With the ups and downs of life a year into a pandemic, I’ve recently been reflecting on my friendships. While it seems that we should have more time during the pandemic, I think most people would agree that we actually have less time. With what seems like endless zoom calls and on-again off-again county-wide lockdowns, I have begun to realize that with the stress of everything else going on in life, there are certain people whose names appearing on my phone give me anxiety. While talking with a few of my friends, I have realized the true root of the problem: regardless of the fact that I’d known some of these friends for years, they knew almost nothing about me. When we spoke, I realized that they had made assumptions about my choices and me. Talking it out was enough to at least temporarily alleviate my concerns with these friends, but some friendships might be so mentally draining and constantly bring you down instead of building you up.
When I think about toxic relationships and red flags, I typically think of romantic relationships, but they are just as common in friendships. We might not even think of friend “breakups” as commonly as we think of romantic breakups. Since these red flags are so difficult to spot or we make justifications for our friends, I have compiled a list of common red flags to look out for if you’re afraid your friendship is more negative than positive:
- You make excuses for them
If everyone around you knows that friend for their bad behavior and you constantly feel the need to justify their actions, it’s toxic. You might not notice it right away, but the next time you introduce a new friend to your old friend, it might be something to consider if your new friend points out that your old friend ignored or interrupted her.
- You dread checking your phone
Honestly, we all check our phones and keep it within arms reach at all hours of the day. With technology and the pandemic, it’s much easier and much more important to keep in touch with your friends for better or for worse. You can tell it is “for worse” when you pick up your phone, see their text and a pit enters your stomach. A good friend’s messages shouldn’t make you anxious, so if it worries you, you should probably take a closer look at why.
- You can’t trust them
Friendships are built on trust. If you can’t rely on your friends, why have them? If your friends don’t have your best interests in mind, it might be that something in your friendship isn’t working. If a friend is constantly flaking on you or breaking promises, it would be hard to maintain the same level of affection and truly keep your friendship going.
- You’re constantly in competition with them
If you try to tell a friend about something you’re excited about but they either don’t listen or try to do you one better by bragging about their own successes, it could be a sign that they aren’t truly there for you. The same applies for when you’re feeling down. A true friend would celebrate your successes and support you through your troubles. You should be able to lean on your friends through your struggles and celebrate your successes with them, so if your friend can’t celebrate and support you, it might not be a particularly close friendship.
- You don’t like who you are around them
Toxicity tends to spread, so if you notice that a certain person brings out behaviors that you aren’t proud of or if you notice that they make you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, it might be a toxic friendship. Whether you’re drinking too much, spreading rumors or being passive-aggressive, it might be worthwhile to consider who you want to be and whether or not that friendship fits.
- You don’t know why you’re friends with them
If you used to be besties, but you now feel like you’re on two different planets, it might be the end. Having history is not reason enough to commit to a future with anyone. As much as you may wish you can go backwards to when your relationship was good, you may not be able to and might have to move forward on your own.
This of course isn’t an exhaustive list of red flags and even if your friendship fits some of these traits, it might not be enough to end the relationship. You might be able to talk to them about your feelings and see if they can work towards making you feel more valued. However, if they hit too many points on this list or make you feel unhappy, unheard or insane, it could be time to let them go. Ultimately, you need to do what’s best for you and if you aren’t being treated right, you deserve a better friend and a happy life.