Cleaning Out the Toxins: How to Survive (or stop being) A Toxic Friend

Toxic-Friends-1024x954

Wifeys & Gentlemen,

Welcome to July! A friend of mine tells me that it is, in fact, the best month of the year (because of her birthday)…and while I remain positive that the BEST month of the year is December (for obvious reasons), I am really excited about all of the awesome-sauce things that July has to offer.

Think about it!

It’s summer, which means 4th of July plans with friends and family (and/or lovers), summer pool parties, vacations, distance from school and exams, warmer days for better clothes & shoes, and (hopefully) amazing adventures with the people you love the most! What’s even more exciting is the exposure we all have to meeting someone new. Of course, this applies to the subject of dating, but this week, my darlings, I’d like to talk about other types of relationships…the ones we build with our friends.

Making new friends is awesome and exciting and fun! It is a great opportunity to learn new things about yourself and expand your circle of people you can rely on when you need them most. However, like in all relationships, meeting someone new isn’t always as magical as it might seem. Before you know it, you could find yourself sucked into a friendship that is ultimately hurting you.

Yesterday, a relative of mine shared a video by young Trent Shelton (click his name for the vid and watch it, it’s pretty good!). It’s called “Know Your Circle” & the message he sends in this video really resonated with me. In addition to this specific post, I have decided to spend the month of July taking a (slight) step away from all things romance and focusing on three very important aspects that make romantic relationships more viable: our friends, our family, and ourselves!

& while I hate to open things up on a negative note, how can we work on building wonderful friendships if we aren’t 100% sure (or at least maybe 80% sure) that the friends we have are truly good for us? Today, I want to talk about “toxic friends”.

We’ve all been there! Sometimes it can seem impossible to spot them early and often we feel blindsided and genuinely hurt by our ‘toxic friends’, but as with everything else, there are ways to identify a toxic friendship, ways to overcome and deal with one, and even ways for those of us who are actually toxic to friggin stop it already!

So what exactly is a toxic friend? The definition varies from person to person, but luckily, when you are faced with one it never takes them very long to reveal their toxic habits. The research is pretty clear across the board on how to identify the “signs”. Is this friend controlling? Are they constantly jealous of your accomplishments and find ways to make snide remarks or ‘backhanded compliments’ when something wonderful happens to you? Guess what? They’re probably toxic!

How about lies? Do you often catch this friend in lies? Do they talk behind your back, make up stories about you, or even make up stories about themselves? Guess what? They’re probably toxic! Additionally, most toxic friends tend to gossip incessantly (beyond the normal friend banter or ‘girl/guy talk’), they often play the victim and try to convince you that the worst things in life are continually happening to them without much logical explanation. Even if you are genuinely concerned for them, often times, they are vague and do not provide much follow up. Still, no matter how much support you might want to offer them, toxic friends can be greedy, only concerned with what they can gain from you. They are always looking out for themselves & come first in every situation. They are negative, arrogant, always right, and often times will resort to fighting or intimidation tactics when things are not going their way.

Sound familiar?

If this sounds like an accurate description of you, hang in there, I promise I’ll speak to you shortly. However, if you have just become suspicious that you might have a friend like this in your life, don’t panic! Ms. Renai has got your back.

Does every toxic friend exemplify these traits? No! Not at all! At the bottom of what could be an endless list of the ways our friends could be toxic, what it all boils down to is how this friend makes you feel. After spending time with them, while there may be some good times and great memories, on the whole, a toxic friend’s bad behavior makes you feel bad about yourself.

Don’t believe me? Still not convinced? A simple google search of “toxic friends” would yield a whole sea of articles about what I am saying here. From girly magazines to Psychology today, there is a variety of information about this very subject.

I have included some articles at the bottom of this post ;-). 

But, I digress…where was I? Ah yes! Toxic friends, no matter what form, make you feel bad about who you are!

