How to Recognize a Poisonous Friendship

There are times in our lives when you become friends with the wrong person. Sometimes, you realize it in time to break off the friendship, but other times, it’s too late and you feel stuck with that person. Before you know it, you feel sad, depressed, worthless, and trapped. By that point, it gets pretty difficult to ‘break up’ with that person. So, here are some tips on how to recognize a poisonous friendship before you get to that point.

  • They’re sweet when you first meet them, but as you get to know them they insult you regularly: And to excuse themselves for that behavior, they call it ‘a joke’. The thing is, the insults really should be a major red flag, but for me at least, I ignored all those flags. Personally, I thought that because my ‘friend’ had been so sweet earlier on, there was no way she could possibly be so cruel intentionally, so I bought her lie about it being a ‘joke’. I only realized that it wasn’t until it was too late.
  • They make sure you believe that their problems are more important than yours: To illustrate this one, I’ll just share a couple (similar) anecdotes: the first is about the time Robin Williams died. I’ve always been a big Robin Williams fan (he was a Giants fan, he was funny, he was in one of my favorite movies and on a really good TV show) so when he died, I was pretty sad. I wasn’t bursting into tears or anything, but I was still pretty upset about. I told my ‘friend’ and what did she do? She called my grief ‘mainstream’ and proceeded to talk about how much of a bitch her chemistry teacher was.
    The second anecdote is pretty similar: I confessed to this ‘friend’ about my depression, and not only did she interrupt me, she also told me that I couldn’t possibly be depressed because she was depressed and I didn’t look nearly as upset as she did.
    So if a person you know continually dismisses your problems to complain about their ‘more important’ problems, dump them.
  • They dismiss your interests/make you feel bad for liking what you like:  Usually this means a person doesn’t respect your interests, and that’s not cool in a friendship. For example, I really love baseball. My real friends, when I talk to them about baseball or invite them to a baseball-related thing, say “Well I don’t understand it at all, but it’ll give us a chance to hang out so I’m down!” or just listen to me go on and on about it. My ‘friend’, when I would talk to her about anything baseball, would shut me down and interrupt me, and when I asked her to something baseball-related, she told me: “I want to go to college, not baseball”.
    So the lesson here is that if your ‘friend’ says anything that makes you feel bad about your passions and interests, they’re not deserving of your friendship.
  • They make sure you know that you’re inferior in some way: If they’re better at anything than you, they will make sure you know it. Not only that, but that becomes the factor by which your worth becomes measured in the friendship. For me, that was English. I’ve never been a stellar English student (I’m a math person) but my ‘friend’ was, so all of a sudden, that became the way I determined my worth. And that feels terrible, and that should have been my sign early on to get rid of her.
  • You realize that you’re the only one giving in the relationship: Every relationship, whether romantic or not, is give-and-take. You give a little, and you take a little. But when you’re friends with a poisonous person, you give a whole lot more than you take. And when you confront them about this, they make you feel like a terrible, selfish person and you back down. But it’s important to know that you’re not a terrible, selfish person: you’re just a person who would rather look after yourself than another person. Sometimes, it’s okay to put yourself first.
  • You feel like you’re constantly auditioning to be this person’s friend: For the entire time I was friends with this girl, I was terrified of committing what she might consider a faux pas because she made me feel like her friendship was the most important thing in the world. I was too naive to realize that this isn’t the way friendships are supposed to work, but hopefully you’ll be able to recognize it.
  • You don’t act like yourself: Instead, you start acting the way you think the other person wants you to act. For example, I love math, baseball, (really sports in general), and the outdoors, but when I was her friend, I suddenly hated math, and I loved classical music and shopping. It was only until I realized how terribly she was treating me that I remembered that I hate classical music and can only be in a mall for one hour.

I’m including some articles that I thought were good about this topic on how to recognize poisonous friendships:

7 Signs You’re in a Toxic Friendship
10 Signs of a Toxic Friend that You’ve Probably Never Realized
How to Recognize a Toxic Friend
23 Warning Signs of a Toxic Friend

And on how to end them (something I wasn’t really able to do):

How to Cut Toxic People Out of Your Life
How to End a Toxic Friendship
How to Leave a Toxic Friendship
6 Steps to Ending a Toxic Friendship

I hope this has helped!

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