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10 Signs You Are in a Toxic Friendship (And How to Deal with it)

by | Ideas

Published on May 4, 2022

Friendships make up a big part of our lives, seeing that one of the biggest needs of a person is human connection. Without friends, we would feel lonely and left out, and scared. But, with friends, we will feel alive and safe, knowing that there’s always someone to turn to. 

While this is true about healthy friendships, it is usually not true when in toxic friendships and relationships. Instead of making us feel loved and appreciated, toxic friendships usually do the opposite—they wear us out and make us feel awful about the world and about ourselves.

Toxic friendships can be difficult to identify sometimes and even harder to deal with. Left unnoticed, they can become silent cancer that eats us up. Do you think you’re in a toxic friendship? Here are ten signs you aren’t just thinking. 10 signs you are in a toxic friendship and how to deal with it: 

1. You Don’t Know Where You Stand

With healthy friendships, you will always know where you stand with your friend. You will always be able to point to him and say—this is my friend.

With unhealthy friendships and relationships, on the other hand, you will seem to never really know. Your friendship will oscillate between periods of coldness and periods of hotness. One minute your friend is all over you, inviting you to parties and visiting malls with you, and the next minute he or she acts as though you do not exist. 

He switches upon you, showing you coldness that makes you question where you stand in his life. He ghosts you even, many times, for no reason at all and finds it hard to identify with you in public. More like he is ashamed to be seen or known to identify with you. 

It is never a good thing to doubt where you stand with anyone. That uncertainty is unhealthy and usually offers fertile ground for self-doubt to breed. You don’t want to be around someone who makes you question your self-worth. Such friendships, in the long run, are usually not worth it. 

If you discover behavior like this in your friend, it helps to talk to him about it. Tell him your grievances. Remind him about that time he went cold on you for no reason, expressing your hurt in plain terms. 

If your friend does not improve or change, you should consider distancing yourself from him for a while and practicing self-love. 

2. Your Friend Does Not Reprimand Your Bad Behavior

The purpose of friendships is to make us better people. We cannot see our backs in real life except we look into a mirror. We usually cannot see the full extent and effects of our shortcomings. And this includes even ones that are capable of putting us in the face of danger. 

Friends are usually able to recognize our lapses. While good friends will point them out to us, toxic friends may not. In fact, they could even further promote bad behavior. 

If, for example, you are in the habit of drinking before driving, a good friend is going to point it out to you. He is going to tell you that you put yourself in danger each time you drink and drive. 

On the other hand, a toxic friend will usually say nothing about it. He may even be fine with getting you a beer or two minutes before you drive. When you notice this, just know you’re in a toxic friendship.

Jordan Peterson, renowned speaker and clinical psychologist, suggests that friends who encourage you when you are doing something wrong, who find it hard to call you out on your wrongs, are toxic and many times do not have your interest in mind. 

If you notice that your friend has a hard time communicating your shortcomings to you, you may want to look at yourself once more. Are you making it hard to talk to you? If you are, then you should work on your ability to communicate. 

You should also ask your friend why they never tell you when you falter. Listen to their reasons and encourage them to let you know when next you do something that they consider harmful. 

3. They Say Thing Behind Your Back:

True friendships are built on trust. A sign of genuine friendship is that sense of safety and calm around your friends—you just know that they have your back all the time, no matter what misunderstandings you have. 

Toxic friendships are not like that. Toxic friendships usually see one party betraying the other. Saying things behind a person’s back is some form of betrayal. 

If your friend is in the habit of saying things behind your back, especially stuff that you consider personal, then you should know you are in a toxic friendship and have to deal with this toxicity before it costs you your sanity.

You can confront them. But do not do it in a way that escalates the misunderstanding. Do it calmly, and if they try to make you feel worthless or wrong for stating your hurt, then you should consider leaving. It is always an option to leave a friendship that is bad for you. 

4. You Can’t be Yourself in a Toxic Friendship

If you have to change yourself or be a certain way for your friendship to be worthwhile, then it is very likely that you are in a toxic friendship. 

In true and healthy friendships, you do not have to be approved only when you change yourself or try to be someone you are not. You don’t have to put on a particular dress or speak in a certain way to be accepted. 

Glashow says, “A true friend would never want you to change who you are.” This is true. If you can’t be yourself, what is the need to stick around with a toxic friend? 

5. You Can’t Express Yourself in a Toxic Friendship

We all have a right to express ourselves in a healthy way. When your friends start to make you feel bad for expressing yourself or your hurt, when it gets difficult to disagree with them, it is a pointer that you just might be in a toxic friendship. 

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Aimee Barr, LCSW, a psychotherapist who lives in Brooklyn, says: “When it feels dangerous to disagree, you find yourself withholding information out of fear, or you feel like you are walking on eggshells to appease the other person, it is time to question how healthy the relationship is. 

6. You Feel Drained by The Friendship

When we begin to feel drained, it is a pointer that we are giving much more than we are receiving. Friendships shouldn’t leave you feeling drained. They should have you feeling just fine. 

If you feel like it is on you to settle all the misunderstandings, to reach out, to set dates and hangouts, then your relationship is probably just toxic. 

Dr. Andrea Bonier, a clinical psychologist, once said that in a toxic friendship, “there is an imbalance between what you are giving and what you are receiving.” You can try to talk to your friend about this and observe their response and behavior. 

7. Your Friends Don’t Respect Your Boundaries

Friendships are all about respecting the other person’s boundaries. Friends who don’t respect your boundaries indirectly disrespect you. They could be little or seem funny, but you have just got to respect them. 

Do you ever say “Don’t,” but your friends go ahead to do it? Sometimes, even going on to laugh at you. Then you should confront the behavior. Let them know that you don’t find it interesting. And if they do not want to improve, you should consider letting the relationship or friendship go. 

Realize that you are worthy of respect, and you should not stick around where you get none.

8. Friends Lie in Toxic Friendship

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Friends shouldn’t lie to each other. Friends ought to be plain and honest. A friend who lies to you is showing you that you cannot trust him or her. Trust is the building block of friendships. Its absence suggests that the friendship is toxic. 

If your friend is in the habit of lying to you, you should consider the possibility that they are probably just afraid of you. Even though it is sometimes hard to admit, sometimes we are the ones who create a toxic environment in our friendships. 

Your friend may be lying to you because you seem too difficult or unable to stand the truth. If you are, work on this. Give it time, talk to your friend, and see how the relationship goes from then on.

9. They Disapprove of Your Romantic Relationship for no Reason

Even though it may be a good thing, it may also be a sign of toxicity when your friends disapprove of your romantic relationships, especially when there are no obvious reasons. 

Try to find out why your friend disapproves of your relationship. If it is just jealousy, talk to them about it and try to let them see that they just have to accept your partner in the way they have accepted you. 

10. Your Friend Doesn’t Celebrate Your Wins: 

Friends are supposed to be happy when you win. When they are not, it suggests that there is a problem. The relationship just might be toxic. Talk to your friend about it and find out why. 

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

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By Aleksandra Nico

Dr. Aleksandra Nico is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is in private practice in Brunswick and has experience in a wide variety of areas, including mood-related difficulties, anxiety, psychosis, trauma, addictions, personality disorders, and anger management. Dr. Nico completed a Ph.D. at the University of Nevada. Her goal is not to make very good people out of good, but to get the unique out of them.

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