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Three Signs You are in a Toxic Friendship

Two people sit next to each other on a dock looking into a foggy skyline.

Are you in a toxic friendship? If you are, how do you get out of this unhealthy relationship? Today’s blog answers these questions and offers three helpful tips for those who find themselves tangled in a toxic friendship. 

You may have clicked on this blog because you feel like one of your friendships is on thin ice and you need advice on what to do. Or, it could be that you are afraid of the possibility of having a toxic friend and want to know what to avoid. Whatever situation you may find yourself in, I hope these signs can give you clarity and comfort in the tumultuous moments of a friendship.

  1. Spending time with them feels like a chore.

Do you leave the time you spend with your friend feeling more exhausted, lonely, and irritated than when you arrived? If your friend is consistently treating you poorly because of jealousy and envy, leaving you feeling exhausted, you might be in a toxic friendship. If you are putting in a lot of work and attention into your relationship and it is not reciprocated, it can feel defeating. Friends should be there for each other when things are going well, and especially when things get rough. If your friend is no longer being supportive, loving, or uplifting to you, it might be time to take some action.

  1. They are possessive over you.

No one deserves to be treated like an object, especially not a friend. It is important to care for our friends and to protect one another from potential hurt and pain. But an unhealthy obsession with a friend can lead to possessive tendencies. Friends walk alongside one another and pick each other up. But if your friend is “protecting” you to a point where you are being held back and feeling smothered, you might need some space. In a friendship, it is great to cherish unity and companionship, but it is also important to encourage individual growth and confidence in your own identity. If you are feeling trapped or isolated in your friendship, you may benefit from establishing some boundaries.

  1. Your boundaries are repeatedly broken.

Boundaries are necessary for any relationship. In our friendships, we want to be supportive, helpful, and loving. And we should be all of these things to our friends! But not to a point where we sacrifice our own well-being for theirs. If you have not already, establish boundaries with your friends. Clearly explain your limits, what you can expect from each other, and how to kindly tell one another when one of you has crossed a boundary. Boundaries allow for equally yoked and respectful friendships. This means that your friend’s needs don’t surpass your own, and vice versa. Or, it might be that you have created those boundaries, and your friend has still broken your trust, lied to you, or even shown inconsistency throughout your relationship. Your boundaries in the friendship were disrespected, overlooked, or completely neglected. If breaking boundaries is a repeated event, your friendship can quickly become toxic. 

Now that we identified three warning signs of a toxic friendship, you might be asking yourself, “what's next”? Here are three helpful resources that can guide you through the next steps.

  1. Listen to the CMR’s The Art of Relationships podcast on “Is This Friendship Toxic?”. This episode explains how friendships are supposed to be life-giving, but what to do when they are not. Dr. Chris Grace and Dr. Tim Muehlhoff discuss how to deal with friendships once you have identified that they are toxic. 

  2. Read through CMR’s Quick Tips about “How to Navigate a Difficult Conversation” and “Steps to Seeking Forgiveness”. It can be hard to know where to begin a difficult conversation. Most of us enter a conversation without a clear idea of how to organize it, but this quick tip card will help you structure the conversation with four essential questions. And if you’re on the path to healing and forgiveness, this quick tip on “Steps to Seeking Forgiveness” can help guide you through how to seek forgiveness, how to grant forgiveness, and how to know you have fully forgiven.

  3. If you just need a safe space to talk through your situation or need personal guidance in what next steps you should take, the CMR offers Free Relationship Advice. This is not formal therapy, but rather an opportunity to bring your questions to a trusted, trained individual who can offer biblical counsel on any relationship issue.

If you are experiencing one or all of these warning signs, it doesn’t mean that your friendship is broken beyond repair. Friendships can heal, rebuild, and grow. And you are not alone! Lean on family, resources (like the CMR!), or other friends who can support you along the way. No matter what, God is with you through toxic friendships, difficult conversations, and the healing processes!