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How to Spot Toxic Friendships

Do you remember back  in grade school when you were on the playground with your classmates and you were mingling about trying to get to know the other kids? Those were the simple times. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself in some difficult situations with people who I later realized were toxic friends. Here are five ways to know if you are in a toxic friendship:

  1. 1. Not Valuing Time 

    pile of overlapping antique clocks of different sizes

    I live on the quote from Julian Michaels where she says, “There are only 24 hours in the day, and I have 48 hours worth of stuff to do.” My time is valuable and I like to make plans with those who I value the most and truly want to make time for. I also understand that we all have priorities, so I value my friends’ time as well. If we make plans to have lunch and you are anywhere but at lunch, are you valuing our time? Not in my mind. Why make  plans if you weren’t committed to showing up? I had a friend a few years ago that agreed to meet up for lunch between classes and she was on her phone the whole time while we were talking and would get up and leave without any explanation. If that time did not work for her, then we could have planned for a different time; time is very valuable in a friendship and both parties must feel like valued human beings during the time spent together.

  2. 2. Broken Trust 

    You should be able to trust anyone you call a friend. If you tell your friend something in confidence and then a mutual friend comes up to you and asks you about it, wouldn’t you feel betrayed? That is one of the reasons why I am selective about who I am transparent with. I like to call my selectivity the three stages of friendship and trust: Acquaintances, Friends and Best Friends. Acquaintances are people who you can speak to and have an awkward, free conversation with, but still someone you wouldn’t disclose personal information to. Friends are those that you can share some personal stories with but not your deepest darkest secrets, although you feel like you can still peel back a layer of that onion of trust. And then best friends are friends that you can be completely transparent with and there is nothing that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing. I have all of the layers of the onion of trust up to protect myself because of people in the past who have taken my words, twisted them, and then told everyone we knew to make sure that no one liked me and thought I was a horrible person. 

  3. 3. Abandonment at Critical Times 

    Girl lying on bed alone

    I like to think of myself as a loyal friend. I try to lead with kindness, love, and compassion around everyone I meet. If my friend is going through a breakup, I’m the person to be there for them with the tissues, junk food, and a shoulder to cry on. However, there are a few people that I was once friends with that I would be there for and the second I needed a shoulder to cry on, they were nowhere to be found. People have told me when you are going through something really hard that is when the real friends show up. It took me going through something horrible with my family for me to see who my real friends are. I learned quickly that the kindness, love, and compassion that I show others will never be reciprocated by toxic people. It is a one-way street in those types of friendships.  

  4. 4. No Respect for Boundaries

    There’s a difference between a friend asking for something and a friend demanding something. When a friend texts you asking for advice on a boy and you answer, that is fine. If a friend hits you up and asks for money after ghosting you for six months, that is not fine. If a friend calls you and says her grandfather just passed away and she needs someone to talk to and you have the time, that’s fine. If your friend demands that you help her with something and you don’t have the resources or knowledge and she keeps on asking, that is not fine. There are boundaries in friendships as well as times when you can be there for your friend and those when you can’t. When those boundaries are crossed the friendship becomes uncomfortable and toxic. 

  5. 5. No Communication 

    Hands holding phone

    Part of any relationship, whether it be with family, a significant other or a  friend, is clear and effective communication. This final point ties into all of the other ones previously stated in this article. If something isn’t working out in your schedule, don’t force a lunch with your friend, express that you are busy, and plan for another day. If you are going to lie to your friend and manipulate them into believing they can trust you with something personal but have an  ulterior motive, then don’t be that person’s confidant. If you are not available to be a friend at the moment in which your friend needs you, make that clear but also let them know when you are available. A real friend would be understanding of your circumstances and appreciate your consideration and kindness. If a friend disowns you because of any of these reasons, then they weren’t your friend to begin with. I hope this helps you spot a toxic friend from a real one.