Friendship is a wonderful thing which most people in the world would be lost without. Friendship provides a basis for support, stability, sociability, and emotional well-being. When these factors are compromised, it may be that you have surrounded yourself with toxic friends. While no one is perfect, and friendship is all about unconditional acceptance, there are still some people who could cause a lot of grief. It is confusing as to why people who affect us negatively can be classified as ‘friends’ to begin with. However these toxic friends may not be so easily identified as it seems.
They may have been a great friend in the past, so how did this happen? Why are they suddenly considered to be ‘toxic friends’?
1. They only keep you around to feel superior.
After coming out of an exam believing you have failed it, spending some time with friends either in-person, over the phone, or on the internet should be a positive experience. Friends should be supportive, understanding, and leave you feeling uplifted. The moment you hear something such as: “I found the exam really easy, and you’re smarter than me, so you probably did well,” you might want to re-think the company you are keeping. As harmless as the statement appears, there is an undertone of competitive nature. What if you did fail the exam? She is just waving her victory around in the form of an encouraging statement.
A common trait of toxic friends is the inability to resist competition and often they will take any opportunity to prove that they are superior. Chances are that is the only way they keep you around. When a person is insecure she can turn into a toxic friend very easily. Competitive friends will begin to feel frustrated when they can no longer ‘win’ against you in anything, and will seem to withdraw and appear glum all the time.
When it seems that all your friends ever do is completely against you, then it’s time to have a very serious chat with them.
2. They cling to you for life.
It is acceptable to be a certain amount of clingy in every friendship, especially in times of hardship and when in need of support. However if your friend is calling you everyday at 2 a.m. for no particular reason, this can become both annoying and exhausting. You can try to avoid him for a little while, making a few excuses as to why he can’t contact you. Eventually this is only going to give him an excuse to make you feel guilty about abandoning him. He will say things like, “If you were my REAL friend, then you wouldn’t try to avoid me and ditch me all the time!” Although this sounds like an elementary school problem, these issues can carry on into adulthood, especially if you have been together for a long time. It is easy to feel trapped in an obligatory friendship, but there is nothing worse than having to feign friendship. It takes a lot of effort and will end up harming both of you in the process. Don’t get trapped in a friendship with a toxically clingy person.
These kinds of friends are also most likely chronically jealous people. They will feel threatened by other friends, especially new ones. This can be harmful to you in the sense that they will try to claim you for their own, scaring off your other friends in the process. Although the clinger might have been a great friend in the past, he is now becoming dangerously possessive. It might be a good time to re-consider the company you are keeping.
3. They are always asking for something.
It’s normal to share things in a friendship. It’s alright to ask for things, but it should be an equal amount of give and take. When a friend is constantly and shamelessly asking you for something every time you see each other, you might have a toxic friend problem. Her logic behind this reasoning is that as her friend, you should be obliged to cater to her every need. Some can even deceive themselves into thinking that they are putting a lot of effort into the friendship and you owe it to them to give them everything they request. Money is always a factor in friendships like this. You will always be the one paying for every meal and taxi. This complex not only leaves you broke, it also makes you appear as a push-over, meaning more people will try to take advantage of you the same way.
When you stop giving these people everything they want and start resisting, they will either leave you for someone else more gullible or they will take this as an opportunity to make you feel guilty. Without you catering to their every need, they will find themselves in tough situations and they will blame you for not caring about them.
This kind of friend doesn’t take responsibility for anything and you have to remind yourself that your friend is your friend, not your child. Sound familiar? Time to reconsider that relationship.
4. They are full of unhealthy gossip.
All friends gossip — it can be a healthy behavior that allows you to keep up-to-date with current affairs and important information. However when this gossip is predominantly negative information about everyone and everything then gossiping can become dangerous. Most of the gossip this kind of friend spouts can easily be a lie or a clever twist on the truth.
Compulsive liars can become very good at making lies look like truth, so you have to be careful not to get pulled in. They find no better pleasure than in being in the know. They will use their valuable knowledge to ensure they have leverage over people. If they are a particular close friend of yours it can be dangerous. You have probably heard some horrible things about other people who have made this friend angry, and you have probably mistaken this back-stabbing act as an attempt to protect you from the true nature of these people.
In the start you would have put a lot of trust in this person and have probably vented one too many secrets to him. You only realize too late that you have given him a great deal of leverage on you and if you got on his bad side, you could end up in a lot of trouble. He simply wants to feel powerful and in control. Once he no longer have any secrets to use against you and once you stop taking an interest in his gossip he will most likely lose interest in you.
5. They incorporate themselves into your life at unreasonable levels.
They say that friends are the family that we choose for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with having friends who feel like family to you. However, with a friend who has self-appointed themselves above your family and even above your ‘significant other,’ you might be in a toxic friendship. She will feel offended if you haven’t told her every single detail of your plans. She will appear at every gathering, sometimes uninvited. She will try to compete with your friends and relatives who have known you your entire life. She wants to have the most knowledge about you and will be upset if she finds out someone else knows something she didn’t know about you.
While this is an extreme example, this does happen to people and is very unnerving. The sad thing is that these friends have no malicious intent. The main logic behind it is that they are very lonely people who have attached to you to make themselves feel like they have someone.
It would be good to explain to this friend that there are boundaries she needs to maintain. As innocent as intentions seem to be, she is still a toxic friend, since she invades your privacy and surpass the title of ‘clingy,’ which can be scary both to you and the people around you.
6. They are never ‘OK’.
It is natural for friends to occasionally check on each other to see how life is going. When you hear your friend is having a bad week, then you feel obliged to comfort him until you know he’s okay again. However there is that one friend who replies to every ‘How are you?’ with ‘Upset, as always.’ This can get annoying and frustrating very quickly.
These are the overly negative friends who are just never OK. There are several reasons to categorize these people as toxic friends. No matter how much good advice you give them, they will continue to avert it, saying nothing will ever help them and no one cares about them. Excessive negativity is unhealthy in any friendship, and if a goal of making your friend happy is the only reason you stay in the friendship, then you are setting yourself up for a lot of grief.
Chances are that they need psychiatric attention, not your company or advice.The only thing staying with this kind of friend will accomplish is making you upset, frustrated, and feel like a failure. They will make you feel guilty about being happy and having a good day and they will always be too self-absorbed in their own unhappiness to celebrate any of your achievements.
Toxic friends are not the sort of people you want in your life. You can’t impress everybody and you don’t have to be friends with everybody, so choose your friends carefully and it will save you a world of hassle.
Featured photo credit: Portrait of two sad girls, dark sepia toned. via shutterstock.com