5 Ways to Cope With Toxic Female Friendships

toxic female friendshipsToxic 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…

5 comments On 5 Ways to Cope With Toxic Female Friendships

  • This is a good one Laurie and great timing for me as I recently ended a toxic relationship with a friend. Well actually, she ended up letting me go. Just as I realized how draining the friendship was, despite setting certain boundaries, I set an energetic intention for the relationship to shift or end, and voila, this friend emailed me angry because I wasn’t willing to listen to her rant and rave about her drama and she ended our friendship.

    Oh what a relief to be out of the toxic mix and even more of a relief that I didn’t have to do the ending – just set a powerful intention for things to shift and they did (be careful what you wish for)!

  • I had to end a toxic online friendship a couple of years ago. The fault was on both our parts as we are both highly emotional, somewhat needy, people. We have gradually got back in touch and now send each other occasional emails and things are fine. I think we both feel better not being so close yet still being in touch.

  • Sandra, that’s such a great solution for a toxic female friendship (occasional emails but not full-fledged contact). I’ve found Facebook to be a good way to be in touch with people I don’t necessarily want to spend alot of “in person” time with.

    Gini, I too had someone end a friendship with me! We were so different and our relationship was a real struggle…but it never occurred to me to let her go. She found the strength to do that, and it’s a good thing.

    Thanks for being here, you two 🙂

    I think it’s more important that we be careful about who we spend time with as we get older. Time seems more limited now than it did when we were in school…there’s too much to accomplish and do — no time to spend with friends who are negative, critical, draining, or toxic!

    Maybe my next article should be about knowing if YOU’RE a toxic female friend….would anyone be interested in reading that?

  • I know of one reason girls fight more than guys in their friendships. It’s because females bond more closely on an emotional level and they match each other’s energy and therefore get enmeshed more easily. Men tend to have more emotional distance and stronger boundaries between each other.

    Women friends and couples enmesh easily if not conscious of it. To unemesh, friends (or couples) tend to create a fight so they can go in the opposite direction (isolation)for awhile. It’s an uncomfortable dichotomy, but as people become conscious of it, they can transcend it by tuning into their wholeness.

    When people discover they are whole, and enough on their own, they don’t need to play the enmeshment/isolation game, but can have healthy boundaries and more peace in relationships.

  • I recently ended or it was her that ended a friendship that was becoming toxic. I really loved everything about this girl, even her promiscuity didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that she was a free-loader. The problem was I didn’t know how to communicate that to her. It ended one night when I had asked her for some money she owed my boyfriend. She immediately turned it into “he’s the enemy, I want nothing to do with him”. I live with him, so if she wanted nothing to do with him, she would be driving a stake between our friendship. I didn’t have the energy to keep choosing who to hang out with, and she had already turned into someone who was kind of passively bitchy to me, which she had never been before. Sure it could have been jealousy, but I wanted her to be able to talk to me about it. I last sent a text message (we never call each other, we always text and try to meet up) telling her I love her and will always be her friend (even though I am no longer her best friend). And that if she wanted to talk to me about it I would be here for her always. I have yet to hear a response, and I don’t intend on contacting her anytime soon. I miss what we did together, but I don’t particularly miss her, especially how towards the end it felt like she was getting tired of me. Was it wrong for me to not reach out to her on a more personal level? She probably thinks that I chose my bf over her, but that is not true, it just got to be too difficult trying to keep both of them happy.

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