Written By Rose Sandall
Toxic friendships are something that plague lives everywhere. According to an online survey done by today.com, 84% of women and 75% of men have experienced a toxic friendship. This new age term is coined to describe a certain kind of unbalanced or conflicted friendship. Often, these relationships can be unsupportive and they tend to have a massive toll on a person's mental wellbeing.
The toxicity element to these friendships is rooted from repeated damaging and unhealthy behaviours. The friendship will probably be quite unbalanced, and could potentially show signs of abusive behaviours such as passive aggression or insults.
You may not feel comfortable to be yourself and express yourself, you may even feel like you’re treading on eggshells some of the time.
It’s important, therefore, that we can recognise the signs of such toxic relationships to not only avoid them ourselves, but aid our friends in steering clear also.
Signs of a toxic friendship:
1. Ignoring someone for a period of time.
This becomes toxic when it’s not explained as to why this is occurring, or you cannot see a logical reason for a lack of communication. Of course, people go through phases and stages where they’re not as communicative or they may be going through something tough. But, if they’re communicating with others normally, and they haven’t explained to you why they’re ignoring you, this is a clear toxic trait that needs to be addressed with urgency in a relationship.
2. They bring out the worst traits in you.
We’re talking about things like gossiping and being judgemental. Everyone does these things from time to time, but when a friendship is toxic, these traits may be occurring far more frequently than when you’re not spending time with that person.
3. Passive aggression, and making ‘funny’ jokes at your expense.
There is definitely a difference between ‘banter’ and constantly making jokes at another person's expense. These can feel really hurtful, and can feel like the friend is using you as the butt of all of their jokes. Your real friends laugh with you, certainly not at you. Identify the difference and remove yourself from those uncomfortable situations.
4. They do not accept your boundaries.
This can be a tricky one to identify if it’s toxic or not, as good friends can push you to do new things and stretch you outside of your comfort zone. For this to be toxic, it could include crossing boundaries that you have already firmly set in place or that the friend is aware of and still making you feel uncomfortable, as well as potentially unsafe.
5. You feel drained after hanging out with them.
After spending time with them, maybe you feel tired, and unfulfilled. Maybe you feel like you’ve just been a sponge for all of their problems, which is normal to happen occasionally, but if it is everytime you see or spend time with them, it could be a toxic relationship. Friends uplift and support; find your buoys, not your anchors.
6. They only talk about themselves and their problems.
Relating to the point above, this can also be incredibly overwhelming. You may feel like they don’t ask or listen about your life. It’s normal to be there and listen to a friend, but if it is everytime you hang out, this could be a sign it’s time to reassess the direction in which this partnership is headed. A friendship is a two-way street.
7. You’re constantly walking on eggshells.
This is a horrible feeling to have in a friendship. It can be incredibly unsettling to have to constantly monitor your behaviour and not be able to be your true self around someone. This could be for a variety of reasons, but the fact you’re feeling this way is a big indicator that the friendship might be toxic.
8. You’re giving more than you’re getting.
It’s important to feel like a friendship is balanced. If you’re giving more to a friendship, for example being the one that suggests meeting up every single time, always texting first, always going to visit them, then take this as your sign. Not being in a balanced friendship is incredibly draining.
9. They project their own toxic behavior on those around them.
This makes it more difficult for their friends to truly identify their behavior because they end up blaming themselves.
10. Consistent lying.
A slightly more obvious one, but if a friend is constantly lying about their lives or even lying to gaslight you, this is one of the major signs of a toxic friendship. Friendships should be built on trust one another and honesty.
So, what is the aftermath of a toxic friendship and how can you recover?
If you’ve recognised that a friendship is toxic and you want to do something about it, you have a few options. The first being to cut that person out of your life, however you see fit. That could be by letting them know that this is how you’re feeling and the friendship is not healthy for you and cutting ties, or just simply removing yourself.
The second choice would be to talk to that person about their behaviour and enable an opportunity for open dialogue to repair the friendship. If this is the chosen route, you must be wary and cautious and make sure that the person really does change their behaviour and respond to your needs.
A toxic friendship can make you feel incredibly lonely and isolated. A person you once trusted actually turned out to be detrimental in your life, but it is important to speak about it to those around you and talk. Your self worth and confidence may also have taken a hit, which is why it is vital to surround yourself with people that you love and trust, and will ultimately bring you up, rather than put you down.
Rule number one of recovery: take time for yourself. To be able to process what has happened and to immerse yourself in all the feelings that come with that. Journaling or therapy are two great ways of doing this.
Then, you need to set boundaries for yourself for future friendships, to ensure that things like this will not occur again. If you do want to get back in touch with that person after a period of time, be firm, and remember the boundaries that you have set for yourself.
If you feel like this is something you’re really struggling with, please seek help professionally from your school, university or workplace or speak to a trusted confidant in your life. You are not alone. You are loved and you are worthy of love in all aspects of your life.