Although many of us may be adept at recognizing the warning signs that signify a potentially toxic romantic relationship, we often fail to apply the same filter to our friendships.
Red flags such as gaslighting or love bombing can provide telltale clues that a person is not worth investing time in.
However, since discussing these topics is typically reserved for dating conversations, we may miss the signs of potential toxicity in our friendships.
It’s important to pay attention to those red flags and trust your gut—even when it comes to friendships.
After all, there are only so many hours in the day and you don’t want to spend them with someone who isn’t treating you with respect.
So if you find yourself in a friendship that’s not quite right, don’t be afraid to cut ties and move on.
You deserve to surround yourself with people who support your growth and make you feel good—in both platonic relationships and romantic ones!
Having healthy friendships in our lives is an incredibly important part of overall well-being, yet many people don’t acknowledge its importance as much as they do with romantic relationships and other forms of family dynamics.
Hope Kelaher, an LCSW and author of Here to Make Friends: How to Make Friends as an Adult, emphasizes that having good friends can help us cope with life’s difficulties, reduce our stress levels, and even lower our blood pressure.
A 2023 study found that having healthy friendships was associated with improved emotional coping skills and better overall health.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a few of your closest pals and get out there to make some fun memories together!
Having unhealthy relationships can be emotionally draining and may not be as easy to detect in friendships than in romantic or sexual ones.
In an unhealthy friendship, subtle comments that are meant to be jokes may actually come out as mean-spirited, while the boundaries of acceptable banter can be hard to define.
It is important to distinguish between good-natured ‘teasing’ and downright nasty comments, as the latter can be easily misconstrued.
In addition, take note of any manipulative behavior or aggressive attempts to control conversations—these are definite red flags.
It is important to pay attention to how a friend makes you feel when you are together and if it’s not in a positive way, it may be time to evaluate the relationship.
Ultimately, if the friendship is not healthy and you are feeling drained or mistreated, then it may be time to end things in a positive way.
After all, friendships should leave us feeling energized and supported—not depleted.
So be picky with your friends. Life is too short to surround yourself with anything less than real, positive relationships.
And if you notice any of these red flags in a friendship, it may be time to take a step back and reevaluate the situation.
That’s not to say that friendships can’t have their ups and downs—they’re bound to happen!—but deep down, we all know what feels right and what doesn’t. Trust yourself.
WiseLivn recently consulted with several experts to uncover some key indicators that a person may not be a genuine friend.
They found that these warning signs can often point to an unhealthy or unsupportive relationship, and can help people recognize problematic pals earlier rather than later.
They Only Talk About Themselves (And Never Ask About You).
Do you have that one friend who always talks about themselves, their day, their job, and the problems they are facing, but never takes the time to ask about yours?
It can be easy to fall into an unhealthy friendship dynamic where it feels like you’re just a supporting character in their world.
Everyone deserves to be seen and heard, however, and it’s important that you take the time to assert your needs and make sure you are getting what you need out of the friendship.
These conversations can be difficult, but they are necessary for maintaining a healthy relationship with anyone, including your friends.
Communicating what you want and need from your relationships is key in order for everyone involved to feel fulfilled and happy. So don’t be afraid to ask for what you need – your friends may surprise you!
Still feeling too shy to start the conversation? Take a few deep breaths and remember that having meaningful conversations with your friends is essential in creating healthy, long-lasting friendships.
When approaching difficult conversations it can help to make sure you’re in the right headspace, and really focus on why it is important to talk about this issue.
It also helps to make sure you come into the conversation with a non-confrontational attitude – be patient, and avoid making assumptions about what your friend might be feeling or thinking.
Respectfully expressing yourself in an open and honest way can go a long way in helping you both reach a resolution that works for everyone.
The Friendship Seems One-sided In General.
We’ve all had the experience of being the friend who is always in charge of making plans, or the one that people turn to when their life starts falling apart.
For some folks, it’s like they can’t call or text without asking how you’re doing, but as soon as it’s your turn to vent about your own issues, they’re suddenly too busy to talk.
Kelaher explains that this type of one-sided relationship happens to everyone at some point, but you should be alert if you find yourself always doing the emotional work and never feeling valued in return.
Applebury says it could be a sign that your friend doesn’t appreciate the friendship as much as you do. So if this sounds familiar, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship.
No matter what, you deserve a friendship that’s equal and balanced—and with the right people in your corner, you can make it happen!
You Feel Obligated To Maintain The Friendship.
Staying in a friendship that you’ve outgrown can be an emotionally taxing experience, with people often doing so out of a sense of obligation to the other person.
This is common with long-standing relationships such as childhood or family friends where there is a history and nostalgia attached, even when there is nothing else connecting the two.
It’s important to remember that your friends should have a positive impact on your life and make you feel content after spending time with them.
If this isn’t the case it might be time for a re-evaluation of why you’re still in the friendship and whether or not it is making you happy.
It’s ok to take some time away from relationships if you feel like it is no longer serving a purpose in your life.
