Breaking up with someone you love is a complicated process. But what’s more difficult to comprehend is ending a friendship. When you consider the amount of history both of you share, you might feel tempted to stay put in a toxic relationship.
That may mean putting up with a lot of drama, unhealthy events, and unnecessary competition. You may think it’s a small price to pay for fear of finding out how your friend will react. Or worse, you might worry they will share your darkest secrets with the world.
Regardless of your thoughts and fears, ending a toxic friendship (or a friendship that is just not working) is possible.
Signs of a toxic friendship
Sometimes your friends can be ok when you’re one on one, but sometimes when you add in other people it becomes a toxic dynamic. Which can often lead to peer pressure. Toxic friendships are difficult to let go of, especially if you’ve been friends with them for a long time. But sometimes, when you realise that your mental health is suffering, it’s time to move on.
Some signs that you might have a toxic friend:
- your boundaries are not respected
- they always need something from you
- your struggles are weaponised (rumours or peer pressure)
- they make you feel guilty for spending time with others
- your core values are often dismissed
- they are unreliable
- your beliefs are belittled or made fun of
- they put you down
- you feel nervous around them
- they get your other friends to gang up on you
- your stress levels increase when you are around them
- they try to change you
- you get the blame for their bad behavior or bad habits
- they have broken your trust
- your other relationships suffer
- they talk about you behind your back
- you give more than you get
- they make you compete with them
- you don’t like who you become when you are with them
- they talk badly about others behind your back
- you don’t like how you feel after spending time with them
- they regularly break your trust
- you’re on the receiving end of emotional abuse and bad intentions
If you agree to any of the above, it might be a sign of a toxic friend. You might agree with a few of these, but that doesn’t prove they have toxic traits. It just means you might need to look out for more of these warning signs on a regular basis.
So how do you release yourself from a toxic friendship? Try these strategies:
If you were involved in an unhealthy situation, there is no need to end the friendship suddenly. Instead, set boundaries that are realistic but strong.
Some boundaries or limits you can put in place with a toxic person:
- limit the number of times per week you communicate
- limit the areas of life that you share information about and let them know that some topics are off limits
- communicate through one platform (phone conversation, text message, social media messaging, email, in-person etc)
- consider how agreeable you are to their requests or demands
Healthy boundaries ensure that everyone involved feels safe and secure, creating healthy friendships. And it’s a great first step in protecting yourself from toxic people.
Boundaries are often easy to set when you meet new people and make new friends. It can see the scene for positive relationships. and the kind of friends you want to have.
Be honest with yourself
You may not want to get yourself involved in a drawn-out conversation. But you must talk to your friend about how you feel.
And remember, you have good reasons to end your friendship. If you don’t, maybe you can try to work things out. But if you realize that things won’t work out, it may be best to end it.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- does this particular friend have my best interests at heart?
- is there anything I can do to be a better friend?
- how will changing the relationship affect my own emotions, in both positive and negative ways?
- is the relationship affecting my mental health or my physical health?
- do they need a second chance after putting in some boundaries?
Be honest with yourself and your friend. The sooner you know it’s time to leave, the sooner you can get rid of the toxic friendship.
The fact that you want to end a friendship means you’ve realized that it’s no longer beneficial to you. Don’t let that taint your message, though. You still need to present your case as objectively as possible.
Be courteous throughout your conversation. Nostalgia can cause you to reminisce about the good times you had together. However, those memories don’t excuse their behaviour. Remain as calm and collected as possible throughout your conversation.
End the friendship
Although you may attempt to let your friend go gradually, that might not work. You might want to take a more direct approach.
Sit down with your friend and explain that you need more time and energy for other things. Then, give them a final warning, and if they don’t respond kindly, end the friendship.
The direct approach may feel unnerving while you’re at it, but don’t let yourself feel intimidated. The best thing is to allow yourselves the chance to talk things out first and come to an understanding. Soon enough, you’ll realize how freeing it feels.
Think about why people around you affect you in a negative way and decide whether you want to keep associating with them. Then, tell them it’s over and politely explain that things just aren’t working out anymore.
The negative feelings associated with the toxicity will not vanish overnight. But with time, everyone involved will begin to heal and grow stronger.
Toxic Friendships: Knowing the Rules and Dealing with the Friends Who Break Them
by Suzanne Degges-White and Judy Pochel Van Tieghem
You can use all of these strategies for platonic relationships, romantic relationships, your social circle, family members, family friends and even an old friend.