5 Signs You’re a Toxic Friend

Most of us can recognize a bad friendship fairly quickly, but we may not know if we ourselves are toxic friends. These signs you’re in a toxic friendship will help you see yourself more clearly.

signs of toxic friendshipsIn Toxic Friends: A Practical Guide to Recognizing and Dealing with an Unhealthy Friendship, Loraine Smith-Hines describes different types of toxic friends and helps readers figure out if they should end the friendship or find effective ways to deal with it. .

Here are five signs that you’re a toxic friend, based on inspiration from George Eliot. She was an English novelist who used a male pen name to ensure her words were taken seriously. Her real name was Mary Anne Evans.

About friendship, George Eliot said: “Perhaps the most delightful friendships are those in which there is much agreement, much disputation, and yet more personal liking.”

Good friends agree about lots of things – and, better yet, are able to disagree about lots of things. The good news is that sometimes a toxic friendship can lead to a healthy, strong relationship. For example, learning how to deal with a toxic ex-wife can help bridge the gap between nasty and nice relationships.

Are You a Toxic Friend?

Five signs that you’re the cause of a friendship that is toxic…

You’re negative, and you can’t stop complaining. Do you hate your job, your ex-boyfriend, your mother, and your last vacation? Fine…but stop talking about it! Expressing your negative feelings is fine — good, even — but polluting the air with a nonstop monologue about how terrible your life is won’t help you make and keep lifelong friends.

You talk behind your friend’s back. You’re a toxic female friend if you share info about your friend, her habits, her work, her partner, or anything about her life. Gossip may feel good – but it just ain’t nice. And, it’ll destroy your friendship.

You don’t remember – or know – what’s happening in your friend’s life. How did your friend’s dad’s open heart surgery go? When is her birthday? How old are her kids? What does she want to be when she grows up? What’s her biggest struggle? You don’t know what’s going on in your friend’s life because you don’t ask. Or listen.

Signs You’re a Toxic Friend

5 Signs You’re a Toxic Friend

You give back-handed compliments. “I love your new haircut! It makes your face seem so slim.” I’m sure you’ve received “compliments” like this. If you find yourself making snide remarks (and let’s face it, ladies, we’ve all done it), cut yourself a piece of humble pie and apologize immediately. You could even explain why you were snippy (my grandma’s word) with your friend. This example of a toxic female friend is from Kelli Zink, host  of CelebTV.com — and so is the next one…

You put your friend down in public. If you don’t save your criticisms for private discussions, then you may be the poison in a toxic female friendship. Sometimes we need to confront a friend’s bad behavior – but not in public (the same goes for married couples!).

You don’t call, you don’t write. This may not be a sign of a truly toxic friendship, but if you never reach out, then you’re not much of a friend. Being a good friend can involve a quick, simple “Hey – how are you? Haven’t talked in ages, was thinking about you today.” If you never think to call or email your friend, then you’re not carrying your end of the canoe, my friend.

You drain other people’s energy. Are you an energy vampire? This may be difficult to figure out on your own, but it’s a strong sign that you’re a toxic female friend. Energy vampires leave people feeling drained, depressed, and exhausted. They ignore boundaries and other people’s needs. Energy vampires can be “drama queens” — making the smallest incident a huge deal. If you’re an energy vampire…you’re also a toxic friend.

If you don’t have any friends because you’re toxic, read 3 Ways to Meet New Friends. I wrote it with widows in mind, but it works for all types and ages of women.

What have I missed about toxic female friendships? I’d love to hear your thoughts below! I can’t offer advice or counseling, but writing about your experience can bring you clarity and insight.

If you’re not a toxic friend – you have wonderful friendships in your life – one way to celebrate them is to throw a Goddess party.

May you become a messenger of peace and love in all your relationships.

We share ideas to encourage women over 40 to make positive changes and Blossom in a new season of life!

7 comments On 5 Signs You’re a Toxic Friend

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    Thank you for sharing about your friendship, Zoe! It sounds like it was toxic, and you’re happier and healthier now that it’s over. Ending a friendship is incredibly difficult, even if you know one or both of you are toxic friends.

    The interesting thing is, certain people combinations make for toxic friendships.

