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8 Signs of a Toxic Friendship

6. One person is trying to get too close too soon.

Key points

  • Friendships are based on mutual respect, honesty, and mutual affinity.
  • Friends should help everyone feel better about themselves and their lives, not worse.
  • Anyone who finds themselves wanting to ghost a friend should think about what's causing that reaction.

While not every friendship is going to last a lifetime, it is normal to hope that it just fizzles rather than going out with a bang. We may outgrow a friendship as we move through different life transitions, such as going from single to coupled or coupled to newly single again. Or we might lose our passion for salsa dancing or have an injury keep us out of spin class for too long. Geographical relocations can also challenge friendships in ways that are hard to navigate successfully.

While friendships may dissolve as we grow and change through life, sometimes there are warning signs that it’s time to intentionally bring a friendship to a close. Friendships are based on mutual affinity and mutual respect, but when a friend’s behavior makes you question their allegiance or motives, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship and see if it needs to be fixed or finished.

Warning Signs of a Toxic Friendship

  1. You discover that information you’d shared only with a particular friend, and had expressly asked them not to share, is now known by people you’ve never spoken to about that topic. When a friend spills information that was only meant for their ears, that’s a sign that they either didn’t “hear” you advise them about the confidential nature of the information shared; the friend doesn’t respect you, or they are sharing the “insider info” for their own benefits.
  2. A friend wants to know more about you and your life than they are willing to share about themselves. Authentic, healthy friendships are built on mutual sharing with each person opening up at relatively equal levels over time. If you feel the friend is hiding things or, conversely, giving too much information way too soon, slow down and check the lay of the land before trying to deepen the relationship.
  3. A work colleague who you considered a friend tries to take credit for work you’ve done or ideas you’ve had. Helping a colleague or sharing credit when credit is due are valued behaviors, but if you have a colleague who is “helping themselves” to credit for what you’re doing, they may be plotting other “friendly takeover” behaviors. Friends don’t steal other friends’ ideas, credit, friends, or romantic interests.
  4. You feel something just isn’t “right” about the friendship. It’s important to trust your instincts about any relationship. Most of us who end up getting hurt by a friend will say something like, “Well, the warning signs were there, I just didn’t pay attention.” When you find yourself wondering if a relationship isn't what you thought it was, give yourself space to reflect on what's changed or what's missing.
  5. If someone brings you down or you’re consistently avoiding someone, it may be time to end the friendship or at least “take a break” from the relationship. When you find yourself dreading spending time with a friend or find that you often look for reasons to cancel plans with them, that’s a subtle sign that the relationship isn’t as healthy as it could be.
  6. Someone is trying too hard to become too close too soon. When it feels like a new or casual friend is pushing a relationship to go deeper than is comfortable right now, that may be a sign they are trying to manipulate you for their own gain. Maybe they think you’ll be able to get them a job, connection, invitation, or entry to something they couldn’t get on their own. They may have ulterior motives for pushing the friendship.
  7. When a friend is always asking for favors, assistance, support, but isn’t there when you need someone to be there for you. When a friend always seems to be “needy” and never is able to give what they take from the relationship, that’s a sign that the relationship may not be healthy over the long haul. Some people are wired to take as much as they can from others with no intention or ability to offer any support to others. We need friends we can depend on—not just friends who depend on us.
  8. When a friend seems to be trying to co-opt your other friends, there may be some kind of “friendship coup” in the works. Toxic friends may try to use you as a means to “infiltrate” your friendship group and then try to squeeze you out of the social circle. You may find out this is happening when the toxic friend is organizing social events or get-togethers with your friends, but you’re not included.

Three Questions to Ask Yourself

When you’ve got a feeling in your gut that a friendship doesn’t feel right, here are some questions that might help you figure out whether or not to continue the friendship:

  1. Do I feel better or worse about myself or life, in general, after spending time with this person?
  2. Do I find myself ignoring texts or phone calls from this person or canceling plans to get together with this person?
  3. Has this person’s presence in my life done more harm than good?

Facebook image: STEKLO/Shutterstock

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