Dealing With Toxic Friendships

Friends are there for you in your darkest moments. They help support you throughout life and keep you company when you most need it. However, like romantic relationships, friendships can take a toxic turn. Sometimes, it can be difficult to spot when a friendship has taken a turn for the worst; other times it’s obvious, but we act as though we don’t notice these signs because we want the friendship to last. 

This, however, is not always the ideal case. While we don’t want to admit it, there are times where we have to cut out even the closest of friends for our mental health and safety. Dealing with a toxic friendship for the first time can be a bit tricky, and you might be uncertain as to what you should do. Not everyone deals with a situation the same way, after all. 

In this article, I wanted to highlight a few telltale signs of toxic friendships, as well as provide tips on how to deal with them. It’s important to recognize when your friendship has turned sour for your wellbeing and safety, and so you do not waste time trying to fix something that is damaged beyond repair.

So, then, what exactly are the signs of a toxic friendship? There are many, but here are the most common.

One sign of a toxic friendship is when they constantly put you down. If you have a friend who is always making fun of your insecurities, outright insulting you, or saying anything that makes you uncomfortable, and you’ve made them aware of this, then they clearly don’t respect your boundaries. While light teasing and joking around is common in friendships, outright bullying is never okay. 

Another sign is when you call out a friend for their toxic behavior and have to force an apology out of them. A true friend would recognize when they have upset you, sincerely apologize and vow to never do it again. What’s even worse is when a friend repeats the action they were supposedly “sorry” for in the first place. This is a major red flag for any relationship; friendships are no exception. 

A friend who is demanding of your time is another red flag. While friendship is a two-way street, it is important to realize that friends cannot be there for each other twenty-four seven. If your friend is borderline obsessive and doesn’t respect the fact that you’re busy when you tell them, that is a major problem. What’s even more of a problem is when they blow up at you for not immediately attending to their needs. A true friend would respect you when you’re busy and patiently wait for you to get back to them. 

In my opinion, though, the biggest sign of a toxic friend is when they become jealous of your other friends. They’ll feel as though they’re “being replaced” when you spend time away from them, and will demand more of your time. They’ll even try and convince you the people that you hang out with are bad and that they’re the only person you can trust. 

Once you recognize the signs of a toxic friendship, you will wonder what you should do next. You may want to try and mend the relationship, or end it altogether. It’s important to weigh your options before choosing the road that best fits, but if you don’t know which choice to make yet, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

First off, if you feel safe and comfortable doing so, voicing your concerns to your friend may be ideal. Your friend’s reaction can help give you an idea as to which route you should take. If they understand your concerns, you two can likely work out the issues in your friendship. If they disregard your words, however, it’s probably best to cut them out. 

Another tip is to keep distance from your friend for a while to sort out your feelings. Take note of how you feel when you’re not around your friend – do you feel safer and happier?  If you find yourself in better spirits while away from them, this may be a sign that you need to cut the friendship. 

If you’re absolutely uncertain as to what you should do next, getting advice from an outside point of view can be helpful. This can be a family member, another friend, or a trusted adult on campus (such as someone from the Counseling Center). These people more than likely have been in the same situation as you and may be able to help you out. 

At the end of the day, though, the choice is yours. I (as well as anyone else) could give you all the advice in the world, but no one knows the situation better than you. If you feel in your gut that a friendship has taken a turn for the worst and is no longer salvageable, end it. On the other hand, if you feel as though something is still there, go for it.

If at any point, however, you feel like you’re in danger – get away. That is one thing I will stand firm in. Stay safe.