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    WOW… reading the comments after the article… I can put some “friendships” into perspective. I thought I was the one with the problem (people pleaser). My dear friend (she calls me her best friend) and I worked together for 3 years; different buildings. We were all laid off; I was offered another position and even though I would have been good at the position, she would be exceptional… I told the prospective boss… “you think I would be perfect, you need to meet so-and-so”. He subsequently hired her (she has a family she’s supporting; husb sporadic general building contractor; I’m alone). A month later I secured another positon (much less pay) in the same building. This new position now included a horrendous traffic-wise commute. She was taking public transp and I drove in… because she has every possible ache and pain (mostly due to weight issues)… once is a while, if she wasn’t late, I offered her a ride home (we live in the same town, however it’s huge and spread out; additional 30 minutes to the horrible commute. All the way home she ranted and complained about her job. Or, she ranted and raved about her medical issues. Or, she ranted and B’d about her husband and kids.
    I was laid off again Dec 22 2012 (nice, eh?). She’s still working. During my search I’d send her emails off and on until finally she said she didn’t have time to read them! A week ago, her sister died (after a long illness that I’d heard about … her digust over the sister’s lifestyle causing same). I saw it mentioned (of all places) on FB by her daughter… I contacted her daughter (she’s 33, still living at home) expressing my condolences… said would send mom a card etc. Daughter says… “we wondered what happened to you; where have you been… you don’t call or come by; thought maybe you were SICK or something? Really? Really? That is when I had it… I didn’t snap at the daughter, but I did when I hung up… at MYSELF… Reading the toxic friendship list has really really helped me understand, there are just self-centered people in this world… got to love them or leave them. Sorry about the length of this (and believe me, it’s a long story short). I am SO thankful I found this site, through another … Prancing Kittens via Lisa Lamont… women standing by women… THAT is the way I want this season of my life to proceed; I’ll be reading most of the articles you’ve listed. Thanks again for listening… Fondly… Ruth

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    I am looking into frenemy. The passive-agressive part has really been a part of the “friendship”.
    I realize now i have taken this kind of abuse over the years that i didn’t recognize it. I didn’t do anything to deserve being made to feel i was less then a good friend/person. Since i have a very giving nature and try to please i see now how i allowed behavior to continue without calling her on it. As i’ve been able to read more on this and have gone to therapy i am standing up for myself.
    One of the hard parts was i worked with this person so if i didn’t do something she wanted outside of work then i paid for it with looks and snippy comments.
    I moved to a different city and work in a different place now and i am so amazed how much better i feel. I also am able to stand up to her without the backlash of being in the same office.
    I am greatful for others writing and sharing about this. Its really helped to know i wasn’t going insane.
    I’m learning how to set boundries also. To think if i want to do something instead of just thinking of the others wants and needs and not mine.
    Its amazing to me that we don’t have more info on these issues growing up. Instead we stumble and bumble till we get help or someone comes into your life who helps you see it from a different perspective.
    I’m so glad that the hope is there to live a more full life and not be drained by others who claim to be a friend.

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    I have been looking into more info on toxic friends. This was a good article. I wanted to add to the when someone doesn’t call/listen. I have delt with someone who likes to remind me of when she called last. To me when i hear this it shuts me down. She doesn’t remember that i tried to call her back or that i have alot going on and do the best i can. She likes to act like she’s perfect in this sense. I used to take an hour to 2 each night to talk to her about her life. When it came to mine i learned to keep it short b/c her comments where short. I started learning it didn’t matter what advice i tried to share or how much time i spent it wasn’t enough. I have tried to grow and understand being a pleaser person and low self esteem can pull me into trying to please women in my life. Anyhow i just appriciate knowing that their are others out there that deal with people who are friends but unless you do what they want its a battle.

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    I feel i’ve been draining other people’s energy in ways that i’d like to improve. I have this awful job for a crazy boss–and i don’t mean that lightly since I don’t tend to hate on people just for being an authority figure. but i always vent to my boyfriend and close friend about it, and then chastise myself afterwards because i know it’s bad for those relationships. the only answer is to improve the situation that is causing me to complain and suck other peoples energy.

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    I think we’re all toxic female friends at times, and very few of us are toxic ALL the time. I have no doubt that you’re fun, interesting, and sensitive — because I’ve seen you that way here, on See Jane Soar.

    It must be more difficult when you’re battling depression. It’s hard to be a great friend at the best of times, much less when you’re struggling with your own moods and negative feelings. I heard one woman describe depression as a “nagging, negative tape playing constantly.” How can you be positive and uplifting when you’re struggling with that?

    I totally agree — some friends just don’t mix well. Some people just don’t have chemistry together. With some friends, I could talk forever. And others, I struggle to get past “Hi, how are you?”

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    Yes, I can be the toxic female friend. I battle depression and so being the one who is down and often needing to vent is an issue. I am forgetful about special dates as well. I have tried several things to help, but usually the only thing that works is a reminder that gets sent to one of my emails.

    I might give back-handed compliments, but not on purpose. More often I just word things poorly, coming off sounding negative when I thought I was sounding positive.

    On the other hand, I have been told I am often fun, interesting, sensitive and caring. I have many online friends and a few offline ones that tell me they feel blessed to have me as a friend, so I can’t be too toxic.

    I think sometimes it is the mix of the two people that is toxic. I’ve known people who were toxic to me that have had wonderful, long lasting friendships with other people.

    I am working on myself. I’m more aware of my shortcomings than I used to be.

    Thank you, Laurie, for this wonderful blog!


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