Can You Tell When a Friend Is No Good for You?

Realizing why you're vulnerable is the first step to moving on.

Posted Nov 04, 2013

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Is this you?

If you were raised by narcissistic parents, it is common to be attracted to the familiar. It often becomes a secondary trauma. We may feel like we have to master it and make it work: If my own mother or father can’t love me, then I have to make this friendship work or it shows that I am unlovable and they were right.

But there is another answer.

We attract people into our lives who are on the same emotional level we are. Without recovery, adult children of narcissistic parents are very vulnerable in relationships. This can happen to you, as it does for many. You are not alone.

But how do you tell if your friends are narcissistic? Consider these questions:

  1. Is there reciprocity in the relationship? Is there give and take, or is one person always the giver and the other always the taker?
  2. Are you able to be yourself in this relationship? Do you find you have to play down your talents to make the friend feel less threatened? Or does this friend celebrate you and allow you to shine in your own right?
  3. Is there a sharing of vulnerability on both sides? Can you both discuss your real feelings?
  4. Do you trust this person with your feelings or do you find yourself on guard most of the time? Have your feelings been used against you?
  5. Can your friend give you empathy on a peer level?
  6. Does this friend bring out the best in you? Do you get to be your real self in good times and bad?
  7. When issues need to be discussed, can this friend be accountable for their own behavior?
  8. Do you find it acceptable to have boundaries with this friend? When setting boundaries, does it cause problems? Or is this understood and easily worked through?
  9. Do you care about each other as people, in addition to what you do together?
  10. Does the friend exploit you for his or her own ends, or just cherish what you bring to the relationship?


Choosing and keeping cherished friends can be a challenge. If you are an adult child of a narcissistic parent, you learned the wrong definition of love, so it has to be re-learned through your own recovery work. As you do recovery, you may find that some friends are not healthy for you and you may need to begin to develop healthier connections. This is not only OK; it's good for you. It's important to find friends who add to your life rather than drain you. Search for friendships that offer a match to your strengths, and honor your authenticity and passions in life. Don’t allow competitiveness and jealousy to get in the way.

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”—Oprah Winfrey

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”—Henri Nouwen

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”—Albert Schweitzer.


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