Friendship is a beautiful thing. Friends make life more meaningful, and less lonely. They support you, love you, and increase your self-worth. True friends lift you up. And friendship gives us a sense of purpose and belonging. It makes us feel at peace and “home.”
But not all friendships are good or healthy. Like some romantic relationships, some friendships are toxic, through and through. And these friendships are ones that should not be maintained. We should avoid toxic friendships at all costs.
“Toxic friendships can take different forms, but they generally drain you mentally and have a way of bringing you down instead of building you up,” an article on Healthline explains. “A good friend having a bad day might snap at you or seem distant, but they’ll likely apologize once things settle down. Toxic friends, on the other hand, tend to follow a pattern that never really dies down. They won’t show much regret or inclination to change, even when they realize they made you feel bad.”
But that’s not all: Toxic friends are selfish and self-serving. They ask for help or favors but never reciprocate. Toxic friends talk — a lot. They gossip excessively and like to speak about themselves. Toxic friends make you feel bad about yourself. They tease you and joke with or about you and frequently put you down. Toxic friends are unpredictable. They make you feel nervous and unsettled. Some individuals are even manipulative and/or abusive. And toxic friends try to change you. Rather than accepting you (and your personality) at face value, they try to mold you into the friend they want — not the person you may be. Some toxic friends will even tell you what to do, wear, say, and how to act. They give commands instead of advice.
“Toxic friendships can have a pretty significant impact on overall well-being — and not positively,” Healthline states. “Spending time with people who don’t care about your feelings can eventually affect your emotional and physical health.” Your stress level will increase, for example, and/or you may feel isolated and alone. “If you notice any of the following signs after spending time with a friend, you may want to consider re-evaluating the friendship.”
Of course, there are other friendship red flags. Not all broken friendships are toxic; sometimes people just “fall out.” Some friendships, like relationships, just fall apart. And while you can usually see these things coming — you may avoid seeing a “friend,” for example, because their company no longer brings you joy — not every sign is obvious.
Here are seven friendship red flags:
- If your friend’s face is constantly buried in their phone when you’re together, they don’t want a friend, they want company. That’s not the same.
- If you find yourself avoiding situations with your friend, you may be in trouble: i.e., lying to get out of get-togethers is a huge red flag.
- If you feel you cannot be vulnerable and/or honest with your friend, you should be concerned, as friendships, like all relationships, are built on conversations, candor, and trust.
- If your friend is only there for you during “good times” they may not be a true friend. Make no mistake: Party friends have their place, but if you’re confusing the two you may be in for disappointment or hurt.
- If your friend never “checks in” with you, you could be in trouble. Friendship is a two-way street, and silence may be a sign something is wrong.
- Buying friendships is also a thing, and is a sign something is amiss. If your friend showers you with trips and gifts but fails to show up when you need an ear or support, they don’t want friendship. They want a project.
- And finally, if you dread their texts or calls, and you find yourself saying things like “what do they want now” when your phone dings or rings, you should probably reevaluate your relationship.
That said, if you notice any of these “red flags” in your friendship(s), fear not: Their presence doesn’t mean your bond is bound to be broken. Rather, these signs should give you inspiration and revelation. They should motivate you to talk to each other about what it is you need or want. Having an open, honest conversation could be the wake up call you each need. True friends can overcome stagnation, broken foundations, and rough patches. If you want to fix your bond, try putting the phone down. Meet up, show up, and go on friendship “dates.” Because, yes, even these relationships require nurturing and support.
That said, not all friendships are worth salvaging and saving — and that’s okay. Sometimes, the friendliest thing you can do for one another is go your separate ways.