When it comes to toxic relationships, thoughts generally veer towards romantic or familial relationships. Rarely is friendship the first thing that comes to mind in that vernacular. But coming across a bad friend is more likely to happen in frequency than a bad partner and the experience can be similar. Research shows that a bad relationship can have a negative effect on your physical and emotional health. Sadness, anxiety, exhaustion and frustration are just four of the many unwanted feelings you may cycle through if you’re stuck with a bad friend.
How do you tell, though, if your friendship is toxic? The signs aren’t always obvious. In fact, at times they’re a tad too subtle to identify when you’re in the thick of it. Here are eight red flags to look out for in a relationship with a potentially bad friend:
1. Drama surrounds them
Shit happens sometimes. A family problem. A breakup. A work issue. Or a million other things. That’s life. But when a person is consistently in such situations and draws in those around them in it too, you have to ask yourself if you’re okay with being sucked in episode after episode.
2. They’re self-centered
Sharing problems, catching up and discussing your goals, hopes and dreams is standard practice in a friendship. However, if you find yourself exclusively on the listening end of it then know that the person at the other end is only looking for a sounding board and isn’t interested in your life.
3. They expect you to be on-call for them 24/7
Friends are there for the good times and the bad times. When an issue arises, a friend is one of the people we turn to for support. Does this person expect you to be at there beck and call all day though? Do they harass or spam you with their problems at all hours at your expense, even if you’ve set clear boundaries?
4. …yet don’t extend the same courtesy
Turn the tables around though and this person, who expects you to answer every message and call in seconds, is nowhere to be found when you’re the one in need. Friendship is a two-way street.
5. They put you down
A person who holds an important role in your life, like that of a friend, should be someone who nurtures you just as you do them. However, someone who takes the time to remind you of past failures, puts you in uncomfortable situations or just plain criticizes you is not the kind of person you want around.
6. They don’t celebrate you
A good friend is there to celebrate your wins and mourn your losses. A bad friend doesn’t care. You got that promotion you’ve been working for? Whatever. You aced that class you were worried you’d fail? Meh, so what? Think about the pride and joy you feel when a friend accomplishes or achieves something they’ve been working toward, shouldn’t you expect the same?
7. You feel drained being with them
Our bodies have a tendency to catch up with the program sooner than our conscious selves. If you repeatedly feel mentally exhausted after any hangout with a specific person, take a moment to reflect on why. Is there an outside factor causing this or is it this the person’s personality? They don’t necessarily have to be a bad friend in this matter, but perhaps just someone you don’t really vibe with.
8. You walk on eggshells around them
If you find yourself filtering your words and worrying over what wrong thing you might say around a person, then chances are you’re uncomfortable around them. This, coupled with a few of the other signs, is a clear indication of you being in a bad friendship. Especially if you’re wary of a negative reaction – anger or spite, for instance – from that person.
So, turns out your friend is a bad friend. What do you do? Well, there’s no clear cut answer. Assess the situation. Has the person changed or have they been like this from the start? Have an honest conversation with them and tell them how you feel – be kind. Are they open and receptive to your feelings?
If it’s a lost cause, your next move should be to dump them. Tell them to their face, straight-up cut them out or slowly phase them out – whichever works best in your situation. Personally, I would opt for having a conversation but it depends on how you think the other person will react. At the end of the day, your mental wellbeing is what is important.
Like any relationship, a solid friendship takes hard work and dedication. There might be fights and disagreements but as long as there is mutual respect and understanding, you’ve got yourself a keeper.