Toxic female friendships will drag you under and keep you down. These ways to cope with toxic friendships are inspired by quotes from Joan Baez, who knows how hard one-on-one relationships can be.
“The easiest kind of relationship for me is with 10,000 people,” said Joan Baez. “The hardest is with one.”
Why are relationships with crowds of people easy? Because you don’t have to deal with the individual quirks – or toxic tendencies – of one individual. You don’t have to be vulnerable, honest, or understanding…and you don’t have to work things out.
If you struggle to make and keep good, strong, healthy friends, you’re not alone! Learn how to sustain meaningful friendships by reading books like Friendships Don’t Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends by Shasta Nelson.
The idea for this article came from a reader who asked how to confront her best friend’s destructive habits. I start with the signs of toxic relationships, and then jump into ways to cope with toxic friends.
Signs of Toxic Female Friendships
- You don’t discuss your successes for fear of jealousy, criticism, or negative feedback
- You make all the effort to stay in touch; she never calls, she never writes
- You leave your visits feeling deflated, exhausted, angry, or depressed
- You’re constantly “cleaning up” after your friend
- You lie for your friend
- Your friend gossips or spreads rumours
- Your friend flirts with your boyfriend, husband, or life partner
- Your friend needs constant physical, spiritual, or emotional support
- You don’t respect or support how your friend is living her life
- You can’t be yourself in your friendship
- You dread taking her calls or spending time with her
5 Ways to Cope With Toxic Female Friendships
Identify the problem. What exactly is “toxic” about your friendship? What bothers you or makes you wish things were different with your friend? More importantly — is it her…or is it you? Jealousy, envy, or dissatisfaction with your own life can lead you to blame or dislike others.
Decide how “big” the problem is. Some problems – such as a friend who is constantly late – may simply require you to tweak your own attitude (eg, bring a book, journal, or laptop when waiting for your friend, so you can use your time productively). Other problems – such as a friend who undermines your successes or who is critical or negative – are truly toxic and may require that you limit or cut off all contact.
Set your boundaries. Figure out what you need to do to “cleanse” your toxic female friendship. For instance, one of my closest friends struggled with my “no taking personal phone calls during the day” rule (I’m a home-based freelance writer, and people think the daytime is perfect for phone calls!). She kept saying things like “I would’ve called and talked to you about it, but you don’t take calls during the day.” Meow. I decided to let it go – she’s an amazing friend in every other way, so I was fine with this blip.
Stick to your boundaries. Though I felt like a jerk and questioned my own “no phone calls” rule, I stuck with it. I insisted on evening phone calls. It’s been two years since I started writing full-time from home, and my friend just told me how proud she is of me! She thinks it’s wonderful that I’m supporting myself as a writer, and she loves that I’m pursuing my dream. See how great she is? I had to set and stick to my boundaries – and it was worth it.
Decide how you want to live. If you want to be a successful woman, you need to surround yourself with successful women! If you have toxic female friends in your life, you can choose a different path – whether it’s cutting off contact or gently explaining what you need from your friendship (and listening to her perspective).
By the way, it’s not just in-person relationships that drive you towards or away from success; it’s the online discussions you read and participate in, the blogs you visit, the TV shows you watch, and the conversations you have. It’s everything you surround yourself with.
If you have trouble making good friendships, read my article on Meeting New Friends.
One more quotation from Joan Baez: “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die,” she says. “Or when. You can decide how you’re going to live now.”
What did I miss? If you have any thoughts on toxic female friendships, please comment below…