Maybe you feel guilty; like you aren’t being supportive enough or a good enough friend? Maybe you feel used; like this friend only seems to come around when they need something and is never there for you when you’re in need? Or maybe you even feel betrayed; thinking you and a friend are close only to find out that they lied to you, manipulated you, or said something nasty about you behind your back? Either way, ask yourself this question:

Why does my ‘friend’ get to make me feel this way?

The truth is, they don’t!

I know it’s easier said than done, but the sooner you remember this concept the closer you will be to setting boundaries and creating distance between you and the toxic people in your life.

What many people find difficult when handling these types of relationships/friendships is trying to find a balance between letting them in and keeping them at a distance. Often times, we care about these people or we feel bad for them, they leave a mark on us, and when we realize they’re toxic, it can be hard to let them go. As the great Britney Spears once said:

I’m addicted to you don’t you know that you’re toxic?”

While I think this can be hard when the toxic relationship is romantic (I wrote a previous post about toxic/abusive romances if you care to reference), it can often prove harder in a friendship. How do we break up with a friend who might really be suffering? How can we turn away from someone who might need us in the end? How do we move beyond someone whom we’ve shown love to and shared awesome experiences with?

The good news is, depending on the type of toxicity, you might not have to abandon them completely. What matters most when trying to handle a toxic friend is boundaries. Establishing boundaries can go a long way in helping to keep your sanity and (sometimes) to keep your ‘friendship’ open; you know, in case this person drastically changes or gets their life together in the near future ;-).

The main point is that you do NOT have to let anyone into your life who is hurting you. Even if you are not big on confrontation, small steps can go a long way:

Remember to put yourself first

Now, this does NOT mean that you need to start being selfish and toxic like your friend. But, you do not have to always drop everything to help them or be there for them either. Remembering to take care of your needs is a first priority. If this person has a negative effect on your day to day life, you have to put your needs first! Many of us have friends, lovers, family, work, and a life that needs our attention. These areas suffer when we are consumed by a toxic friend and you can’t let that go on. Toxic-Friend certainly won’t  hesitate to put himself/herself 1st, and in the end, when you give too much to a toxic friend, you are only hurting yourself.

Decide when would be a good time to see, speak to, or spend time with Toxic-Friend

Toxic friends make you feel bad, remember? You are 100% justified in limiting your contact with them to what works best for you. If you are not comfortable completely cutting them off, this does not mean that you must always invite them over to your house or always go out with them when they invite you either. You get to set the terms and can be as hands on or off as you want.

I once had a friend who would ALWAYS ditch me at clubs and parties. We’d show up together (usually he drove) and 15 minutes later I would have no idea where he was or how to find him. He was never remorseful or caring when I had a hard time getting home or got stranded with people I didn’t know and often times laughed when I would try to call him out on it. Eventually, whenever he’d ask me to go out, I declined. We still spoke and would catch up on occasion, but I decided he wasn’t a safe option for party-going and it needed to stop. He could still be cool with me, on my terms and he couldn’t hurt my feelings that way anymore. Going to lunch or hitting the mall was always a fun time with him, and establishing that boundary helped us to remain good friends.

Tell them how their behavior makes you feel

If you have a toxic friend who is willing to listen, let them know when they are doing something you don’t like. Sometimes, a toxic friend might not know they are toxic and they might not realize how their actions are hurting you. Talking to your friend about their behavior might actually repair a relationship. They might not change everything, but they can modify the way they treat you.

A good example of this is having a friend who never pays you back. If this “toxic” friend is an otherwise decent person, let them know that you don’t like what they are doing and remind them why you are choosing not to loan them money the next time they ask. Maybe they will pay you back? But at the very least, they can carry on a friendship with you, knowing that you will never loan them money and see that you are removing the toxic element that exists in your friendship.

