Wellness & Mental Health

10 Red Flags your Friendship is Toxic

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In some cases, a toxic friendship is a nice way of saying verbally abusive relationship.  This can be defined as a friend who consistently takes advantage of you or person who takes and takes but never helps you out when you are in need; often deceitful and says hurtful things when you are unable to accommodate their needs.  Now if you have a toxic friendship you’ve probably been a little complicit in their behavior but you can turn things around once you’ve identified the problem. 

I’d like to share some of my experiences with you

Do you dread your friends’ responses when you say “no”?

Before I got my anxiety in check I lived in a cesspool of toxic friendships.  I was a people pleaser even when it meant sacrificing my own sanity. My need to please and loneliness drew me to these controlling behaviors until I eventually took a stand.  A friend texted me and asked that I babysit her son, something I’d done frequently before without compensation.  She asked or rather told me I needed to babysit for her all night.  Exhausted from a terrible 60-hour workweek I said I was unavailable. And, to be honest, I wanted to watch Romcom’s and drink wine and chill by myself.  Here is how the conversation went:

Me: Sorry I can’t tonight

Friend: Why what other plans do you have?

Me: I’m exhausted sorry I can’t

Friend: You didn’t answer me why can’t you babysit?  You don’t have plans; you aren’t seeing anyone.  What’s the difference between being alone at your house or at mine? I already made plans to go to the city and if you can’t babysit, I’ll have to cancel and I paid a lot for these tickets. This is unfair.

I stopped responding because I gave my answer…then I received this text

Friend: I know you are reading this text, you are being ridiculous by not responding, why are you doing this to me?

Then the phone rang, I didn’t answer, she called three more times, left lengthy voicemails about me being lazy, bitchy and an awful friend.  Next, she continued texting me saying phrases like what an evil friend I was and that I was being a bitch.  Yes, this should have been my first clue that I was in a toxic friendship.

Now I take some responsibility for always saying yes to all her requests to move, help paint, babysit, school fundraisers and countless hours of her having a breakdown (this occurred almost weekly).  I get It, this was a blow to her that I finally said no, but was I ever thanked for the hundreds of times I said yes?

She bought the tickets months in advance and asked me to babysit a few hours before she was leaving, kind of insulting right?  But I had the right to say no, didn’t I? I gave her my reasoning and it wasn’t good enough.

At the same time, I found my voice and learned the newfound power of saying no, I started dating someone.  Consequently, every time I said no to her requests, she would immediately claim I chose my boyfriend over her and her needs. And I never did, sometimes I just wanted to do my own thing.

They say mean things behind your back

My friend began to talk shit about me to coworkers and mutual friends. Things like I was a bitch for ditching my friends the moment I’m in a relationship.  And that I was a selfish person.  She told co-workers I got my job because I flirted with my boss and insinuated, I probably performed oral sex. Obviously not true.  When really, I put myself and my needs first.  Luckily friends would stick up for me and would eventually clue me in on what she was saying.  It broke my heart.

They Cross Boundaries

Later I found out she went through my phone and got my boyfriend’s number. She texted him one night to see if I was with him.  Earlier I declined to come over to her house to “hang”, which lead to her accusing me ditching her, even when we didn’t have plans to begin with.  (Some Insight –Coming over to hang was code for having dinner but then she would need to suddenly run out and I was stuck babysitting for 2-4 hours). 

When my boyfriend forwarded me the text, I braced myself.  She started a text storm with me not understanding why I didn’t want to come over if I’m not with my BF. She started texting my boyfriend daily to trash me. Was her goal to break us up? I didn’t know. My boyfriend finally responded and asked that she not text him because she was inappropriate.  She stalked him on social media until he blocked her, crazy right? Somehow that was my fault.

In hindsight, this should have been all the red flags I needed to know this friendship was toxic, but it wasn’t.

