We all want to have that friendship that brings fullness to our lives. A friendship that encourages us to be better and live joyfully. Friendships are people who help us to navigate the difficulties of life. But there are times in this world when we find ourselves entangled in a toxic friendship.
The world is full of deceit and self-centeredness so we don’t always see the signs of toxicity until we are heart-deep in a friendship. It is harder to leave toxic friendships than it is to acquire them. Learning to see the traits lessen your chances of finding yourself engaged in a toxic friendship.
15 traits of a toxic friendship
Here are fifteen traits of a toxic friendship.
1. Their behavior toward you is abusive and belittling.
Toxic friendships often display abusive behavior. They may continuously put you down and speak critically of everything you do. They choose to use mean words and angry outbursts if they feel they cannot control your decisions. Rather than being a friend that builds you up, a toxic friend will belittle you because they are envious of what you do or have. They are a bully.
2. They are jealous of other friends and significant others.
When your friend becomes jealous of any new friends you make may be exhibiting signs of a toxic friendship. They may even try to put a wedge between you and your other friends, including any of your romantic relationships. They do not want to share you with anyone even if it keeps you from dating your future spouse. They are covetous.
3. They want you to be like them.
It’s great to have some of the same interests as your friends, but when your friend is trying to change you into what they want you to be it becomes toxic and stressful. A toxic friend doesn’t know how to embrace the things that make you who you are but instead wants to see more of themselves in you. They are controlling.
4. They want you always to be the giver.
Having good friends means that you are there for each other no matter what comes in life. The friendship is mutual in giving and taking. But with toxic friendships, you will end up giving more. They just can’t find time to help you out of a tight spot or let you borrow the car, even though you lent them yours last month. A toxic friend will take advantage of you before helping you. They are freeloaders.
5. They always cause drama.
No matter what a toxic friend will always find a way to incite drama. Whether it’s an argument with a co-worker or a lady in the grocery store who cut in line, something always keeps happening to them. They live an exaggerated life.
6. Friendships are transactional and conditional.
When your friend becomes angry or distant because you didn’t agree with them or give them something they needed that is transactional. They only want to be your friend if you give them something. When you don’t, they may give you the silent treatment and even say you are no longer their friend. They are inconsistent.
7. They continually gossip about others.
One big red flag about toxic friendships is gossip. Most of the time they will gossip and say that they only want to help them. They tend to share secrets about others and even you. They are gossipy.
8. You no longer trust them.
Having a good friend means you can trust them with your hurt. We want a friend who will maintain confidentiality with our problems. When your friend doesn’t have your best interest at heart then it can become a trust issue. You may feel that you cannot trust them to follow through with helping you. There are times when plans fail, but when it is constant it changes their reliability. They are untrustworthy.
9. It feels like you are competing with them.
There is a healthy level of competition between friends. Working out together can be a healthy competition when done in a way that is encouraging to one another. Toxic friendships bring a sense of fighting to be the best every time simply because they have put you down. They are unconfident.
10. You find yourself making excuses for their behavior.
If your friend is known for bad behavior, it could place you in a position to defend them to others. It can cause you to defend their behavior even if you know it is not proper. They are unsettling.
11. You find that you cannot be honest with them.
It is important to feel safe with our friends. When we feel like we need to hide our truths so that we do not cause our friend to be angry then we may need to evaluate the friendship. We should always be able to be comfortable around our friends. When we find that we have to keep some things hidden it could be a sign that we are in a toxic friendship. They are harsh.
12. You no longer enjoy spending time with them.
When you are relieved that plans were canceled you may want to be concerned about the friendship. Toxic friendships eventually bring a dread about spending time together. You may find yourself making an excuse to break plans. They are unhappy.
13. They pressure you into activities that you do not like.
Sadly, being pressured by friends isn’t just a thing that happens in our teen years. We can find ourselves pressured by adult friends. The difference with toxic friendships is that they want you to engage in behavior simply because they don’t want to look bad alone. They want you to be like them in all aspects of life even if it means partaking in behavior that is not appropriate. They are judgmental.
14. They do not understand boundaries.
Toxic friendships do not embrace boundaries. These friends believe they do not have to respect your boundaries because they are your “best” friend. They think there is no way that you would not include them in every aspect of your life, even if you are married. They are big-headed.
15. They are unable to apologize.
We all make mistakes. A good friend will acknowledge the mistake and apologize. A toxic friend will find a way to make you feel as though you are overreacting and that they are the true victim. They hardly see when they do anything to hurt others. Sometimes they may apologize with the addition of a “but” statement. For instance, “I apologize for making you feel dumb, but I was just kidding.” They are self-centered.
How can you fix a toxic friendship?
There are steps that you can take to change the dynamics of the friendship. Try having a conversation about the situation in hopes that your friend may want to save the relationship as well. You may have to distance yourself from your friend to determine the best course of action. Speaking with other friends can help you gain insight that you might not usually see because you are in the middle of the conversation.
There is always the possibility that you will have to walk away from the friendship. It is never easy to walk away from someone who has been in your life for any length of time. Especially if you feel that you have created a bond with that person. But when it comes to toxic friendships sometimes it is the only option. We aren’t designed to be isolated, and neither are we designed to be mistreated.
Healing from toxic relationships
Once you have decided that the only option for the friendship is to walk away you will find yourself needing time to heal emotionally and mentally. You have been in a friendship that has made you feel isolated, inadequate, and worthless.
The stress of this friendship has left you feeling like you are unable to trust other people. Take time to grieve. Learn to be okay with getting to know yourself again. Start doing the things you like without feeling guilty.
God’s word encourages us to be healthy in our friendships. He created us to be social people, but we are to be people that edify others rather than tear them down. We are to be quick to listen and slow to judge. Spend time in God’s word and begin to understand what friendship should look like.
Treat others how you want to be treated.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. – Luke 6:31, NIV
Be kind and compassionate. Show patience with each other and learn to forgive.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3:12-14, NIV
Do not be centered on yourself but always value others first.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4, NIV
Be quick to build up one another and encourage each other in the calling of God.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV
If you feel that you need help navigating the grieving process of a friendship reach out to a Christian counselor. Many will be able to help you process this grief and heal from the emotional damage of a toxic friendship.
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