Five signs it’s time to cut ties with toxic friends

November 09, 2016
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You’ve probably heard of a “toxic friendship”. Instead of a mutually healthy relationship, toxic friendships cultivate an imbalance of power and support. From put-downs to outright bullying, toxic relationships can come from many places and emerge in many ways.

One of the trickiest things about toxic friendships is that they’re much more obvious to outsiders. A mean comment here and there, or a negative experience every once in a while, might slip under our personal radar. Keeping an eye out for a few warning signs in your own relationships might save some time and heartbreak down the road.

Hanging out with them just isn’t fun

We spend time with our friends to create memorable and positive experiences – not to fulfil obligations of friendship. Spending time with toxic friends can often leave you feeling drained, dissatisfied or resentful, because of the emotional toll they take. If you dread making coffee dates with someone, or regret it once you get there, it might be time to reconsider your relationship.

Hanging out with them is fun, except when it’s not

OK, maybe it’s not that you hate spending time with them – you just hate when it turns sour. Toxic friends dominate the friendship with their emotions and needs. When they want you around, you have a great time and feel validated. When their mood isn’t so great, though, things fall apart and you don’t get anything out of the time you spend together. Added to this, the unpredictability of these encounters can create added anxiety.

Sharing emotions is a one-way street

While it can feel good to be the person your friend trusts with their deeper emotions, reciprocity is essential. If your friend is constantly busy when you’re trying to real talk, but expects you to be available when they need it (or maybe even guilts you if you’re not!), that’s not fair. It also takes an emotional toll to constantly take on a friend’s baggage, and sometimes you need some space. Remember to communicate this to your friends, and stand firm when they’re not so understanding.

You find yourself making excuses

If you can think of a couple of instances of bad friendship, and they always come with a “but”, it might be time for a rethink. Sometimes people mess up and when they apologise, they shows they understand and care about their impact on your feelings. When they don’t, or when you find yourself excusing their behaviour for them, that equality could be missing.

Everyone else has already cut ties

Are you the only person from your high school who still hangs out with this person? Do they seem not to have that many other friends? While this isn’t a conclusive sign of toxicity, there might be a reason why other people have cut off their friendships. Get in touch with other people that know your friend to get a second opinion. If they have nothing nice to say about any former friends, there might be a bitter side to their relationship breakdown.

This list of criteria don’t mean that you’re definitely in a toxic relationship, but if you’re checking off a few boxes, it might be time to take a second look at your friendship. It might be enough to have a talk with your friend about what’s going wrong, but if not, it might be time to move on instead to protect your own emotional wellbeing.

Chelsea Paisley

Chelsea is studying International Studies at the University of Sydney, but has a lot more contact hours with Netflix.

Image: Mean Girls official Facebook page