Relationships

How To Break Up With Your Toxic Friends

By Anna McGovern··  8 min read
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Are you starting to feel like your best friend’s emotional punching bag? Do they bring you down, prioritize themselves, expect you to celebrate their successes but never recognize your own? Your “best friend” may not be a healthy influence in your life anymore.

Time and time again, we hear about our closest friends feeling trapped in a toxic relationship, too besotted with their partner to recognize the reality of their situation and let them go for good. How about a toxic friendship? Devoid of the romantic aspect, a toxic friendship can be much harder to shift, especially if you consider this person to be your best friend. However, when you recognize yourself in this situation, supporting them with every minor inconvenience in life but never getting that same level of care back – it might be time to put the past behind you, and let them go. 

It’s far easier said than done. When they have become such an important part of your daily life, it may be difficult to recognize that they are, in turn, making you feel horrible about yourself and bringing you down. In a research survey conducted by Today.com and Self Magazine, 8 out of 10 people revealed that they have experienced a toxic friendship at some point in their life, yet 83% of respondents admitted that they had held onto a friendship for far longer than it was healthy simply because it was hard to “break up” with them.

You deserve better, and you are better than they deserve. If you already have someone in mind while reading this article, they’re probably a toxic influence in your life. Time to show them the door.

She Said She Could Be Her Complete Self around Me

And by “complete self,” I mean complete, unadulterated bully. I’m thinking of someone with an erratic span of emotions: offering the silent treatment or screaming if they don’t get their way, making backhanded comparisons about your appearance with theirs, spamming you with a flurry of texts and Snapchat videos of them crying when they’re scared of losing you. Perhaps you’re thinking of someone who offers not too dissimilar traits. 

One friend of mine told me that she treated me, verbatim, “like sh*t.” Her justification that followed was her backhanded appreciation that no one “saw” her as I did, and she could embrace the comfortability of being her outright, unfiltered self without facing any fear of judgment or shame. In retrospect, this outlined exactly the kind of person she was.

Cutting people out of your life doesn’t mean you hate them, it simply means you respect yourself.

It can be difficult to analyze a friend’s behavior without an outside perspective telling you otherwise. Their behavior towards you may vary, dependent on the kind of relationship you have with each other. You may find that their toxic, unfavorable attributes are “justified” in that you’re the only one who “really gets them” and that they could never let this vulnerability slide with other people in their life. You’re made to feel special – when in reality, you’re simply being used. You deserve friendships that will make you feel uplifted, appreciated, and empowered, not as the unwarranted recipient of someone’s emotional torment. You’re worthy of more.

Their Needs Are Always More Important Than Your Own

You’re the conveyor belt of their emotional baggage. They divulge to you their darkest secrets, come to you when they’re having a bad day, and seek your sympathetic advice when they need it most. As you listen to everything they have to say, you start to wonder – would they take the same level of interest and care that you have shown to them? When you drop everything in a heartbeat to support them when they needed it most, would they do the same for you in your time of need?

Feeling as though you give far more than you get from someone can be emotionally draining. Your feelings aren’t given the same level of prioritization and respect that you give to your friend; the time you spend together is predominately focused on them. 

It’s not just the emotional needs that they crave to be fulfilled. These egotistical, conceited individuals will want everything to be their way, or if this can’t happen, they will certainly not be happy about it. Like the aforementioned friend, for example, who initiated a blow-out argument and profusely threatened to not eat for the entirety of the next day if I didn’t go out clubbing with her. This same friend, too, having lost her phone on a night out, got kicked out of a nightclub for her aggressive and abusive attitude with security. After I searched for over two hours and finally retrieved her phone, she retorted, “If it had been you in that position, there is no way I would have helped you, I’d just have carried on and left you to struggle – lol.” You may have read that in jest, but she was being deadly serious. 

Know your circle. At the end of the day, real situations expose fake people.

Despite doing all we could to thoroughly support her, my friend would use her mental health problems as continual mitigation for how she treated me and others around her. Although experiencing mental health issues can be an extremely debilitating part of your life, it’s never a justification to walk all over people, treat your friends with impertinence, and express an open lack of care towards others in distress.

As soon as I started dedicating my time to more benevolent, compassionate people, it allowed me to recognize this toxic friendship for what it was. You will feel so much happier once you start prioritizing the people who truly care about you and develop an equal, trusting relationship with them. 

Everything Is a Competition, Which You Will Always Lose

You have just received news about a major success in your life which you want to share with your loved ones. Whether you landed your dream job, you’re going on a first date, or you’re planning a wild trip around Europe, whatever the news is you want your friends to be excited for you. Imagine, then, that sinking feeling of disappointment when your “friend” displays a strained level of disingenuous care when you tell them your big news, or even tries to one-up you with something that they have done to make you feel insignificant. They may even try to change the topic of the conversation entirely to focus on themselves or offer something backhanded and critical in response to what you shared. 

Their insecurities are subconsciously projected onto you in their inability to break down their own inferiority complex. They’re too intent upon protecting their ego to recognize the toxicity of their actions and the consequent effect it has on those around them. These people want to feel like they’re doing “better” than you and are unable to genuinely feel happy for you when you experience major success in your life. They will always be the gracious bearer of criticism, backhanded and unfiltered, in what they have to say about you and the choices you make. 

When the effort and love in a friendship are one-sided, there is no point in staying.

When the friendship isn’t striking a level of balance for the genuine care and compassion that you rightfully deserve, it’s time to reevaluate your friendship with that person. You deserve people in your life who value and cherish you for everything that you are.

So, What Should I Do Now?

It’s never easy to manage a toxic friend in your life, let alone “dumping” them and moving on. Dr. Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and psychoanalyst, remarked that it’s “hard” to put an end to a toxic friendship as “there’s something in it that you find compelling or familiar.” 

There is the minute possibility that this person is genuinely unaware that their actions are toxic, and may need some additional support in recognizing this so that they adapt their behavior towards you. If they’re willing to do this, the friendship could be saved. However, perhaps this individual is very dependent on you, makes you feel as though you need them, or may even make you feel guilty about ending the friendship altogether. 

How you define yourself is what attracts the relationships you have. It sets the bar for what you tolerate.

Psychology Today suggests that you could consider taking a break from the friendship by allowing yourself to drift apart, making yourself less accessible to them. Allow yourself to take time away from this person to reevaluate your friendship and decide what’s best for you moving forward. A direct conversation explaining your feelings may also benefit you in setting your boundaries and telling the other person how you feel.

Closing Thoughts

It’s time to put yourself first. Rather than burying your head in the sand by allowing this to continue, ask yourself, What do I want? Is this person a genuinely healthy influence in my life? If you have identified yourself within the scope of this article, it may be time to step away before they take full advantage of your patience and perseverance. Once you start prioritizing the genuinely good people in your life, you will feel so much happier for it.

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