Column by Diane Honey
Companionship is essential to our happiness as humans but unfortunately, not all of these relationships are good for us. Toxic friendships and relationships are so detrimental to your personal cause! They can hold you back from relationships, career opportunities, reaching your goals, and taking care of yourself. Toxic friends can be hard to spot, so I’m going to give you some insight into how they operate and how to deal with them.
The Self-Centered Friend
This type is fairly common, especially since your 20s are filled with self-introspection, and charging ahead with your goals. It’s the decade that’s all about you. However, what makes this friend toxic is that they’re all “me, me, me” and never “you, you you” This friend can likely drone on and on about themselves, their thoughts, their ideas, their experiences. But almost never return the listening ear. Even if they do listen, they’re likely not as empathetic, or even bother to remember the things you say. You may end up feeling slighted, uncared for, and drained by their tendency to suck all of your energy by having you focus on them.
The Needy Friend
While we should give ourselves freely to our friends, limits need to be made. Needy friends have no limits, and they don’t see the things that you want to achieve as important as the things they want to. This creates the perfect storm for an individual who is always asking. Help me, teach me, give me advice, do this for me. While good friends are endlessly giving and don’t hesitate to help; needy friends will run you dry and most likely give nothing in return. They feel so comfortable asking for so much because they see you as supply. Whether that supply is for their ego, emotions, or their bank account. These types of friends don’t deeply care about you as a person beyond what you can give to them. They are also terribly inconsistent and flake out of your life to come back when you’re needed yet again.
The Knee-Jerk Friend
The name explains it all. These friends have knee-jerk reactions to just about everything. These types cut you off with no warning over actions or words that have nothing to do with them. Or lash out and intentionally hurt you over petty arguments. These people are insecure about their place in your life, which is why petty things like small disagreements and social media posts cause them to react so deeply. They seek control to aid their insecurity, which is why lashing out and walking out are so appealing. It puts them in a position of power to either end the friendship or do something worse. Real friends don’t hurt each other or abandon each other because of a perceived slight. They talk about it candidly and openly so the situation could be resolved.
I never immediately peg a jealous friend as a toxic one, because jealousy is a very common, human emotion. Jealousy comes in two types, malicious and benign. What distinguishes these two is the outcome of the jealous feelings. Benign jealousy results in owning the jealous feeling and channeling it into inspiration and motivation. You may have been jealous of a quality your friend has, but only because you wanted to cultivate it yourself, and subsequently learned from your friend and bettered yourself. Malicious jealousy isn’t consciously acknowledged as something that’s wrong, it’s only felt. This causes a jealous friend to do things to bring you down so they can feel better. They give you bad advice because they don’t want your problems to be solved, nitpick at you to keep you in a state of insecurity. One telling attribute of a maliciously jealous friend is them downplaying or telling you to get rid of traits that make you unique or special. This is their way of dimming your light, so that you don’t outshine them. A good friend would never do this and will always encourage you to be your best, most vibrant, unique self.
How do you deal?
One way to deal is confrontation. Explain why their behaviour is a problem for you and how it makes you feel. If they respond by stonewalling, or saying “well you to x, y, and z too so you’re not perfect either!”, end the conversation. They’re not interested in being a better friend, but rather leveling the playing field. If your friend makes an effort to change, then you’re on the right track. However, if they cannot change their behaviour after several conversations, you have to cut them off. You can also fall back. Stop replying to every text or call, and make the friendship more casual. Call them up if they want to have a drink or go out, but don’t engage in conversations that are too intimate. This shifts the dynamic of the friendship so you’re less vulnerable to be hurt by them. If your friend is truly toxic, like a knee-jerk, needy, or maliciously jealous friend; cut them off. If a friend brings more negativity into your life and your psyche than positivity, cut them off. You are too precious and deserving of friends and people who uplift you, encourage you, empathize with you, and love you. And you deserve to feel like you can give the same things to a friend without worrying.