No matter our age or our current standing in life, we’ve all had to deal with toxic friendships. Friendships that are often manipulative, emotionally exhausting and leave you feeling worse off than you did before you met them. Toxic friendships, unlike bad relationships, are not easily discernable. This is simply because we view friends with a different, less assiduous lens than we do our partners.
So what is a toxic friendship? As per Suzanne Degges-White, “Toxic friendships happen when one person is being emotionally harmed or used by another, making the relationship more of a burden than support.”
Here are a few ways to deal with a toxic friendship in order to protect your mental and psychical well- being and sense of self.
- Recognize the signs
The subtle yet tell-tale signs that your friend is a toxic person are almost universal. For instance, if your friend seems to always require your help and expects you to be at their beck and call for every little difficulty but refuses to reciprocate the favoured time and again, chances are that they are a toxic person. When your entire conversation is monopolized by what is going on in their life and you never get a chance to talk about yourself, it is a clear sign of a one-sided friendship.
Apart from this, another sure-shot indicator that a friend is toxic is when you dread spending time with them, you are wary of checking your phone because you fear it’s them calling or texting or demanding more pieces of you than they deserve. This coupled with the loss of trust and experiencing low self-esteem after you meet or converse with them are all signs that a friendship is toxic.
- Set healthy boundaries
Once you’ve recognized the signs it’s time to address the situation. One solution is to set boundaries. Boundary settings can look like many different things. It can mean clarifying your role in their life. For instance, if you are of the opinion that your friend constantly dumps their problems on you, without giving you time to recharge, one thing you can do is politely but directly remind them that you are their friend and not their counsellor or therapist.
Trauma dumping occurs when those closest to us repeatedly attempt to communicate their most emotional or introspective thoughts with us. People with empathy and compassion frequently believe it is their sacred duty to take in and deal with every difficult issue for their friends. But being a shoulder to weep on or offer support is very different from turning into a statue who is always there, no matter what. Even though we might not like to acknowledge it, empathy needs time to refuel. And when we don’t get it, we frequently hold grudges and become frustrated with individuals who trauma dump on us. Thus, setting boundaries is essential.
- Introspect, Introspect, Introspect
If you see no change in their behaviour or actions despite setting boundaries, it is time to introspect. Think about how they make you feel. If their absence provides you with a sense of relief? What do they add to your life? Is your life better off without them?
Consider whether you tolerate their behaviour because it keeps you from being alone. Especially if you are aware that your friends, acquaintances, or social group may be toxic. Similar to jumping into cold water, the initial uncomfortable feelings of being alone will subside once you take the time to gather your thoughts and assess the situation. Additionally, you’ll meet new people and benefit from their friendships. In order to connect with people who can help you advance, you may need to focus on yourself and discover your particular requirements in order to cut ties with toxic acquaintances.
- Put yourself first, prioritize your mental well being
It can be extremely difficult to pull the plug on certain friendships even if they have become increasingly toxic. If you’ve given them chance after chance, to no avail, it’s perfectly acceptable to end the friendship.
After an explanation where you put forward your decision to end the friendship, you can stop taking their calls, remove them from your social media and cut them off from most parts of your life. Doing so does not make you a bad person or a bad friend.
It is important to remember that you deserve better than a friend who makes you feel insecure or overburdened and in the long run, your future self will thank you. So go on, you are entitled to grieve the loss of a friendship, to feel morose and even a sense of regret, but cutting off a toxic friend is oftentimes more beneficial than it is saddening.