The most wonderful thing about friendship is that we get to choose it.
It isn’t like family—if there’s a member we don’t particularly like, we feel as if we’re stuck with them.
Friendship is a choice that two people make, so it’s important to make sure we are choosing the right people.
If a friendship is toxic, there is no reason we should continue it. Friends are supposed to add value to our life, not the opposite.
When I use the word “toxic,” I do not refer to a person being like this. I state that the combination of the two of you together may be a toxic one. Not to say these people can’t and don’t have healthy friendships with others. We just need to be compatible with our friends just as we do in a romantic relationship, albeit in a different manner.
I have created a list, which, through experience, determines what I have deemed toxic traits in a friendship.
I want to preface this list by saying that I am not referring to these things being once in a while occurrences—I am referring to them being common practice. Of course, circumstance may leave us giving more and taking more during certain times in our life, but I am talking about the majority of the time.
In my own experience, here are five signs of a toxic friendship:
1. They are never happy for you.
This one is huge. If our friend is not showing genuine happiness when something good happens in our life, that is a red flag. My most personal, recent example is the blog I have created for myself. I shared it with a handful of friends, and most of them were extremely supportive, encouraging, and genuinely excited for me.
Not only that, but these people read my entries and sent heartfelt responses to me. They took the time to show they cared. I didn’t expect that level of praise, but I received it. Those are my people. On the other hand, someone may not have received the information in the same way. Maybe they dismissed it, but that tells me a lot.
Friends should support one another and encourage the other in all aspects of life.
2. They leave you feeling bad about yourself.
I am sure we all have had a friend who just leaves us feeling a little bad every time we see them. Maybe we felt judged, insecure, or generally uneasy about the encounter. This is a no-brainer, but I held onto friendships for years despite feeling this way.
A friend should always leave us feeling better. Of course, we can disagree, and we should, but are we walking away feeling enriched or are we leaving feeling undervalued?
3. Constant complaining.
What are friends for if they don’t listen to us venting about our fighting kids, our lack of sleep, or our husband’s socks laying around? Of course, this is a normal part of friendship, and I think it makes it stronger.
However, if we find that this person is constantly complaining to us and bringing us down with their never-ending drama or problems, we have become more of a therapist than a friend.
Constant negativity can affect our own happiness, and it’s not good for our mental health.
4. They do not treat you equally.
Every friend I mentioned above regarding their response to my new blog would have received the same support from me. If we find that we are always doing more for a friend than they are for us, it isn’t an even playing field. Much like marriage, friendship is about give-and-take.
For example, maybe we are always doing something special for their birthday, and the effort isn’t reciprocated. I am not referring to things with monetary value here, I am referring to acts of kindness. We should feel that our friendship has equal value most of the time.
5. They do not understand you.
Our friends do not need to share the same religious beliefs, family values, or parenting styles with us as they should within a marriage; however, they do need to understand us.
For example, I hate talking on the phone. I truly loathe it, and I am vocal about it. My close friends know not to call me (of course an emergency being the exception), so if someone is constantly doing so, they obviously don’t understand me.
Another example would be if a friend knows we hate the news and constantly bombards us with news stories. I mention this example because I’ve been guilty of doing it during COVID-19 to my closest friend. She hates reading the news, and I had to stop and realize what I was doing.
We all make mistakes in relationships, but as long as we acknowledge them and learn from them, it’s healthy and normal. I made a mistake, and without her even having to tell me, I realized what I was doing and stopped because I understood her.
Lack of understanding in friendship can be seen and felt as a lack of respect for the other person. So it’s important to do our best to understand them. This takes time, as we have to know the person well.
At the end of the day, life is too short to keep friendships with people we don’t truly enjoy having in our life. We have the right to respectfully break up and move on.