Toxic relationships are discussed frequently, and in our current society more than ever thanks to the ever surfacing campaigns in support of victims of abuse, yet more often than not the relationship in question is romantic, not platonic. Something as simple as searching online the term ‘toxic relationship’ yields countless articles referencing a romantic relationship, but astoundingly few regarding that of between friends. Toxic friendships are, in my opinion, as bad as a toxic romantic relationship. Your friends are the people you surround yourself with on a daily basis, and are often your primary support system. These are people that should lift you up and bring out the best version of yourself, not serve as a cause of anxiety or upset. I’m going to look at some of the signs of a toxic friendship, discuss the effects of such a friendship, and offer advice on how to remove yourself from it, drawing on my own personal experience with this topic.
The signs of a toxic friendship exhibit themselves differently from case to case. Generally speaking, the signs of a toxic friend are divided into two categories, each a form of emotional manipulation: the friend makes you feel badly about yourself or your actions, and you alter your character and actions to ensure they are always happy. Whichever way you look at these signs, the toxic friend is always in control of the situation. A friend consistently refusing to take responsibility for a situation gone wrong, not being present when you need them (be it listening to your problems, or simply meeting you when you need it), or talking about you in relation to their other friends to suggest there is competition for their attention is a toxic friend. When it becomes commonplace for you to make excuses for a friend’s behaviour, to cancel your plans and responsibilities to accommodate them (when this is not reciprocated) and to significantly alter your habits so as not to upset them this can be called a toxic relationship.
It is often said, ‘you choose your own friends’, and consequently you can choose to remove friends from your life as well. Should any of these behaviours occur in a romantic relationship, it would be advised that the relationship should end for the sake of the person being manipulated, yet the same standard is not upheld in friendships. Allowances are made for the toxic party and it is not considered emotional manipulation or even, in severe cases, abuse. In a day and age which increasingly promotes self-love and self-care it is astounding that removing someone from your collection of friends is frowned upon as poor behaviour, and not simply looking out for yourself.
I have experienced friends behaving towards me in ways I have listed above; I have been made to feel insecure and insignificant by individuals in my closest circle. After too long of feeling like I had to make allowances for their behaviour, and feeling like I would be wrong to detach myself from them, even if for my own sanity, I finally did so. Removing a toxic friend from your group is not as complex or even visibly significant as it is thought.
There doesn’t need to be a big dramatic end to the friendship in most cases, just simply a conversation with the person to let them know your feelings regarding their actions towards you and that you intend to spend less time around them so as to avoid further hurt. In the cases where a situation has been misjudged, the friend will agree their behaviour is unacceptable and you can move forward together, and when it is rightly judged then you will be free from further hurt.
Taking a step back from certain people in my life has allowed me to recognise true friends when they come along, those who really do want only the best for me, and who make me a happier person. I no longer feel manipulated by people I spend most time with, and the outward benefits of this are countless. One thing people can always agree on, whether they agree with distancing yourself from a friend or not, is that surrounding yourself with uplifting ‘radiator’ types of people is endlessly gratifying. Never feel afraid to re-evaluate a friendship if it is no longer providing you with what you need.
[Image credit: Finlay McRobert]