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13 Red Flags of Potentially Toxic Friendships

If you have doubts, it might be best to trust your gut.

Source: DarkBird/Shutterstock
Source: DarkBird/Shutterstock

There are two types of “red flags” that indicate that a critical juncture in a friendship has been reached. First, there are intuitive flashes, also known as “I should’ve known better” moments. These are the red flags that come from your gut. While most of us know that it is important to trust our instincts, many of us also feel like we should give a friend the benefit of the doubt. How do you know which to choose? If one of the following red flags shows up for you, it is important to listen to your intuition:

  1. You realize that hanging out with a particular friend leaves you feeling worse, not better, after your time together.
  2. You realize that you've begun to try to find reasons to avoid spending time with a friend or wanting to cancel plans once they have been made.

The second type of red flag appears because of actual toxic incidents or from external evidence of a friendship’s impending implosion. These include the following scenarios:

  1. Your friend only seems to “like you” or want to spend time with you when he or she needs something from you.
  2. Your friend tries to isolate you from other relationships in your life, perhaps by badmouthing romantic partners or other friends.
  3. You find yourself trying to make excuses for your friend’s behavior or to defend him or her from other friends who more clearly see their shortcomings or poor treatment of you.
  4. While friendships are based on social exchange, “red flag” friends typically draw more resources from the “friendship bank” than they ever put into it.

Most of us know at some level when a friendship has turned toxic; however, we may have a hard time admitting that we made a poor choice in placing our trust in that person.

In case you need a few more hints that it is time to re-think a relationship, here are seven situation-specific descriptions of friends who may not have your best interest at heart:

  1. New acquaintances who seem to claim too much of your time or share too much personal information too soon.
  2. Friends who call you only when something is wrong in their lives.
  3. Friends who take control of planning outings without respect for your interests.
  4. Friends who monopolize conversations or only want to discuss their own lives and experiences, without giving you time to share your perspectives or feelings.
  5. Friends who complain that you are not available enough, active enough, or understanding enough. (When a friend raises too many complaints about your shortcomings, make sure that relationship is short-lived.)
  6. Friends who view you as “competition” in any activity may be future toxic friends, depending on how far they push their competitive spirit.
  7. Friends who are not shy about asking to borrow money, but are slow to return it, should be reminded that friendship and banking are two separate functions.

For more information, order the book Toxic Friendships: Knowing the Rules and Dealing with the Friends Who Break Them.

More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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