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Over the course of our lives, most of us are exposed to a variety of toxic friendships and relationships. Often, we fail or refuse to see the signs and can end up enduring these relationships for longer than we should. Here are a few red flags that, if displayed consistently, will tip you off that someone is a poor friend. (If any of these indicators present themselves as isolated incidents, they may not necessarily represent the type of person you’re dealing with—but keep a lookout as to whether any one or more of these behaviors begin reoccurring.)

They take more than they give.

Friendships are about reciprocity. If they expect excessive favors from you but fail to be considerate of your needs and act resentful on the rare occasion you ask for something, you might want to second-guess whether they have your best interests in mind. Likewise, a toxic friend is always keeping score. They will demand the $4 you owe them from when they covered the cost of your drink, but neglect to compensate you for a whole meal you covered and act like you owe it to them because of that one time you stepped on the back of their shoe. They hold things you told them in confidence over your head. In a true friendship, there is no keeping score; friends pick up each other’s slack with the knowledge that the other person will do the same for them when needed.

They are never there when it counts.

You squander your sleep schedule listening to their incessant drama, but disappear when you need a shoulder to cry on. They never make themselves available and if you even make their list of priorities, you come last. They wield hidden motives: they only seem to entertain you if they want something from you and only offer their support if it will be of benefit to them.

They are constantly putting you in a position where you feel you have to EARN their time, love, or respect.

Your worth as it pertains to friendship should not be measured by the value of the things you give them but by the consistency of the way you treat them. 

There is an imbalance of power.

This imbalance will most obviously be reflected in the double standards they hold. Maybe they are controlling, possessive, and domineering: everything you do must be of knowledge to them, they must always be present if you are doing something they deem exciting, and they must always approve of the other people in your life—but they will never invite you to functions, they don’t care if you want to know what they’re doing, and they wave off any disapproval you might show towards those they surround themselves with. They expect respect from you, but constantly disrespect you and reckon there should be no repercussions.

They are “two-faced.”

They act differently around you than they do with their other friends. They talk smack about them to you and smack about you to them, they betray your trust and don’t care whose ears your personal information falls upon.

They threaten to withhold love if you do not behave a certain way and play into their mechanisms.
They are always steering the conversation towards themselves. 

It’s different if they’re having an especially good or bad day or are passionate about something they have going on. But if you feel like you can never get a word in edgewise, find them disregarding any topic that applies to you alone, and notice they seem to only care about things that have to do with them, they’re toxic.

They refuse to change or even confront their behavior when it is brought to surface, and exhibit little to no sympathy when you express how it has hurt you.

Overall, if you begin to feel like you have to choose between loving them and loving yourself, they are toxic. Their love and friendship should build onto your life-force, not take away from it. Depending on the intensity of your connection and how long you’ve known each other, it may be difficult to let them go. But, even if you don’t catch these signs ahead of time, recognize when these friendships become draining and take the steps to surround yourself with friends who truly value you and what you have to offer. You can distance yourself from a toxic friend without instigating drama. Stop reaching out to them unless they reach out to you first. When and if they do, keep an eye on how they speak to you. They will likely stop reaching out to you when they realize you are no longer of immediate use to them and will not be there to serve them at the drop of a hat. Live your best life and take care of yourself! Everyone deserves quality and reciprocal friends who appreciate them for who they are and the love they have to give.

Savannah is currently a senior at Wells College. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing.
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