I recently found myself reflecting on a friendship that I had with someone for multiple years when she decided to come to me with some concerns she had about me. It was during this conversation that I realized the true extent of the problem: despite having known each other for nearly three years, she barely knew anything about me. She didn’t listen when I spoke, she didn’t know anything about who I was and the plans I had for my life, and she made assumptions about my decisions when she didn’t actually know anything about them. But worse of all, I soon came to realize that the conversation we had was chock-full of red flags toward toxic and controlling relationships.
When I think about red flags, I typically think of romantic relationships. This is a whole other topic that requires its own discussion, but such flags are just as common in friendships, and sometimes we don’t even think about “breaking up” with friends. These red flags can be hard to spot or we’ll try to justify them with other things, so I’ve compiled a list of some of the more common red flags that could be a sign that you need to evaluate your friendship or relationship.
- They try to control who you spend your time with
Sure, maybe they just want to spend a little bit more time with you. But if they’re trying to control all of your relationships and limit you from spending time with anyone else that you enjoy spending time with, it might be a sign that they’re controlling you, which could be indicative of even bigger problems. Assuming you’re making safe decisions, you should be entirely in control of who you like to spend your time with and for how long.
- They try to “one-up” your successes — and your falls
If you try to tell a friend about an achievment or something that you’re excited about but they don’t seem to be listening or they try to one-up you by mentioning their own successes, sure, they might just be competitive, but it could also be a sign that they aren’t truly there for you and would rather put down your accomplishments. A true friend will be genuinely happy for you and will celebrate your successes. The same thing goes for when you’re feeling down. If you start to tell them about how you’re having a bad day and instead of listening and supporting you, they start talking about their own off day or troubles, this is just as bad. You deserve to be able to come to your friends when you’re feeling down and know they can pick you up, not talk over you and gripe about their own experiences. This isn’t to say you can’t both be there for each other simultaneously, but having someone that listens and reacts to your successes and falls is important in a friendship, particularly a close one.
- They act differently around you when you’re in a group
If they’re very nice to you one on one but begin making fun of you when boys or other romantic interests are around, they aren’t treating you right. You shouldn’t have to justify or defend yourself around your friend, and if they’re exploiting you to make themselves look better, it’s not fair to you.
- They gaslight you
This might be one of the worst red flags, at least in terms of psychological ones. Gaslighting can take many forms, but here are some examples: you know they’re mad at you or something’s off, but they make you feel crazy for thinking that way. They might seem to confide in you and tell you not to tell anyone else, but then you find out they’ve also told your mutual friends, and even worse, they have told these friends a slightly different story than what your were told. With COVID-19 in particular, they make you feel like you’re being overly cautious just because you aren’t comfortable doing many social things at this time (even though that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.) Anything that makes you question what you know to be true is in fact gaslighting. And not only is it psychological manipulation that you don’t deserve, it’s also a major red flag and may be cause to end your relationship or friendship with that person.
This isn’t an exhaustive list and some of these alone might not be a reason to end your friendship. You might be able to talk to them about how you’re feeling and they can work towards making you feel more valued in the friendship. However, if they’re doing multiple of these things and/or making you feel crazy, unheard, or simply unhappy, that could be a sign it’s time to say goodbye. Letting people go is hard, but ultimately you need to do what’s best for you, and if they aren’t treating you right, you deserve someone better in your life.