When should you let go of a toxic friendship?
Friendships are difficult to navigate at the best of times. Sometimes, arguments happen, harsh words are said, and feelings can be hurt, even unintentionally. Yet there comes a point when one cannot keep making excuses for the people they care about. Eventually, the moment arrives where it would not only be foolish, but detrimental, to sweep hurt feelings and harsh words under the carpet and pretend as if everything is alright. Indeed, you might find yourself considering whether the cruelty that you have endured was unintentional. At that point, it is time to walk away from your toxic friend. But how do you know when it’s the right time to walk away? Here are five simple warning signs for you to look out for:
1) You don’t look forward to meeting them.
By “them”, I am referring to both a single individual and a whole group. It is quite possible that you have managed to ensnare yourself in a whole group of toxic or harmful people. Friendship, if you’ll forgive the sappy sentiment, is a wonderful thing. So, shouldn’t it make sense for you to look forward to meeting your friends? To want to be around them? If you repeatedly find yourself making excuses not to see your friend(s), then that is certainly a red flag to look out for. How often do you use work, or tiredness, or family matters as excuses to avoid your friend(s)? When you fail to come up with a plausible excuse (you can’t have that many birthdays for your cousins in a single month!), do you go with a smile on your face or a nervous pit in your stomach? Reluctance to spend time with someone is a good marker to identify that it might be time to be honest with yourself (and them) and admit that you don’t want to be friends anymore.
2) You spend too much time with them.
This follows on from the previous point. If you aren’t very good at making excuses, then you might find yourself spending an awful lot of time with a person you don’t particularly care for. How often do you actually see your family anymore? Are you spending night after night with this friend? Do they call you every time they feel slighted over the mildest thing? Do they whine and pout when you inform them that you have somewhere else to be? Remember, you have your own life to live.
3) They don’t bring out the best in you.
Look, I am certainly no angel. Anyone who claims to be so is either a liar or a lunatic. I’ve given bad advice, and have (in my younger days) encouraged my friends to do stupid things, and the same has happened to me. In fact, a crucial component of friendship is getting into absurd situations together and laughing about it later. That being said, a true friend doesn’t go out of their way to leave you embarrassed or vulnerable. If you end up getting stoned or drunk every time you spend time with a certain friend, is it really their company you are seeking or something else? Do you go to them because they embolden you to behave in a manner that, deep down, you know is destructive, but you aren’t inclined to listen to the nagging voices or your family? A real friend wants you to be the best possible version of yourself. A proper friend should encourage you to go for that job you’re nervous about, talk to that guy or girl you’ve had a crush on for ages, warns you when your behaviour is starting to degenerate into something unhealthy, and steers you away from any negative influences.
4) They are competitive over the smallest things.
This one is difficult to pick up on. Competition, on its own, is a wonderful thing, and there is nothing wrong with friends getting a tad competitive. We all do it. When your friend tries to compete with you over the most trivial things, it does raise a few eyebrows. It could be something as simple as grades in a test, or perhaps they try to compete with you on more personal, intimate aspects of your life. For example, how often does your friend mention how many sexual partners they have had? Is it a lot? If it is, how often does it seem like they are boasting, comparing themselves to you? If it’s not too often then, while your friend might be a bit immature, I probably wouldn’t go as far as to describe them as toxic. If it’s something that happens quite a lot, then perhaps it’s time for you to move on. This sort of absurd competitiveness goes far beyond matters of sex. Does your friend always try to one-up you? Do they always have to tell the craziest stories, to dominate every conversation? If so, then you will probably be relieved to hear that it’s time to walk away.
5) They don’t listen, but expect you to.
One of the great things about friendship is that your friends are sometimes the only people in the whole world that you can be honest with. Honesty does sometimes come with baggage. We all have some: there is no shame in admitting to it. On the other hand, if we all have baggage of our own to carry, it does mean that we should be careful with how much we take on from other people. If you go to a friend with a problem they should listen, express their sympathy, and try to offer you the best advice they can: or direct you to someone more suitable if they cannot. If your friend uses every opportunity to shift the conversation towards their own troubles, then you are going to strain under the weight of your own baggage and theirs. If they keep up this sort of behaviour, then it might be best to wish them well and walk away, for the sake of your own health.