your success.
They don’t listen. Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer. – Ed Cunningham
Your friend is constantly talking about herself and not taking the time to hear what’s going on with you. She may ask you how you’re doing, but as soon as you say “Great! I have a wedding coming up and need to shop for a new dress, but I don’t even know where to start”, she turns the conversation back to her. “Oh yes! I went to a wedding last weekend! Let me tell you all about it.” By the time you’re hanging up the phone, you realize that you got in all of 2 sentences.
They are untrustworthy. Beware of those who speak ill of others in your presence; don’t be surprised of what they say about you in your absence. ― J. Garces
As soon as you tell them something personal, they turn around and tell someone else. It’s not easy being vulnerable to someone, so when you trust someone with something personal, they should respect that and keep it private for you. Another sign of untrustworthiness is gossiping. Is your friend constantly gossiping to you about the other friends in your circle? If so, there is a good chance that she’s gossiping about you to those same friends. Be careful.
They are constantly negative. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn
We all go through hard times and need to be picked up now and then. But if your friend is constantly seeing the glass half empty, you will eventually start to see things that way, too.
You become who you surround yourself with.
They aren’t genuine. I couldn’t find a quote that I liked to put here!
This one doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a toxic friendship, but I felt it was important to discuss because it does mean that this person is not a true friend. Rather, more of an acquaintance.
If you’re in a friendship where you feel a bit uncomfortable in the pit of your stomach – like you can’t truly be yourself around that person, it’s probably because they aren’t being themselves. If they are not making themselves vulnerable to you, then you should not go through the trouble of making yourself vulnerable to them.
What To Do When You’re Friendship is Toxic
If you find yourself in a toxic friendship, you can do one of two things. Either discuss how you’re feeling with the other person with the goal of improving the friendship, or cut ties immediately. You have to really examine your friendship and go with whatever feels right. If this is a friend you’ve had since childhood and the friendship was strong at one point, then it may be worth talking to your friend about how you’re feeling. However, if the friendship has been toxic for a while and you don’t think your friend will react with understanding and compassion, then it’s not someone you need in your life.
Life is crazy (I know I sound like a broken record, but it is!) and your time is a priceless commodity. Your inner circle is sacred. Make sure you’re protecting these things and only allowing the most deserving people to play a significant role in your life.
Have you ever been in a toxic friendship? How did you know? How did it affect you? What did you do?