Ok… so you are obviously on this page because you are wondering if you are in a toxic friendship. Maybe you feel like your friend isn’t being a real friend, or maybe the friendship is bringing you down. Well… you came to the right place. Just ask Blaire. I’ve got you!
Here are the top 5 ways to determine if you are in a toxic friendship. Then I’ll tell you if you should get out of it and how to do so. First, let’s see if any of these things apply to you…
- You feel emotionally exhausted after you’ve hung out with your friend.
Let’s just call this friend Sam (fitting to a male or female). Sam comes over to hang out. From the second Sam walks in, they start venting. You say, “but Sam’s my friend. Isn’t it normal for them to vent?” YES! It is. But this friend is ALWAYS venting to YOU. 95% of the time you are with Sam, they are talking about the 100 things wrong in their life. Your friend finally leaves and you feel like you need chocolate, some cartoons, and a nap.
This is a TOXIC friend! A friendship should be equal. It’s one thing if your friend is in a particular crisis. They just got dumped or broke up with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They just lost their job. They just got in a car accident and they’re coming over with the sole purpose that they need support for this isolated event. Fine. Cool. But if your friend is always in crisis mode, they only come around when they need comfort, or you never have an opportunity to share what’s going on in your life, you can bet your shiniest pennies… this is a toxic friendship.
- Your friend only wants to hang out with you when there’s nothing better to do.
You reach out to Sam on Monday to see if they want to hang out, but they have to work late. You reach out on Tuesday to schedule a stay-in movie night, but they already have plans with their significant other. You reach out on Wednesday to see if they want to go shopping, but they aren’t feeling good and “took a half day off of work”. You call them on Thursday to ask if they want to go check out the new trail the city has just opened in the park, but Sam already made plans with Rebecca. You text on Friday to see if Sam wants to go to dinner and catch up, but they planned to stay home and clean their apartment from top to bottom. Same story for the following week. Finally, you decide to just chill at home and binge on your favorite Netflix show. You’re mid-episode and Sam calls and says their plans were cancelled for the day. They want to see if you are free to hang… this is a toxic friendship.
When someone cares about you, they will make time for you. It doesn’t matter if they are busy, they will set aside a slot in their oh-so-busy schedule to see you. Even if it’s just for an hour or two. Yes they have a job, a significant other, family, other friends, etc. Cool, so do you. But you care enough about this person to make time for them. So they should do the same for you. People will always make time for the things that are important to them. You say, “But sometimes people just have a lot to do. It can’t always be about me. Isn’t that a little over-sensitive or self-centered?” NO! It’s not self-centered to expect your friend to make time for you. They can obviously make time for everyone and everything else. Why not you? You ask, “They called when their other friends fell through on their plans, so doesn’t that count?” NO! It doesn’t. You are not a backup plan. You are not a sidekick. You are not a last resort. You are a human being with flowing blood and a beating heart. You are someone’s priority, not a fallback guy/gal. You have to know that and make it known to others in the BEGINNING of the friendship (obviously… you can’t go back to the beginning of this friendship. But for future reference…) If you allow your friend to treat you a certain way for the first few months of the friendship, you can’t then expect them to treat you differently later because they magically realized they are a terrible friend. No. People treat you how you allow them to treat you. If you don’t set a standard that you are a priority, then they won’t treat you like one. If you have a friend that puts you last all the time and you put them first… this is a toxic friendship.
- You can tell that your friend doesn’t really enjoy your company and they are just checking the “hang out with ____” box off of their list of weekly chores.
Your friend is over and you guys are watching TV, but they are looking out of the window or daydreaming. You try to start a conversation with them but they sit there with their hands folded or their arms crossed and their foot is bouncing up and down while they give you one-word answers. Or they are on their phone the whole time texting, surfing the web, or scrolling through social media. Obviously, this person doesn’t want to be there. They hang out with you to be able to say that they hung out with you, so when they come to you to vent they feel justified because they “spend time with you on a weekly basis”. Uh… absolutely not. Do not allow someone to be in your presence if they don’t really want to be! You don’t need someone to hang out with you if it’s a chore to them! You say, “but something is better than nothing right?” NO! Something is not better than nothing. Accepting less is degrading to yourself. It’s basically saying “well I’m not worth prime time, so even if my friend hangs out with me and doesn’t really want to, at least I get to see them.” You are worth MORE! That’s why it’s called QUALITY time, not quantity time. If you look over at your friend while you’re hanging out and they are staring off into space and not interacting with you at all… this is a toxic friendship.
- When you are in a group setting, your friend ignores you.
You hang out with a group of mutual friends and you try to sit next to your friend, but they leave a seat between you for one of your other friends. They avoid making eye contact with you. You remember something funny that happened and you try to joke with them about it, but they blow you off and act like they can’t hear you. They make it a point to play on a different team when you guys go over to play pool. This is not ok! Your friend should be your friend all the time! In front of people, in private, whatever the setting! What’s that you say? “Maybe they are just trying to divide their time equally. That’s ok right?” NO! There is a huge difference between trying to include everyone in the conversation vs. just straight up avoiding you like the plague. Your friend should not paint you out to be the “needy” one when you are with other people. Especially if they are constantly running to you for advice. When you start wondering if you are being too clingy, or if you constantly have to “check” yourself for over-neediness, then there’s a problem. Things should happen organically. You shouldn’t have to be worried about walking up to your friend or spend a ton of time assessing if they’re going to receive you or blow you off. If they act embarrassed of you or act like they don’t want to be bothered when other people are around… this is a toxic friendship.
