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Many of us have, or have had, that friend we’re in a relationship with who seems to suck all of the energy out of us. This person consistently takes more than she gives and when she does give, it’s not necessarily something we want to receive. She may be judgmental, self-involved, unpredictable, or a draining combination of all of the above.
There’s a difference between growing apart from a friend because life has taken you in different directions and leaving a friendship because it feels unhealthy and toxic.
Here are six signs that you may be in a toxic friendship and it’s time to move on:
1. You Avoid Sharing Good News
Friends celebrate each other’s happy life moments. If you find you’re generally uncomfortable to speak about your job promotion, relationship status or share other good news updates, take note. Chances are, you’re involved in a friendship with someone who is competitive or jealous of your success.
Katherine Moss, a licensed clinical social worker says, “Certainly there are things we want to keep private or just to ourselves; but we want to trust that we can confide in friends with any news—good or bad.”
When we don’t have this level of open communication and trust, or don’t believe our friend is rooting for us to succeed, the relationship will suffer.
2. She Brings Out Your Worst
The easiest litmus test to see if you’re in a good relationship with someone is to ask yourself, “Does this person bring out my best?”
If you’re usually a balanced and patient person, but this friend causes you to constantly lose your cool or think mean-spirited thoughts about her, pay attention. Toxic people have the tendency to make us feel as unstable as they are.
According to Moss, “When people have conscious or unconscious emotions that are hard for them to manage, they can project them onto other people. Even if it’s not intentional, it can be really hard.” She adds, “Just like you want them to expect the best from you, your friends deserve you to have high expectations for them.”
When you know your friend is bringing out your worst, it may be best for both parties to move on.
3. You’re Walking on Eggshells
With this friend, you’re so used to walking on eggshells that you’ve grown accustomed to not sharing your opinion or communicating honestly for fear that she’ll bite your head off. Sometimes, this is a sign that the person you’re in a relationship with has a personality disorder, which can only be determined by a licensed clinician.
Even if the person does have a personality disorder, Moss says that it doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with them; but it does require being aware of boundaries. “We need to be really firm and aware of our limits and make sure we’re not doing a disservice to ourselves in trying to be a good friend,” Moss explains. “We need to maintain the same limits and boundaries that we have with anyone else. Ultimately, we shouldn’t expect less from a friend because they’re difficult or have a personality disorder.”
Douglass Menin, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at CUNY Hunter College, says that before you cut off a friend for being reactive or emotional, you may want to check in with yourself and consider these questions: “Has my friend reacted badly multiple times? Have I said everything I need to say about this and have I been open and honest about my concern?” And finally, “How meaningful is this relationship? What am I gaining and what am I losing by leaving it?”
4. You Feel Judged or Shut Down
If your friend constantly puts you down for your decisions or challenges you in an effort to make you more like herself, instead of listening to what you want or need, she’s not respecting your values.
Mennin says, “We know that judgment is toxic. It’s one thing to express an opinion and another thing to close off the presence of someone else’s opinion. You can have two opinions that oppose each other that can both be present and be heard.” In a relationship, there needs to be room for both parties to express themselves.
Moss adds that in a healthy friendship, judgments need to be framed as questions rather than as assumptions. She says, “In a healthy friendship, you know you can dialogue about something you disagree with.”
5. They Pressure You to Be as Unhealthy as They Are
Toxic people love having partners in crime, so they don’t feel as bad about their bad behavior. When you have friends who drag you into dangerous situations or try to convince you to overlook your good judgment, this is an unhealthy pattern.
According to Mennin, this isn’t uncommon among people with toxic behavior. “Oftentimes these types of toxic behaviors are driven by people wanting to gain something (approval, acceptance, an outcome) and by closing off other perspectives, this makes their desired outcome more likely for them.”
Moss says that when your friend tries to drag you into doing something that isn’t good for you, it’s really about the other person’s uncertainty and needs. “If your friend felt secure about it, she wouldn’t work so hard in enlisting a compatriot.”
6. There’s No Trust
Without trust, a relationship is on shaky foundation. If you feel worried to bring this person around other friends or family because you don’t trust that she’ll treat them with respect or that she’ll embarrass you, or if you don’t confide in your friend since you don’t think she can keep your updates confidential, you’re involved in an unhealthy dynamic.
Whether your friend is hurting you intentionally or not, this relationship is on the rocks. A healthy friendship has trust, respect, and consistency. Without these elements, a relationship can’t easily survive.
Just because we once sought someone out as a friend, it doesn’t mean that we made a life-long commitment without any strings attached. Friendship requires a genuine desire to be there and the work to sustain it. It’s a relationship we choose, after all. If we generally avoid or resent our friend, we’re better off moving on since in this case, we’re not acting very friendlike, either.
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