Friends are one of life’s greatest gifts. Not much is better than pure laughter on the bedroom floor with your bestie who gets you better than anyone else, knowing you have someone you can vent about your crazy family to, or being the shoulder for them to cry on then cheer up when the time is right. However, not every single friendship in this life is going to be a healthy one. What are some signs you should watch out for to protect yourself from a toxic friendship?
1. You Can’t Win with Them
It seems like you’re always walking on eggshells around this person. They’re disappointed in how you communicate, they become upset if you don’t say something the exact right way, and they don’t own up when they’ve made a mistake. If you’ve done something to upset them, it feels like you’re living in a state of sorrow until they finally let you back in. If they do that same thing that hurt their feelings to you, it’s somehow your fault in the end. While holding those close to a higher standard and expecting their best self from them, a toxic friend will make you feel like you’re incapable of ever meeting their high expectations. They’ll make you feel like you’re the one who’s lucky to be in their life, instead of a give and take. You try to meet their standards but it feels like a lost cause. Watch out for the friend who doesn’t seem to think you’re ever enough.
2. Your Success is Their Competition
When your friend gets promoted, your natural response should be “Yes! I’m not surprised, you deserve this and work so hard. Let’s celebrate!” There are no ifs, ands or buts. If your friend is succeeding, you’re cheering them on. If it feels like every time you share good news with your friend and they make you feel small or minimize the win, then you may have a toxic friend. Toxic friends always want to have the upper hand in a relationship. If you do well, they want to do better. Or, they make you feel guilty for doing well or non-deserving of this win. By that same logic, if you aren’t doing well, they are somehow also doing worse. Everything feels like a competition with this person, and as we talked about earlier; you can’t win either way.
3. They Don’t Like Your Other Friends
Be careful of the friend who always seems to have something negative to say about your other friends. Chances are, they’re trying to isolate you. This friend might even go so far as to seem to chip away at your relationships; romantic and platonic alike. There’s a difference between a friend offering support, a listening ear or jumping into protective mode and a friend who carefully takes uncalled for jabs at your other friends over time. This type of friend is really good at altering your perception of others. If you realize that you now see your other friends’ flaws clear as day and you’ve gotten to a point where it’s interfering with your relationship with them, it may be because your toxic friend has put seeds of doubt into your head. When you started this friendship, you had several friends yet over time, it now feels like this particular friend is the only one you can turn to. At the same time, they seem to have a lot of friends and all of their friends are amazing. This person is doing this because they want you to themselves; they also want to establish dominance in the relationship. You begin to only rely on them, and feel like you could lose them at any second because they have so many other good friendships, why would yours matter to them?
4. They’re Possessive
This sign relates to the previous sign. Be very wary of the possessive friend. It feels good at first to have a friend who seems so dedicated and who puts forth so much effort into your relationship, but ultimately this friend simply wants to control you. As women, we are very quick to point out when significant others are taking part in controlling and possessive behavior; we aren’t so quick to call out our friends doing the same. We excuse their behavior for love when really it’s not about love at all. A possessive friend takes the beauty of friendship and turns it into a power dynamic. Anyone who is possessive over another person does not have that person’s best interest at heart. It is all about control. This friend likes to be the one in control, and they will grow meaner the more independent and less easy to control you become.
5. Highs are High; Lows are Low
Just like a toxic romantic relationship, a toxic friendship will have high highs and low lows. This means that when things are good with this person, they are sky-high. This friend showers you with love and affection. They make you feel like the queen you are. Then, just as quickly as they decided you are the world’s greatest gift, something snaps and things turn sour. They mock you for your flaws, they point out your failures, they make you feel like you’re a bad person. They do this slyly, sometimes even claiming “It’s just a joke, lighten up!” and pinning it back on you, “You know I’m like this.” But wait, just a second ago they planned a surprise birthday party for you and did so much for it! This person gives you the world so they can show you how quickly they can take it away. This is the ultimate clue that you are in a toxic friendship. These highs and lows happen because of the power dynamic mentioned before. To have the upper hand in this friendship, a toxic friend will make sure they’re the ones in control of how harmonious the union is, just to have a power trip.
All relationships require a level of work and patience. If your friendship turns into a power dynamic about fear of being judged, wrong or always messing up, you may have a toxic friend. Always remember that friendships should make you feel good 99% of the time. A toxic friendship is never worth it.