- Your friend can never own up to the hurtful things they do.
Your friend hurt your feelings. Whether it was a small thing, a big thing, or whatever. If you go to your friend and tell them “You did this and it really hurt me”, and they come up with 3 things you did last week that they didn’t like, not good. That is a cop out. If you really did 3 things last week, they should have said something last week. If it mattered that much, they would have said something. Real friends don’t keep score. Real friends don’t hold on to their hurt feelings in order to use it as ammunition to get them out of something they did to you. Real friends don’t minimize your feelings and say “it wasn’t a big deal”. Friends don’t make you feel like you are being dramatic. If your friend stands you up or flakes consistently on plans and you bring it to their attention, the correct response would be “Oh my gosh. I didn’t even realize I was doing that. I’m sorry. I’ll really try to make sure I stick with our plans when we make them.” The wrong response would be… “I can’t be friends with you if you are going to make me feel bad about myself. I feel like I have to tiptoe around you because every little thing hurts your feelings.” NO! That is not a real friend! A real friend acknowledges the hurtful behavior whether they meant to hurt you or not. They did. So your feelings are valid and if they really care, they will try to correct the behavior. And you will see it not only in their words, but in their ACTIONS! You know that quote, “actions speak louder than words”? AMEN TO THAT! A real friend will change their hurtful behavior. If they don’t… run! This is a toxic friendship.
Ok… so you’re thinking “OH MY GOSHHHHHH!!! I’M IN A TOXIC FRIENDSHIP!! My friend (not-friend) does at least one of these things all the time! What do I do?” Here are some suggestions…
Evaluate the friendship. Make a list of all of the things you get from the friendship and all of the things you give in the friendship. If your “give” list is three times as long as your “get” list, think about whether it’s a friendship even worth keeping. Ask yourself “what will I be missing out on if I don’t have this person in my life?” If your answer is “a clubbing partner… a drinking buddy… a shopping cohort… etc.”, well you can do those things with someone else. So no loss there. If your answer is “someone to give me advice when I need it… someone who will hang out with me when I really need someone… someone who consistently initiates communication with me and asks how I’m doing or starts conversations about life stuff…”, then this may be a friendship worth keeping because they are adding something positive to your life. If your answer is “hurt… rejection… the feeling that I am not of value… someone who annoys me… someone who keeps hurting me… crying… arguing… make-ups and break-ups that give me whiplash”, then RUN AWAY. Hit the deck. Throw down your trump card. Cut your losses. Take the “W” disguised as an “L” and KEEP. IT. MOVING. You don’t need this person.
- If you’ve made it through your evaluation and say “This is a friend worth keeping”, great. The next step is to address the issues with your friend. If they are as valuable as you say, they will really put forth the effort to talk it through and fix the problem. If they act like they don’t care, then repeat the evaluation step of this section.
- Try to spend time with other friends. You can’t expect one person to be everything for you. One person can’t bare the weight of someone’s happiness. No one should be defining your happiness except you. Maybe this friend should be categorized as a “surface friend”, meaning someone to go out with but not your go-to person for emotional help. Or maybe the opposite. Make sure you are dividing up your time with other people so you aren’t putting too much pressure on one.
- If your emotional needs go deeper than just normal life happenings, seek therapy. Getting therapy doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong! Accepting that you need help is one of the strongest things you can do. It’s a brave move on your part. Once you get into a more satisfactory and stable place in your life, re-evaluate this blog post and see if you’ve noticed a change in how you view your friend.
- Observe whether or not this friend treats all of their friends this way. It may not be just you. Maybe this is just who they are. Maybe they don’t have the emotional capacity to be a supportive friend. If that’s the case, you need to determine whether you can live with that or not. If you choose to accept this about them, then you must adjust your expectations.
- Think about whether or not you notice a pattern with the type of friends you attract. If you have several friends that do one or more of the above 5 things regularly, you need to pay closer attention to the types of people you are surrounding yourself with. Now that you know the signs, avoid people who exhibit them. Your heart will thank you.
- Make sure YOU are not toxic!! It’s easy to say “they did this” or “they did that”. That may be the case. Just make sure you aren’t doing the same things. Are you there for your friend when they need you? Do you follow through with promises and plans? Do you treat them like a friend around people and in private? Do you accept when you are wrong? Do you own up to your mistakes? Do you make an effort to see them and talk to them? Do you ask them how they are doing? Are you a source of comfort when they need it?
I hope this blog helps! Some things to remember… you are worth it. You are important. You are a priority. You deserve a real friendship with your friends. You are NOT a last resort. You are NOT a backup plan. Your feelings are valid and you should voice them. You are to be respected and valued. Above all… love yourself enough to walk away from a situation that isn’t healthy for you. It will be ok, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. DON’T ACCEPT LESS WHEN YOU CAN HAVE THE BEST!!
Peace and love always,
www.justaskblaire.com – IG: @justaskblaire – firstname.lastname@example.org