by Liberty Stembridge, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 6th February, 2019
Not all friendships are for the best, sometimes you meet someone who seems great to begin with, but slowly as the friendship develops you find that it's becoming toxic.
Unfortunately for many people, without knowing the signs of a toxic friendship they can be difficult to spot, and by the time you realize you're already heavily invested in the friendship. So it's important to learn the signs and spot them early so you can sever ties if necessary.
Remember that a toxic friendship doesn't always mean that your friend is a nasty or mean person, it could just be that your personalities or desires clash too much that the relationship becomes unhealthy and unproductive for one or both of you, and it's perfectly acceptable to cut them off if so.
While jealousy is a normal emotion to feel, it's not the healthiest for a friendship. If your friend is consistently jealous of your success and it's making them bitter or act out against you, this is a serious sign that your friendship is toxic - for the both of you.
Warning signs for jealousy include: your friend half-heartedly congratulating you, them diminishing your achievements to make them seem lesser, or them talking over you to boast of their own successes, especially to other people.
Competition is great in sports, but not so good in friendships. If you feel like you're unwillingly competing against your friend in any way, your friendship may be going sour. This can easily happen in situations such as workplace friendships, student friendships etc, where you're both working in similar environments and have similar goals.
These feelings of competition can quickly lead to further feelings of resentment, jealousy, and other negative emotions, creating an unhealthy environment for both of you.
Friends are great for venting to, they're a fresh set of eyes, and a (hopefully) sympathetic shoulder to cry on when you're struggling. However, this can become unhealthy if one person in the friendship is taking on the bulk of the "listening" and the other is doing the majority of the talking.
In psychological terms, this is called unequal spread of emotional labor', when one person is doing a lot of work to manage and navigate the others feelings, and the other is benefitting without giving back. Emotional labor can be deceptively tiring, especially if you've got your own problems to deal with and no-one to talk to.
Talking to your friend to let them know you feel like the balance is unfair can help to clear up the problem, but if it continues, it may be time to reconsider the friendship - especially if it's impacting your own mental health.
A good friendship should build you up, not bring you down. If you find that spending time with your friend leaves you feeling self-conscious, tired and lacking in confidence, then you've got a problem. Often this is a sign that your friend is feeling low in self-esteem themselves, but this doesn't mean you have to put up with it - cutting them off may be the best thing for you.
If your close friends and family dislike someone in your life, this a big red flag for that person. Of course, they're not always right, but the people around you will often have a more balanced view of the friendship and know you better than you think they do - so their opinion is worthwhile. If they think that your friend is having a negative effect on you or is otherwise a toxic person to be around, bear that in mind.
Life can be hectic and stressful, and sometimes you won't get to see your friends for a while, that's just the way it goes. However, if you find that you're always the one to suggest plans, and never them, this could be a sign that you are much more invested in the relationship than they are, and that they don't care enough to keep in touch.
This is especially relevant if they keep cancelling plans to hang out with other people, or never prioritize seeing you. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are a bad person, just that they don't see your friendship as that important, in which case, you have an imbalance, and this can become toxic. Likewise, the reverse can also be a sign of a bad friendship. If your friend is constantly demanding your time or won't take no for an answer, it could be time to cut them off completely.
A friend should be a stable force in your life, someone you go to when you want to relax and have fun, not someone who contributes to your stress. Life is difficult enough as it is without having friends to make it more difficult. If you find yourself feeling like you're not good enough, like you have to perform or feeling overwhelmed in your friend's presence, it's time to say goodbye to that friend, at least for some time.
Trust is one of the most important aspects of any relationship - if you can't trust someone, what's the point in having them in your life? You should be able to feel confident that your friend will keep your private information private, look out for you when you're out and about, and trust that they would never steal from, backstab or otherwise hurt you.
We live in an evermore connected world, with people being able to see who you're friends with in just a few clicks. This can put undue pressure on a friendship, and this may manifest as your friend insisting that you showcase your friendship to the world, either by nagging you to interact with their posts, forcing you to take pictures with them to put online and getting mad at you if you don't want to do any of these things.
Sometimes all it takes is a quick conversation to let your friend know that you're not comfortable with this, but if it persists it could be a sign that your friend is more interested in others perception of your friendship than actually keeping you as a friend.