They give awful advice

From time to time I received unsolicited advice from her.  She watched my BF pick me up from work and saw that he didn’t open the door from me.  She turned that into him being a terrible person who disrespects me.   Once, I was working on a major project initiative and she told me I should demand a raise from my brand-new boss because I was working too much. Luckily, I didn’t go commit career suicide by telling my manager of 2 days to give me a 20% raise.  As a side note, that manager promoted me 3 months later. The promotion meant I outranked my friend at work, more about that later.

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You make excuses for them

At first, I would make excuses that she was stressed or that was just her personality.  I would tell people she wasn’t that bad and that they just needed to get to know her. People would point out I was in a toxic friendship, but I assumed I could be a good enough friend to change her behavior. I refused to bad mouth her because I didn’t want to hurt her.

Are they always in need, but never able to help?

Remember the book “The Giving Tree”, that was me.  Even though I decreased my availability to her significantly, we would still get together a few times a month. I rarely asked for anything in return from her but when I did, I was let down.  Once, I asked her to pick me up before work at my mechanic for an oil change. She told me to take an uber. 

A month later, I invited her shopping to help me pick out a dress for an upcoming wedding. She said no because I was going with my boyfriend instead of asking her to go with me. Months later I asked her to dinner she said yes and proceeded to purposely show up 45 minutes late without calling.  I’d later find out she was trying to prove a point, but let’s face it that was a dick move. 

They are controlling

I finally started to realize she liked to be in control of me.  I was her puppet, the more she got me to do the better she felt.  She was becoming more like an overbearing parent than a friend. I remember googling “toxic friendship” and her checking all the boxes.

You realize the Truth

Keep in mind I still helped her with things a few times a month, instead of 10 times a month. But I realized we were in a one-sided friendship and my so-called friend would just toy with me for her own amusement.

They are overly competitive with you

A little competition is healthy, but there is a line, and she crossed that too.  Remember that raise I earned, she told me I didn’t deserve to make as much as her. My contributions to our company didn’t matter. 

Once I was beating all my coworkers in bowling on a work outing and one of my male co-workers gave me a compliment.  She began trying to sabotage every time it was my turn.  She hid my ball, would run up and try to scare me before I bowled, and even tried to say I fouled when I bowled a turkey on the last frame. 

Eventually, you Question Why you are Even Friends

Ultimately, I realized that I didn’t even know why we were friends.  My anxiety was so much worse when I was around her.  I dreaded when we were together. I was done being a doormat, I had enough!

You identified a toxic friendship, what do you do next?

My approach was the worst, don’t be like me.  I tried to Ghost her, we worked in different departments but still in the same building.  So, non-responses to her texts lead to angry work emails or worse she’d take a trip to my desk; presumably to embarrass me publicly. I guess she didn’t realize how unstable she made herself look at work.

One day I put my big girl panties on, invited her to dinner and broke up with my friend.  It was worse than breaking up with a boyfriend.  She cried, yet, remained manipulative; I’ve never seen anything like it.  She told me I was breaking her sons’ heart by abandoning her and that she was going through a rough time. She said I disrespected her and that’s why she did the things she did to me.

It seemed liked jealousy or a petty grab to get the last word.  I paid for dinner and told her I just needed a break from this for a while because I felt stressed about everything.  That worked for a month and then she started texting me again.  This time with an apology. I appreciated the texts but I didn’t jump back in full force.  Instead, we became casual acquaintances and that worked for me and eventually, she moved on too.

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What are some tips that worked for your toxic friendship?

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All articles are strictly the opinions of the writer based on his or her experiences in life. If you have questions or are unsure of anything regarding your health we strongly advise you to contact a professional for all medical advice.

5 comments on “10 Red Flags your Friendship is Toxic

  1. This is a wonderful article about great things to look out for in any relationship. But I do have a bone to pick with your opener: “A toxic friendship is a nice way to say verbally abusive relationship”
    That’s not what toxic friendship means- and only one of the examples you listed in that paragraph actually constituted as verbal abuse.

    • I’m going to have to agree to disagree. I see your point though. Trashing you at work to coworkers, saying you sleep your way to the top, telling you you are lazy and terrible because he or she didn’t get there way is bullying and verbally abusive behavior. While I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, I think in my case there was overlap.

      I appreciate the feedback

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