Red flags of a toxic friendship and surefire ways to spot them

Toxic friendship

Not all friendships are healthy. In fact, some are downright toxic.

People change, as do friendships. These changes are so subtle that you might not realise the friendship has turned toxic. Or maybe it always was, but you chose to ignore it.

It’s really important to know the signs of a toxic friendship because hanging out with people who aren’t good for you is pretty damaging. It can affect your mental health and self-esteem … and frankly, you deserve better!

If you’re questioning a particular mate, here are some signs that your friendship is toxic and it’s time to make a swift exit.

Also see: The importance of making good friends during motherhood.

How to spot a toxic friendship

1. Too much drama

There’s just too much drama because they’re always causing trouble. Whether it’s picking fights or sabotaging you, drama is the constant in your relationship. This kind of friend can be privately or publicly dramatic, often exaggerating their successes as well as their problems. You probably became friends because you were tantalised by their story.

Guaranteed, Little Ms. Drama will drag you into their messiness and spread their chaos, whether you like it or not. Everything is your fault, and they will find a way to set you up for failure eventually. This can make you feel drained and anxious whenever you’re with them.

2. You feel bad in their company

Whether it’s carelessness or malice on the part of your toxic friend, you always end up feeling bad whenever you’re with them. Good-natured jokes are fine, but constant name-calling, intentional rudeness and extreme meanness that degrade and damage your self-esteem are not.

Sometimes, it can be a case of straight abuse (physical, emotional, etc.) or a more subtle kind. Your friend may encourage dangerous behaviour or criminal activity. Either way, the relationship is damaging and should be ended.

According to Healthline:

“Friends often joke with each other, and a little good-natured teasing doesn’t mean your friendship is toxic, especially if you’re laughing, too. When a friend regularly demeans you and makes you feel miserable, whether they use more subtle negging tactics or outright insults, your friendship probably isn’t a healthy one.”

3. It’s always about them

We all have that one friend. She loves talking about herself, her triumphs and her problems. She hogs the conversation and never cares about what you have to contribute. And when it’s your turn to speak, they tune out or pretend to listen, but never really do. As a result, you know everything about their intimate life, but they know nothing about yours.

Try this with your friend: Talk about something, any subject, other than your personal lives. A toxic friend will manipulate the conversation back to focus on them.

4. You always feel used

Have a friend who keeps a running tally of favours she’s done for you? Do they guilt-trip you into doing things for them (picking up the tab at the restaurant, expecting you to buy stuff they’re selling) because they’ve recently done something nice for you? You realise that they only do these things because they expect you to return the favour.

It’s easy to feel emotionally (and financially) drained by a toxic friend who always expects something in return for the “kindness” they have given you.

5. It’s never their fault, and they never take accountability

We all have bad days, and a true friend is never perfect. They might yell at you in public, tell you they can’t make it to your date at the very last minute, or borrow more money than you’re comfortable lending. But these friends sincerely apologise for the trouble they’ve caused and patch things up because they genuinely care.

A toxic friend, on the other hand, seldom takes accountability for hurting other people. Or they will fake an apology, like buying you a gift, but brush aside the negative impact of their toxic behaviour. Worse, they’ll blame you for acting this way. In addition, a toxic friend might apologise, but they will never actively change their bad behaviour

6. They don’t care about boundaries

Crossing boundaries is another sign of a toxic friend.

Doing inappropriate, and even criminal activities might seem second nature to them. They always do things that make you uncomfortable, and when you react, they put you down or call you crazy for calling it out. For example, you’ve shared something very personal with your friend in private, and later you find that she has shared it with other people.

7. Your friendship is too competitive

Healthy competition allows both parties to challenge themselves, become better and achieve goals. You both enjoy the competition and even get jealous from time to time, but you always want what’s best for each other.

However, when a friend is overly competitive, for example, stealing your ideas at work and taking credit, stealing friends and boyfriends, it might be a sign to end the relationship.

A friendship shouldn’t feel like a constant battle that you desperately want to win all the time.

8. They are never there for you

Do you have a friend who only texts or calls when it’s convenient for them (they’re lonely, they need money, etc.), but always comes up with a great excuse when you need them the most? Someone who constantly asks for help but is never there for you is another hallmark of a toxic friend. We need people we can rely on, not just people who rely on us.

Friends who are needy and unreasonable, are constantly unavailable, and who take much more than they give to a friendship do not belong in your life.

Further reading: How to know if a friendship is not serving you anymore.

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Sally Love

About the author

Sally Love is a pseudo single mum author who has been writing about single motherhood, separation and divorce for 8+ years. She has been a single mother for 10+ years and has two daughters, one of whom she co-parents and the other she solo parents. Sally has experienced all aspects of single motherhood from legal, financial, parenting, dating, travel as a single parent, re-partnering and re-building a career. She is an integral part of the Beanstalk community chatting and helping single mothers across the globe, as well as sharing her expertise, experiences and genuine reviews with major national newspapers and appearing on nation-wide television shows.

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