You might wake up one morning and realize that your “friend” isn’t so great after all. He or she seems to really enjoy making you feel bad or making your life hard. Now is the time to finally break up with a friend who is bad for you.
Because, like any other important relationship, a true friend should make your life better. There will always be tense times when you and your friend actively dislike each other before making up over a round of mixed cocktails at your local watering hole. But you should stop and think if your fights last too long or happen too often.
Signs you have a toxic friend
The tricky thing about friends is that we love and care about them a lot, and sometimes that love can make it hard for us to see their bad behavior and how it hurts us. But it’s important to know the common signs that someone is not only bad for your health but also bad for your mind.
If someone you know exhibits any of the following 5 red flags, it may be time to reevaluate your friendship with them.
- Their issues are the only ones that matter: Watch out for the friend who only visits when things are great or when they need something from you, like advice. Some people will call you for an hour to vent about their problems, then ask you how you are with only half their attention.
- Constantly over stepping boundaries:The cornerstone of any happy relationship is mutual respect. To some friends, crossing your boundaries is a sign of closeness, but it’s really just them taking advantage of you. Perhaps your friend has been borrowing your clothes and jewelry without asking or has been pressuring you to go out when you really need some downtime.
- Try to change who you are: Friendships grow not only when people have similar interests and values, but also when they can openly recognize and value each other’s unique qualities. A friend who is toxic in a relationship may ask you to change who you really are. They might notice what you don’t like and put you in uncomfortable situations or tell you to change how you talk, dress, or act. Friends should gently push each other to stop doing things that could hurt each other, but they should never put pressure on you to change who you are as a person.
- Tell you other people’s secrets: When your friend constantly talks about other people, this can lead to mistrust and suspicion. If you hear them say bad things about other people, it’s easy to think they’ll say bad things about you, too, and you can’t trust them with your secrets. Sometimes, instead of hearing your friend talk about someone else, you hear something about yourself from someone you didn’t tell. Gossiping is the fastest way to lose trust in a friend, especially if it’s a habit.
- Unsupportive to your accomplishments: Toxic friends don’t often give you compliments or appreciation, unlike other members of your social group. In actuality, they never encourage you or give you props for your accomplishments. They rarely make you feel good about yourself and are much more likely to kick you when you’re down. When people applaud you, they could also sulk.
How to end a toxic friendship
It’s tough to know how to handle being in a toxic friendship, but it may be really unpleasant to be in one.
After all that effort, if your friend still isn’t willing to compromise, you may need to consider the difficult but necessary step of ending your friendship graciously.
1. Let it fade away
This method involves letting the friendship end on its own by spending less time with the other person over time. This is like taking out the stitches on a shirt instead of ripping it apart. You might want to slowly stop being friends with someone if you don’t want to fight with them, if they won’t listen or accept what you say, or if the relationship is toxic.
Usually, fading out of a friendship is done to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Instead of being honest about how you feel, you just stop getting together or become hard to reach. Slowly cut down on meetings, phone calls, and texts, but this only works if you both feel the same way.
2. Communicate clearly
When ending a toxic relationship, you want to make sure everyone knows what’s going on. Toxic people can be very needy and controlling, and they might not take “no” very well. Being as clear as you can can help you break up with someone in a clear way.
This might feel like the hardest part, so get ready to be nervous. Whether this is the first time you’ve talked to the other person or you’ve lost track of how many times, have a final, honest conversation about why and when you’re leaving. You know this person well enough to be able to guess how they’ll react, so prepare yourself emotionally and mentally for their response.
3. Be Gentle with your words
There’s no reason to treat this person badly. In all honesty, a lot of negative traits come from a lack of self-confidence or something even deeper. Most likely, they’re not a bad person; they’re just not good friends. Don’t be afraid of getting into a fight and don’t be afraid to say what you want to say. Just don’t point fingers and blame.
It might be tempting to tell your friend that they ruined your life (okay, that’s a bit dramatic), but making accusations doesn’t help end the relationship in a good way. It’s not fair to put the blame on just one person. Instead, look at it from the point of view of the bad relationship, not from the point of view of your friend’s bad personality.
4. Seek supportive friends
I was able to get through the painful experience of losing my friend by leaning on the help of my family and friends. Think about getting help from your friends and putting your time, energy, and emotional bandwidth into relationships that meet your needs.
Reach out to family or friends, or anyone else who can help you remember why you’re breaking up with the person. Don’t try to “break up” with this person on your own.
5. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries is not disrespectful; it’s a way to take care of yourself. Even with close family members, resist the urge to think that placing boundaries isn’t important. Just because someone is associated with you doesn’t mean they can treat you badly.
If you want to cut someone out of your life completely, you might stop talking to them, block their social media and phone numbers, and stay away from places where you might see them. You could also set limits on how much time or contact you have with them.
People who are bad for you aren’t always easy to spot. They don’t just say over coffee, “Hey, I have some really bad personality traits that will drain you and make you hate this friendship.” Because, in all honesty, most toxic people don’t realize that they are toxic. But if you find yourself in a situation where you need to stop being friends with someone for your own good, you can do it with grace and little to no drama.
Getting rid of a person who is bad for you is like getting rid of a huge weight. It’s important to remember that none of us are perfect and that we all do bad things in our friendships. The most important thing to do when a friendship ends is to work on forgiving. You don’t have to say “I forgive you,” but the best thing you can do for your own emotional health and to move on is to acknowledge it on your own.