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Signs You Should End a Toxic Friendship

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

As a graduating senior, I wanted to give advice on how to deal with friendships, especially as a college student. I wanted to emphasize how friendships in college are definitely a different transition compared to your K-12 school years. Personally, I came from a small town where everyone in my elementary school, middle school, and high school all knew each other. 

Even if they did not know each other personally, they still heard things about each other from connections or even connections of connections. Based on my personal experience and advice from professionals, I wanted to share some advice to struggling college students out there. I especially wanted to write this article because I understand that UCD is such a big campus that it is definitely a different experience for people that came from smaller towns.

I will explain some of the major key points that people should definitely focus on.

All people mentioned in the article are anonymous for safety concerns. This article is purely focused on growing as a person and about transparent friendship advice.

1: Do you feel emotionally and physically drained after hanging out with this person?

Personally, for me, I felt drained when I had a toxic best friend that continuously talked only about herself and complained about everyone and everything else around her. Sometimes, I felt like I was being her marriage and family therapist (MFT) without actually being licensed! I think the issue is not just trauma dumping here, but the fact that extremely negative people are always quick to blame other people for everything. I felt like my appearance, plans after graduation, personal preferences, personality, and hobbies were all being judged and criticized by the former friend. At some point, I felt like I became a people pleaser who had to adhere to someone else’s preferences. If you cannot be yourself around this person, I recommend that you cleanly cut off the friendship. 

When we went through a tough class together, I was there to support her all the time. I don’t think this is the issue, but the fact that I was at her beck and call to help her complete her assignments, other documents about conflicts, and listen to her complaining about a particular person 24/7 made things very difficult for me. I felt like I, as a person, could not grow from the past and become more focused on the future. Whenever she talked about that particular person, I ended up talking about them a lot as well with her.

Even if she said that she would have helped me complete the assignment, she made me feel drained when we scheduled an assignment hangout on Zoom. She was talking to another guy at the gym and seemed to lose focus in connecting with her friend and continuing the assignment. I stayed 8 hours on a Zoom call with her the next day to help her complete the assignment because she was worried about the fact that she was sick. I still did not feel appreciated later on when she called me transactional for mentioning this.

Tess Brigham, MFT, states, “If I encounter a friend who is always down, who blames other people for their circumstances, who can’t seem to see the silver lining or lesson in anything, and when I hang up the phone or get in my car I feel emotionally and mentally depleted — this isn’t someone I want to continue to spend time with in the future.”

Source: The Broadview

2: Do they respect others’ privacy and quiet time? 

According to Calm, this means that the friend will “often disregard and cross these boundaries, whether they relate to your time, space, or other limits you’ve set for your wellbeing.” I dealt with this situation when the friend got upset that I cropped out my parents from the photos they took, when in reality, privacy should be respected. I still kept her and I in the photo, hence why I did not think it should be considered such a big deal. 

For instance, another issue was when someone I knew was studying for three finals the next day, but she kept on loudly commenting and laughing at her dramas that she was watching on-campus at some point. I think this shows a lack of respect and care for other peoples’ circumstances as well. Unless it was her going through something, she would think everything else happening to others was not much of a big deal. When the person studying for the three finals asked her if she could be quieter, she said that this person was being rude. Then, she told me that this person should have studied at the 4th floor of the library instead. Although this is an option, I was still disappointed overall. Since she lives closer to a certain location, she also kept on asking me to meet up there, even if it is much further from my residence area. 

3: Do they drain your finances, then blame you for being transactional? 

She kept asking me if she could use my swipes multiple times from the dining halls. I swiped meals for her four times total. Until I told her that I had to save up money for graduate school multiple times, she finally agreed to ask the ASUCD pantry for free swipes. When she had met my parents, she had also spent a lot of money on food by ordering a lot of expensive items. I think the issue was that she told me I was transactional for mentioning this.

The issue about her mentioning this was that friendships still do need to have aspects of giving and receiving. According to clinical psychologist Aundrea Paxton, “The fact of the matter is that if you don’t have both giving and receiving in a friendship is not a friendship”. 

She claimed that her criticizing me was her watching out for me as a good friend, when in reality, she was putting me down. I did not like her complaining that I was a slow walker or that I sprinted to class ahead of her when I was about to be late to class. In fact, she failed to mention the little details, such as the fact that I had asked her to sprint with me to class and looked back to check if she would make it on time. According to WebMD, “If they can’t let go of something wrong you did in the past, that could be a red flag.”

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Source: Good Info Net

4: Did other close people in your life warn you about that toxic friend?

