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End That Friendship!

Some friendships are bad for you.

Source: shutterstock/kittipong053

Friendship is finally becoming more widely recognized as one of the principal pathways to happiness. Social connections can dramatically improve our mental and physical health, guide us to healthier behaviors, and significantly extend our lives. But just like any superpower, friendship can also be used by ill-intentioned people for evil and destruction. These are toxic friends.

Toxic friends have a multitude of methods for causing damage: criticism, competition, deception, exclusion, gossip, bullying, resentment, manipulation, inconsistency, and insults just to name a few. Often their behaviors are well masked, buried in solicitous conversation that seems harmless and even kind and caring. It can be so well disguised that we may be almost unaware of the underlying infliction of pain.

Other times, the relationship is just unbalanced. The conversations are always about their issues, concerns and activities. They control when you are together and what you do. When they need something you are there, but the favor is rarely returned.

Some friendships are bad for us because of what they encourage us to do or not do. We are all susceptible on some level to peer pressure and it can lead us into risky situations or dangerous, unhealthy behaviors. Sometimes another’s influence can draw us off a path of self-improvement or the pursuit of a dream.

Unfortunately, by the time we begin to recognize that a relationship is bringing us unhappiness or is burdensome or damaging, it is often quite established: a close or intimate friendship, someone we see regularly and often. She may know a great deal about our most personal business and deepest insecurities. This knowledge may make you wary of cutting off the relationship.

But excising these people from your life is crucial to your health and happiness. Studies show that toxic relationships can cause significant damage to our bodies. Just like positive relationships cause us to release feel-good hormones that bring contentment and health, negative relationships cause us to suffer stress-related conditions like higher blood pressure, anxiety, lowered immunity, depression, digestive problems and more. Over time, the damage can be considerable. It is possible for a bad friendship, like a bad marriage, to cause serious physical and mental carnage.

Fortunately most friendships are not too difficult to escape. First, you make up your mind to eliminate the toxic friend from your life. Then you take control and either do it affirmatively with a difficult but straightforward conversation, or you do it passively by avoiding her and ignoring her efforts to connect. Both ways work.

And, while extricating yourself from toxic friendships is vitally important, eliminating even mildly negative relationships is advisable too. It is so easy to let a “Debbie Downer” into your life, and then before you know it, you find yourself being dragged into the doldrums over and over again. Life is too short to waste time with these depressive sorts. The world is full of genuine, caring, compassionate and uplifting people to be friends with. Find as many of them as you can, stick with them, and you will enjoy health, happiness and longevity.