Look, nobody is perfect, and it’s so important that we embrace and love the flaws in everyone around us. But there is a point when a relationship is so flawed that it no longer serves us and can actually suck the joy right out of life. Yes, we’re supposed to stick with our friends through thick and thin — however, there does come a time in some relationships when it’s better to walk away. So how are you supposed to know when it’s that time?
Acknowledging an unhealthy friendship is the first step in claiming our own inner peace and happiness. The second step is to find the courage to keep a healthy distance. Toxicity spreads like an infection, and if we aren’t careful — it can change us for the worse.
If any of your friends have the following 11 traits, then honey, it’s time to reassess your idea of what friendship actually means.
1. They always have a problem with someone
Not a day goes by that your friend doesn’t have an issue with another person — whether it’s the clerk at the grocery store, her coworker, her boyfriend or her neighbor. Be wary of someone that can’t get along with others. It’s a pattern that is likely to repeat itself and you may be the next one on their shit list.
2. Every potential solution to their problem is met with an excuse
If every suggestion you offer your friend is met with a new dilemma, that’s a red flag that you are dealing with a toxic person. Healthy people set out to fix their issues. Toxic people feed off turmoil and chaos. Don’t get swept up in their endless cycle of unresolved problems.
3. They speak badly about other people
Pay close attention to how your friend talks about others. There is a good chance they are talking to others about you in the same way. Toxic people are often highly negative individuals who regularly gossip and badmouth others for their own benefit.
4. They pressure you to do things you don’t feel comfortable doing
Misery loves company, and toxic people love to get others to misbehave with them. If you find yourself participating in activities that you don’t like and would never do on your own, consider that a clear sign you’re in an unhealthy friendship.
5. You get anxious being with them in social settings
Whether you’re fearful they will get into a fight with your friends or embarrass you in front of your boss, toxic people don’t respect boundaries or practice situational awareness. Trust your gut and stop inviting them (or accepting their invitations) out.
6. They have a history of broken friendships and family relationships
The greatest predictor of the future is the past. If your friend has a reputation for failed relationships, it’s an indicator that your relationship may be headed for demolition as well.
7. Discussions are always about them — never you
Great friendships are mutually beneficial. You share your life, they share theirs and everyone wins. When you’re friends with someone who has a poisonous personality, they tend to dominate every conversation and make everything about themselves.
8. You’re afraid of making them mad at you
Toxic people can be vindictive. If they’ve royally screwed someone who they once called a friend, you know they could potentially do the same thing to you. A friendship should never be based on the fear of revenge.
9. They’re flaky
The only time they’re concerned about is their own. They make plans and don’t show, or if they do come, they’re always late. If you can’t rely on your friend to be there when they say they will be, then you can’t really rely on them for other things either.
10. They’re friends with your enemies
Nothing is a bigger betrayal than when a so-called friend is buddy-buddy with someone who has hurt you. While it is possible to be acquainted and even friendly towards people our friends don’t like (that’s what grown-ups do) there is a clear friendship line that is crossed when someone who says they are your friend is also hanging out with your enemy.
11. You feel emotionally or even physically sick after spending time with them
Friendships are supposed to be easy. By their very nature they are meant to make us happier. If you find that spending time with a particular friend leaves you emotionally drained, or even physically spent, it’s time to reassess the relationship. Skip the guaranteed headache and search for a friend that leaves you smiling, laughing and eager to see them again tomorrow.
Originally published February 2016. Updated September 2017.