Signs You’re In A Toxic Friendship
Real talk: you don't need the negativity.
Most people find that, while they’re at school/college/university, they develop a core group of friends that they find themselves relying on. They’re who you have in your group chats, the ones you check in with throughout the day and the ones you spend most your personal life with. Sometimes they’re even the people you would, if you’re lucky, effectively deem as your platonic soulmates.
I was no different. About halfway through my degree I had a handful of great friends who I saw on a nearly daily basis and with whom I spent practically every second of my free time. There was one friend in particular who I hung out with a lot – hangover days, midnight runs for McFlurries and ironic viewings of The Real Housewives of Cheshire. It was constantly fun and we never found a moment where we weren’t pissing ourselves over something the other person said.
That was until things started to go awry. I noticed her snide remarks about other people, which I used to find funny, more regularly being directed at me. I could see that the barbed behaviour she often displayed stopped being reserved for *just* other people any more. And suddenly, as if out of nowhere, I had the overwhelming epiphany: this was not someone I wanted to be friends with any longer. Despite this, though, it took me nearly six months for me to actually get out of that friendship and realise why I was feeling that way in the first place.
There is a nearly endless, cyclical conversation about toxic romantic relationships (and, quite rightly, how to spot and escape them). But mum’s the word when it comes the relationships we all have that are often most important: our friendships. Despite the happy-go-lucky/cat-fight dichotomy we tend to see in 99% of the media, when you’re stuck in a toxic friendship it can be a lot less starkly obvious.
These are a few signs that could indicate you are in one and that, perhaps, it would be better to cut yourself off from it ASAP:
They are being passive aggressive
This is one of the more common ways toxicity surfaces in a bad relationship. Rather than being direct about their negative feelings - ‘When you did X, it made me feel like Y’ - a toxic friend will be passive aggressive to you when they feel hurt or angry. While this may happen in all of your friendships very occasionally (hey, none of us are perfect), it shouldn’t happen often enough that it becomes something you associate with this friend. If it does, it’s time to hit the brakes.
They can’t be happy for you
One of the mores subtle red flags is the friend’s inability to empathise: in particular when they can’t share in your happiness. For me, this manifested in the painful, gruelling process of job applications. After eight months of applications, I finally scored a job at a company I was excited about in a similar industry to this friend. While the rest of my friends were giddy for me after going through the slog (and going through a four stage application process), this friend was dripping with resentment. Nobody says you can’t feel bad about your own situation when something goes well for someone you know, but it’s a bad sign if that person can’t feel an ounce of happiness for their friend.
You are scared to set them off
Otherwise known as ‘walking on eggshells’, you may start to notice that you have to watch what you say around this friend to the point of it being paralysing. Let me assure you: This is not normal. Healthy relationships don’t have fear laced throughout them because if someone says something that upsets the other person, it will be dealt with maturely. So if you are in a friendship where you have to watch – or even feel scared of – what you might say, then that relationship is not functioning healthily.
Your friendship is one-sided
In most of our friendships, we’ll go through periods where one half might need a little more support than the other half does, and vice versa. Whether the other person is going through a breakup, a bereavement, a big move or job struggles, sometimes the relationship can get slightly lopsided to help the person who needs it more. This, of course, is okay. However, if you are in a perpetual situation where one half of the friendship waxes poetic about themselves and their life without a shred of regard for what’s going on with the other person, then this creates a bad balance. Although you want to be there for your friend, you should not turn into their de facto, full-time therapist.
They are jealous of your other friendships
This one is pretty self explanatory. All in all, friendships are not a competition. If a friend of yours vies for your attention and does so by saying negative, rude and or critical things about other people you care about, then that person is being toxic. A healthy friend doesn’t drag your other relationships down around you to secure their slot as your number one.
You regularly feel anxious or unhappy around them
This may be the case for a multitude of reasons, some of which might be listed above. But, ultimately, you may be stuck in a toxic friendship if you feel discomfort and anxiety when you’re with them (or even if you feel anxious at the thought of spending time with them).
Much like romantic relationships, you may find that only a couple of these signs set off the alarm bells. But, even if just one of these signs reminds you of one of your friendships, that means it’s time to reassess it. More often than not, it may be time to kiss it goodbye.
- Words by Sarah Manavis.
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