Good friends can be like members of your family. When you find friends like that, hold on tight. Unfortunately, not all are. Some are toxic — not good for you and, honestly, probably not great for the other person either. Toxic relationships can take a serious toll on you: your physical health, your emotional health, your feelings of self-worth, and even your other relationships. Knowing what a toxic relationship looks like — and how it’s different than a real friendship — can help you determine if it’s time to reevaluate a friendship or two, and save you a lot of heartache in the process.

How they support you

In a toxic relationship, the toxic friend pulls the attention and spotlight onto them, rather than it being a reciprocal back and forth. “Say, there’s an issue going on and they really need you, but when you have an issue going on, they don’t give you the time of day,” said Nicole Zangara, a licensed clinical social worker and the author of Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It shouldn’t be all about them and their needs anymore than it should be all about you and yours.

In a good friendship, however, your friend will be supportive — the focus isn’t always on one person or the other. “In a friendship, you put in, and you hope that [friend] puts in, maybe not 50/50, but 60/40 even,” Zangara told me. “And if it’s not — you’re not getting what you’re giving — that’s kind of a sign of an unhealthy friendship.” Good relationships focus on both friends when needed.

Who makes the plans

If your friend constantly needs something from you — and that’s really the only time they’re focused on you — that can be a sign that your relationship is less than solid. “I think that every relationship requires work and when there’s only one person putting in the work and the other person is not putting in any work, that can start feeling really bad,” said Clinical Therapist Lynn Zakeri. “I’m always initiating, I’m always asking, I’m always giving, listening, whatever it is, when you don’t get anything back in return, that can feel really bad. And then you can start internalizing those feelings that ‘they don’t care about me; they don’t like me; I give, they’re taking advantage of me.'” If they’re always requiring your time and effort to help them out with things, that can really take a toll on the relationship and also make you feel like you’re just a means to an end to them.

A good friend helps you when you need help and asks for reasonable favors when they need help instead of demanding that you always be there for them, but otherwise act like you don’t exist. “The relationship [feels] reciprocal in a lot of different ways, so you help your friend and your friend helps you,” Psychologist Dr. Pei-Han Cheng told me.

How they respond to disappointment or rejection

True friends are capable of acknowledging when something is their fault, but also recognizing that it’s not fair or reasonable to blame you for anything and everything that goes wrong in their lives. If your friend makes you feel like it’s your fault they didn’t get a big promotion or their partner broke up with them, it can start to make you doubt your own self-worth and just generally make you feel really down. No one wants to feel like they’re the cause of everything bad.

Read more:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here