And…My Friend is Toxic

And…my friend is toxic

We talk a lot about toxic romantic relationships – looking for red flags, warning signs and the like are pretty common discussion points among groups of friends.

What happens when the friends are the toxic ones?

Generally, we look at friendships as a positive: friendships and social connections can lengthen your lifespan, lower your risk of mental and physical health concerns like depression and high blood pressure. Not all friends are good friends – they can cause more harm than happy, and can look very different – but the bottom line, recognizing them and dealing with them can help your happiness.

But I’m just joking

Have you heard of negging? It’s a type of emotional manipulation that can start as subtle insults or can be written off as a slip of the tongue or mistake. The problem: it keeps happening and it escalates.

I remember having a friend who would do these little digs about things I cared about or my life choices. I wondered constantly – is this me being sensitive? Is this me judging her as a person?


Things like backhanded compliments, comparisons to other people, “constructive criticism,” and trying to one-up you are all examples of negging. And when you call them out – it’s always on you to lighten up. If this sounds like a friend, make sure you’re expressing your feelings: how they respond will tell you a lot. Decide if the friendship is worth how they make you feel.

Sorry you feel like that

If they do realize they hurt your feelings, and they do one of two things: they either don’t apologize or they gaslight you with the apology. Statements like, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings BUT it was a joke.”

These are not apologies.

Same negging friend? She often joked that she apologized in her head. Super funny unless you’re the person that got the criticism – and I know for a fact, it wasn’t just me.

The advice here is similar: voice your emotions. If they apologize – know that you don’t have to accept an apology. You very much can still be upset about something and not go immediately back to business as usual. You also have to take care of yourself and your self-esteem.

You give more than you get

If you are always doing things for your friend and any ask seems like a massive thing in return – you might have a toxic friend. This is where I realized my friend was toxic – I ran an errand (and didn’t get paid back), dropped things off (and never got returned), picked things up (and didn’t get a thank you). These things weren’t done to get something in return – and at the same time, when there is no sense of balance, you can’t get around that.

Yes, sometimes friendships will be unbalanced – but the key is sometimes!

They compete with you

Whew, this one is the kicker. It might be anything from work or romance – your friend will compete with you. It seems like they don’t like you to excel at something, and they aren’t a fan of you getting any praise or accolades.

In the age of social media, it’s weird when this shows up. You watch how they interact with other people and then you have something exciting or great for you – and they are silent. You don’t have to be competing with them – most of the time you aren’t in these situations! This secret competition and trying things you’re doing/involved in to get more praise might seem like you’re imagining things. Take some time to reflect on this and see if it’s happening – or tap another friend to ask.

With all of these things, weigh the friendship and communicate with them if you want it to continue. It’s ok to break up with a friend!


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