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Signs You Are in a Toxic Friendship (Part 3/3)

Two girls lay on top of a car with space between them.

What are some signs that you're in a toxic friendship? Read today's blog by Dr. Chris Grace to learn about red flags and how to handle unhealthy situations and relationships.

“There are few stronger predictions of happiness than a close, nurturing, equitable, intimate, lifelong companionship with one’s best friend.” — David Myers, Ph.D.

How true that quote is! David Myers, an acquaintance of mine, is the author of the most adopted Psychology textbook in the world, and is one of the leading psychologists in the U.S. He has long written about and studied friendships, and he knows what makes for good friendships, and what makes for bad ones. In fact, there are few stronger predictors of loneliness and sadness than having few or no close or intimate friends, or having friendships that are toxic. 

So, what makes for a toxic friendship? 

Here are some signs you may be in one.

  • They say or text hurtful or unkind things, then say “I’m just kidding" or “You’re too sensitive”
  • They withhold affection over small transgressions (a sign of manipulation), and you get the silent treatment or ghosted.
  • They constantly criticize or correct you. 
  • They mock other people, or are jealous. 
  • They frequently get caught telling white lies (dishonest, and thus not trustworthy.)  
  • They are defensive.
  • They only talk about their own problems.  
  • After being with them you do not feel encouraged and inspired. 

If you find yourself in some of the above situations, getting out of the friendship may be necessary. My advice: Take some time to process your friendship, and any role you may be playing in the disfunction. A third party can be very helpful for you to bounce your concerns off. Then, if a hard conversation needs to occur about breaking things off, approach the conversation with humility, with specifics on how you feel and what you need or is lacking in the relationship, and why you need to have space away. 

My good friend Willa Williams, a licensed Marriage and Family Counselor, says that when having such a conversation, it is important to be kind and descriptive, descriptive being describing how you are experiencing the situation. She says you must first affirm the person as your friend, stating that you really care for them. Then you should describe how you are needing some things, like encouragement or edification, and that it seems that you are having trouble finding those things in the relationship. Or that you are sensing that the relationship is headed in a different direction than you might feel comfortable with. You still care for this person as your friend, but you recognize that you might have to take a difficult stance that would be more healthy for both of you. Recognize and validate this is probably hard for them, and thank them for being willing to understand.

This is such great and helpful advice! For more resources on toxic friendships and healthy friendships, check out some of these other blogs.