Someone that has been close to me for some time warned me about her. They said that this person did not only seem unapproachable, but did not kindly greet her the first time they met. I remember continually becoming defensive about her, saying that she was probably just not in a good mood because of the bad class that we previously had together. However, when I explained other issues I had with clear communication, feeling used, or dealing with emotional burden, other people warned me about cutting her off. 

When the toxic friend started to talk about loving my ethnicity’s culture (Korean) a lot, my body type, and talked about her other friend’s body type, I started feeling uncomfortable. This felt more like fetishization and like she was sharing information about a person. It was even worse how her friend and I did not even personally know each other. When I told other people about this incident, they told me that this was a red flag that she would gossip about other people behind their back.


Source: The Silvertip

5: Do they seem threatened by your success? 

When I mentioned getting into graduate school, I genuinely thought she was happy for me at first. She congratulated me and told me that I was driven by academics. However, this quarter, I noticed different changes. She told me that I should not attend graduate school and that I should prioritize getting a partner. She continued to say that I will probably not have a partner by the time I am in my 30’s because of my academic motives and will probably go on a ton of dating apps by then. I think that saying this was disrespectful, considering how this makes me feel unappreciated for having a different lifestyle than her. 

According to Calm, “In healthy friendships, achievements and successes are met with celebration and happiness. If your friend often reacts to your good news with jealousy, indifference, or annoyance, it reflects a lack of support.”

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Source: Bored Panda

6: Do they lack clear communication and blindside you frequently?

I noticed that her messaging and her enthusiasm towards me had diminished, but I did not expect her to talk about how she was not satisfied with our friendship without communicating with me about this beforehand. I felt blindsided because without warning, she told me that she was dissatisfied with our friendship because of the picture privacy issue with my parents. Even if I explained to her about the two party consent law with the media in California, she did not seem to care. She told me that I knew that she loved taking pictures and posting everything on social media for other people to see. 

Another issue was that whenever we were hanging out, she seemed to spend more time talking about gossip or about drama with other men. I didn’t think that this was an issue until she started to attack my personality and told me to change all of my behaviors for her to consider being a closer friend to her again. According to Calm, this is a sign of a lack of empathy. “They might dismiss your emotions, downplay your problems, or react indifferently when you share something important.” Another issue was that even when I was quietly crying at some point from feeling attacked by her words, she continued to talk to another male student on-campus. I had told her that I needed time to process everything and that I wanted to make our friendship work. It was as if our friendship did not have much value anymore, now that I did not have much use for her. 

She also told me that our friendship was moving too fast, when in reality, she had communicated the wrong signs to me. On Picnic Day, she had spontaneously asked me to meet her mother. I was okay with that and got along with her mother, hence why I had been excited to have her meet my parents. They were also okay with meeting her. However, after the picture privacy incident, she blamed this on my parents’ different culture and said we were less open than her culture. She also thought of the meeting as a private family gathering, even if it was not the case. To some degree, this may be true. However, I think most people agree that they want to take some time to get to know other people before they consent to having their faces posted on others’ social media. This depends on the person, of course, but having empathy for different viewpoints is important.

I tried understanding this, hence why I apologized about not warning her about my family’s idea of privacy in photos beforehand. However, asking me to change all my “bad” behaviors and blaming me for a lot of things still made me feel like I was being gaslighted. 

I think another issue was when she told me several times without warning that her 33-year old cousin expressed interest in me, even if he already had a fiance. This gave me the complete ick. This occurred after she posted photos of her and I together on social media, even though I had not given permission for all of them to be posted. I had only consented to having one video posted once. I told her to tell him that I was uncomfortable and that I wanted her to tell him that I was rejecting him, yet she told me that it wasn’t “that big of a deal. 

All of these types of incidents explain the concept of manipulation. According to Calm, “Manipulation in toxic friendships can involve one person using emotional blackmail, guilt trips, or deceit to influence your decisions and actions. This manipulation is usually for their benefit and at the expense of your own needs and wellbeing.”

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Source: Wix and Genius Quotes

These are all of the tips that I have about friendship breakups! Thanks for reading!

Hi everyone! My name is Lauren, and I am a native of NorCal. I am a fourth year Human Development major and Public Health Sciences minor. My interests are: trying new foods, trying different types of workouts and wellness routines, discovering new books/movies/tv shows, getting to know new people, and volunteering for nonprofit organizations. I enjoy doing things that allow me to explore something I haven't tried before and express my creativity, as life is an adventure to explore and broaden your horizons. I chose to join HerCampus in the UCD chapter in Winter Quarter 2024. This was because a friend from SJSU told me that this organization has positively changed her outlook on life. I also want to get involved in more organizations that empower women and allow them to have a strong voice. The most favorite thing for me to do is write content about important news, which is why I chose to join HerCampus. I am excited to meet everyone, both within and outside of my chapter!