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How to Differentiate a Toxic Friendship


August 25, 2022

We all know about toxic relationships and the signs that come along with them. But what about toxic friendships? They are just as common and just as destructive.

Yet, we don't hear a lot about them and the signs that come along with a toxic friendship. Here are a few clues on how to differentiate whether a friend is genuine or if they are toxic (since we all know how hard friendships can be to manage).

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Teasing and Insults are Regularly Used

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There certainly are friendships where jokes are shared between each other. However, when the teasing turns into insults (or they are backhanded), that's when the green flag starts to turn red.

Jokes are only funny if both people are laughing. Insulting one's body, personality, or any issue they are facing will never be funny. If you can't fix something in less than five minutes, then your true friends shouldn't mention it.

When you start to feel bad about the jokes your friend makes at your expense, let them know. A true friend would apologize for hurting your feelings and promise not to do it again. If they don't care or if they don't change their habits, that is a clear sign that they don't care about your feelings.

If they call you sensitive in response to your feelings, run!

In a friendship, you shouldn't be criticized all the time. Friends should bring you up rather than bringing you down. They should help you achieve things, but breaking your self-esteem certainly won't help you in any way.

You are Constantly Peer Pressured

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We are constantly surrounded by peer pressure, and we often succumb to it because we want to fit in with others. Toxic friends thrive on peer pressure. They want to influence you to do the same thing that they are doing.

For example, they might convince you to drink more, and they'll call you 'no fun' if you try to refuse. Another example would include them taking a dig at you for staying in a long-term relationship (especially if they've only ever been in short-term relationships). They might pressure you into breaking up with your partner in order to 'enjoy life at its fullest'.

A true friend would understand that you aren't comfortable doing something, especially after having heard your refusal multiple times. They should accept that you don't wish to participate in said activity. Friends might encourage you to do something so that you don't miss out on enjoyable experiences.

For instance, applying for a job opportunity (that might be stressful) but they know you'll regret it if you don't apply. However, as mentioned, if you truly refuse to do something, a real friend will understand.

Your Boundaries are Disrespected

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Boundaries are important in any kind of relationship, and friendships aren't excluded. It can certainly be hard, especially at the beginning of a friendship, to really understand what the boundaries of a person are. While they can be challenging, it's important to talk about your boundaries. True and supportive friends will try their best to understand and work hard to make sure your limits are respected.

On the other hand, toxic friends think they are beyond your boundaries. They don't ask you how you feel or if you are comfortable with what they are doing. They break your boundaries, especially when they need your support.

They continue to dismiss your boundaries as if they don't even exist. As a result, it might cause you to feel bad about setting limits. You might end up feeling guilty for having rules, and frustrated that your friend doesn't listen to them.

However, you shouldn't feel bad for having boundaries. Everyone has them and they need to be respected.

They Make Themselves the Victim

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Toxic friends always seem to have problems that are bigger than yours. They demand your time to help them through their never-ending struggles. While their problems may be real, they never seem to take action.

All they do is complain and ask for your support. As a result, their situation is never improved, which can make you feel frustrated and concerned.

Additionally, a toxic friend might use their struggles against you, using them to manipulate you to do things for them. For instance, they might ask you to spend more time with them since they are struggling. Their goal is to make you feel guilty and then stay with them.

Being in a true friendship, you both need to be there for one another. That is because friendship includes helping each other through hardships. However, it doesn't just include complaining to one another, but helping each other overcome each others' problems. In addition, a friend should ask you if you are comfortable with them talking about their problems with you (and vice-versa), since not everyone is always in the right state of mind to hear about hardships.

You Feel Drained

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Are you emotionally exhausted?

Do you feel burnout?

Do you feel like you gave everything you had to give (and have nothing left)?

Friendships shouldn't make you feel drained every time you hang out with each other. Toxic friendships take a toll on your mental and physical health, which can lead to burnout. That is because you are spending all your energy and time trying to please them. This can also pull you away from other friendships and activities that make you happy.

On the contrary, true friendships should bring you happiness and confidence. Of course, there will always be a few fights. But most of the time, you should want to go spend time with them. Additionally, after the time spent together, you should be happy you chose to do so.

Moving forward

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If, after reading through the different ways to differentiate between a true and toxic friendship, you feel as if you are in a toxic one, there are two ways to proceed. You can try fixing the friendship. Try setting new boundaries and talking with them. However, it can be hard to change someone who doesn't want to change (or who likes themselves the way they are).

Therefore, most people decide to follow the second option: ending the friendship. You have every right to end a toxic friendship, since it is harming your well-being. If you do decide to terminate the friendship, avoid communication.

They can guilt-trip you into staying, just like toxic relationships. Try deleting them off social media and blocking them. If you are still on the fence, try speaking with your family or other friends about your problem. They can help you understand your feelings and how to make change happen.

The most important part is for you to end up in a situation that is best for your well-being, whether that means fixing the toxic friendship or leaving it.

Daria D
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Writer since Jul, 2022 · 22 published articles

Daria is a high school student from Canada. She has a passion for writing and science. She also enjoys reading, learning new languages, swimming, and drawing.