How to deal with toxic friendships

Do you have a relationship in your life that leaves you feeling drained rather than nurtured? 

Are you always the one giving the support but hardly ever (or never) receiving anything back? You might need to learn how to deal with toxic friendships.

Friendships are supposed to be two-sided.

Friendships are supposed to be reciprocal and caring. Of course any friend can have a bad day or be going through a tough period, but in a healthy friendship this is a two way process. 

Unhealthy friendships may start out ok. But over time, toxic relationships reveal themselves by the trend of negative behaviour from the other person. It becomes obvious that you’re the one who has to step up, help out, listen, and support, but your friend will never be there for you when you’re the one who needs something.

You feel anxious and unsafe

In a toxic friendship, you never feel safe. In fact, just being around this person may make you feel anxious because somehow interacting with them leaves you feeling bad in some way. 

Maybe you’re frequently the butt of their jokes. Or perhaps they’re always dismissing you, gaslighting you, putting you down, or making you feel guilty. Or they may talk badly about you behind your back, or tell others the things you confided in them. 

You can’t trust a toxic friend and being in this kind of unhealthy relationship can damage your mental and physical health.

Take yourself seriously and learn how to deal with toxic friendships

People change and circumstances change, so even if your toxic friendships started off well, they can become unhealthy over time. So it’s important to be self-aware. Notice how you feel around your friends and take yourself seriously if you realise that you have more negative than positive experiences and feelings.

Invest your time and energy wisely

Getting out of toxic friendships is liberating! You will have more time, energy and attention to invest into healthy relationships that nurture you, build you up, and help you to grow.  

Success Formula: How to deal with toxic friendships

  1. Step back. Try to get some distance from your toxic friendship. Time away from them might allow you time to reflect, gain some perspective and clarify what you want to do. 
  2. Talk to them.  If someone is a part of your life that would be difficult to remove, or if they matter a lot to you, try to improve the situation. Tell your friend how their behaviour affects you. Use “I” language and talk about your emotions and your subjective experiences. Setting boundaries in relationships is hard, but it’s always worthwhile. Your friend may not have realised how uncomfortable they made you feel. 
  3. Reach out to other friends – this is helpful because explaining what’s going on to someone else always helps to make it clearer for you. Hearing their perspective might impact the way you see things. (But if there isn’t anyone you can easily talk to, reach out to a licensed mental health professional like a psychologist for professional help to explore your options in a safe, confidential and supportive space.)
  4. End it. Completely getting out of a toxic friendship is the last resort but it may be necessary if you’ve realised that the relationship is truly unhealthy. Unhealthy friendships that drain your energy, make you feel bad, sad, lonely, or even abused, are just not worth continuing. 
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