Friends are important — there’s no doubt about that. Friendships can really boost our sense of wellbeing, but they can also hinder it. If you are concerned your friend is toxic, consider these five signs to see if that friendship isn’t productive or healthy anymore.
You Have (Very) Different Values
You don’t want friends who are just “yes men” — agreeing with whatever you say and do. A true friend is someone who challenges you to be the best version of yourself, rather than allow you to get away with nonsense and be unaccountable.
However, when a friend is consistently acting in a way that runs counter to your values and perhaps even tries to get you to participate in these pursuits, this should be a red flag. If you have to compromise your integrity in order to be in relationship with someone, consider distancing yourself from them.
You can seek out new friends with common interests and values by getting involved in your community or in a hobby. There are many places you can look: Attend a night class, participate in a coed city sports league or volunteer at a local non-profit or for a political group.
Negative emotions are heavy hitters on our mental health. In fact, a University of North Carolina Professor, Barbara Fredrickson, says negativity is more intense and attention grabbing than our positive emotions. Staying positive is tough, but it can be especially hard when a close friend is always pointing out the negative side of people and circumstances. This could be a sign that your friend is toxic.
It is important that friends can help you see the fun, humor and lightness in life, though this isn’t about seeking out friends who are “Pollyannas.” Friends need to be able to share life’s ups and downs without getting hung up on all that is wrong and difficult.
They Don’t Mind You Staying Stuck
As human beings we are constantly learning, changing and growing. Our relationships must be able to evolve as well.
If a friend doesn’t want you to change, they can consciously or subconsciously hold you back. This can happen when people are attempting to recover from an addiction. A friendship that is based in unhealthy or addictive behavior won’t usually change when one of the people gets well. The dysfunctional characteristics aren’t in play any longer, and this can make the relationship no longer beneficial. This fact can be impossible for the less self-aware friend to understand and support.
If a friend isn’t able to support your journey towards health and self-acceptance, it may be essential to no longer pursue the friendship. You don’t necessarily need to call an abrupt end to the relationship — you can let it fade. You can accomplish this by limiting the one-on-one time you spend with them and being careful to share little about yourself.
A true friend is someone who makes themselves available to you. They are able to promise or commit and then follow through. If someone in your life isn’t dependable on a regular basis, they aren’t making the friendship a priority. Perhaps they only get in contact with you when they require your time and attention or need something from you.
Whatever the case, you need to understand what your expectations are. If you can tolerate that a particular person in your life will let you down and you can live with it, you could keep them as an acquaintance. You simply need to be clear with yourself what you can and cannot expect from them and treat your friendship accordingly.
When friends succeed, it’s important to celebrate their achievements. If one of your friends isn’t able to put aside their aspirations and recognize your victories, then they are toxic to your life. They see the world as a place of scarcity and you are taking away from their own opportunities.
You need to come to terms with the fact that they won’t be happy for you when you excel — they will unconsciously root for your failure.
Some relationships last a lifetime while some don’t. If you realize your friend is toxic, there is no shame in considering limiting your time with that person. Some friendship fallouts are inevitable. We all experience them. If you can stay clear on what you want and need as well as what you offer, you will be better able to keep those who are true friends close.
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