Please remember that when confronting, Toxic-Friend that they might not always be willing to resolve the issue. Consider it a blessing if Toxic-Friend cuts off their friendship with you as a result of you telling them how you feel. You don’t need people who like to hurt you in your life and just like any break up, time will make things better….also ice cream! (yum)

This might seem like a simple list of guidelines, but there really is no better or easier way to heal a toxic friendship than either cutting ties or putting up boundaries. Try to remember that this is about your personal comfort level and that no one has a right to make you feel bad about yourself, especially someone who you consider a ‘friend’.

Okay…so now onto the hard(er) part! To all you toxic wifeys and gents out there, please don’t think I forgot about you! If you think you might exhibit some of these toxic traits,  I’d like for you to take a look at this “open letter” I wrote. I know that not every trait applies to you, I know that many of you, who are worried about keeping your friends, are not trying to hurt the people you love. & I know that you want to fix it. Congrats! That’s the first step.

Dear Toxic-Friend,

STOP!

I know that you might be going through a lot right now. I know that sometimes, you might look around at your life and compare it to that of your friends’ and it might make you feel inadequate. This does not give you a pass to treat people who care about you like crap.

Now, if you are a toxic person out of the sheer enjoyment of tormenting others then I guess, carry on? Not really much I can say to you except that I hope you soon change your evil ways. But for those of you who are causing damage to your friendships and want to learn how to stop, I am here to tell you, it is possible. There is light at the end of this tunnel. You can turn it all around and become the person your friends know and love. You can let the good times outweigh the bad. You can make amends. You might not know where to start and you might not feel like you have the strength or the ability, but you do.

The first step (cliché alert) is admitting your shortcomings to yourself. Once you do that, it is much easier to reach out to friends and begin to right the wrongs. Have you been a user? A gossip? A bully? How about a Negative-Nancy or an attention grabber? That’s all fine and (mostly) forgivable.

Which is why the second, obvious step is to apologize! You’d be surprised how far a simple ‘I’m sorry for _____’ can go in beginning to open up the path for trust. Many times, your friends might not even know you’re toxic yet. Maybe they are keeping their distance because they want to give you space to grow? When you’re ready, apologize. Let them know what they mean to you and what you are willing to work on to repair any damage done. Moreover, if YOU (toxic friend) have ever felt hurt by your friend group, now would also be a good time to mention that. Be prepared to have a meaningful exchange. Lay your cards out on the table. 

More than anything, you must accept the possibility that this will be a long road for some of your friends. Maybe some bridges have been burned and some feelings have been really hurt. But stay the course. If you care about your friends and want to regain control of yourself, then allow them to hold you accountable for your actions (or inaction). Listen when they tell you that you hurt them. Empathize with them when they express how much they care about you and how much it bothers them when you do the things you’ve done. Most of all, commit to taking the needed steps to change.

I know we cannot change our personality, but we can always alter and modify our behaviors. Even the most pathological liar can (with lots of work) learn how to resist their impulse to lie OR learn how to admit when they have been dishonest. Even the best manipulator and gossip can learn how to tone down their need to whisper secrets or manipulate other people’s emotions. Even the greediest users can learn the difference between asking for help and taking advantage.

The good news is that there is so much help out there (free or professional) that can guide you, step by step, into the person all of your friends know you can be.

Finally, please remember that your friends have feelings and they have a right to choose. If the behaviors do not change or if the damage has already been done, they have every right to walk away and never look back. Additionally, you don’t have to take any abuse from friends either. If they are stubborn, cold, and unforgiving…it is on you to walk away and take care of yourself too. You can be the hero in these situations! Don’t ever forget that. & don’t forget to take care of yourself. You deserve that too!

Sincerely & with so much Love,

Ms. Renai

Until Next Week,

Carry on Wifeys

& Happy 4th of July.

Love,

Ms. Renai

🙂 ❤

Helpful Resources:

Cosmopolitan 

Psychology Today

Thought Catalog 

Boundaries – PsychCentral 

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