At the end of the day, it pays to be honest with yourself and your friendships. If you don’t benefit from spending time with someone, don’t be afraid to reassess and make changes where necessary in order to improve your overall well-being.
Friendships should enhance your life, not detract from it and cause additional stress.
Take some time to think about the relationships in your life and how they make you feel: if something isn’t working then don’t be afraid to make changes that will improve your mental health and overall wellbeing.
Life is too short to spend time with people who don’t make us feel good about ourselves.
Feel empowered to take the reins on your friendships — it’s your life, after all! You don’t owe anyone anything and you deserve to have relationships that bring positivity and joy into your life.
So go ahead: make a change. Your mental health will thank you for it in the long run.
They’re Secretly (Or Not So Secretly) Competing With You.
It’s an all too familiar situation: your friend (you know the one) hears about your raise and instead of celebrating with you, tries to show that their success is greater.
Or perhaps the two of you have just finished a yoga workout and they brag about how easy it was for them. While moments of envy are normal, if this is a consistent activity, it may be time to reconsider how much you rely on that person for support.
Try communicating your feelings in an open and honest way – they may not even realize what they’re doing.
If the behavior continues and there’s no receptiveness from them, it might be time for you to find a better friend. Your success should be celebrated, not compared!
It is important to surround yourself with people who are happy for your accomplishments and will cheer you on, even if they have their own successes as well.
Being around those who bring out the best in you makes all the difference. So keep that in mind when selecting your circle of friends!
They’re Unable To Truly, Sincerely Apologize.
No matter how strong your friendship is, you might still find yourself in the midst of an argument.
It could be about something minor, such as always being late for plans, or it could be a bigger issue like divulging secret information without permission.
In order to prevent similar issues from happening in the future, both parties must be willing to communicate effectively and take responsibility for their mistakes.
“It’s okay to make mistakes in friendships, and chances are, you’ll have a few especially if you’ve known each other for a while,” says Applebury. “However, if one person is unable to apologize or accept accountability for their actions then it can make it hard to trust them moving forward.”
An effective apology should come from the heart and focus on how your actions made the other person feel, not just that you are sorry for offending them.
This kind of genuine apology requires putting someone else’s feelings before your own.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that fights are a normal part of any relationship.
Learning how to communicate with your friend and take responsibility for your actions can help you form stronger, healthier bonds.
A little understanding and patience go a long way when it comes to maintaining strong friendships.
They Don’t Respect The Boundaries You Set.
It’s also important to note that healthy friendships are based on communication. If something is bothering you, it’s best to talk about it with your friend rather than simmering in resentment.
This way, issues can be solved more quickly and without anyone feeling slighted or unheard.
If you feel like your boundaries are not being respected, and it’s becoming a pattern in the relationship, it may be time to take a step back and assess if it’s a good idea to stay in this friendship.
No one ever deserves to have their feelings invalidated or disregarded, no matter how close someone is.
Healthy friendships should be based on mutual respect for each other’s boundaries and opinions.
Remember, it’s okay to set boundaries and say no. Healthy relationships should be based on mutual trust, understanding, and respect.
So if you’re not getting those things in a friendship, it may be a sign of something toxic.
It’s important to always prioritize your own well-being and choose friendships that make you feel safe and valued.
If you are ever concerned about the health of a relationship, it’s always best to talk to someone you trust for support and advice.
You Can’t Tell Where You End And They Begin Anymore.
Friendship can be one of the most fulfilling relationships we have in life, but when it becomes codependent, it can become emotionally taxing and draining.
Codependency, which is seen in both friendships and romantic relationships, occurs when one or both people in the relationship lose their individual identity and rely on each other too much.
Some common signs of codependency include needing the other person’s approval before making decisions and feeling jealous when the other person spends time with others.
To maintain a healthy friendship, both parties must be able to support each other’s independence and still have hobbies and interests outside of the relationship.
Ignoring your own needs can lead to frustration and dysfunction in the relationship, so it’s important to prioritize your own well-being.
After all, sometimes having a little distance from your bestie is more than OK.
Your Friendship Shifts From Feeling Really Good—to Really Bad.
Romantic and platonic relationships alike often have their ups and downs. It’s natural to sometimes get along perfectly with the other person, only to find yourself getting frustrated by even the smallest of things in just a few days’ time.
However, if the fluctuation between these two extremes becomes too frequent or extreme, it can cause intense emotional distress.
That’s why it’s important to remember that a healthy relationship – platonic or otherwise – should inspire and motivate you, not make you feel anxious and overwhelmed.
So if your friend is leaving you feeling drained or tense more often than not, it might be time to reconsider the dynamics of the relationship.
It might be hard in the short term, but in the long run, it will benefit both of you.
Cecilia Rose is WiseLivn’s Lifestyle Writer based in New York, covering topics ranging from beauty to mental health to relationships. She previously was a Wellness Reporter at USA TODAY and received her BA in psychology and journalism at Georgetown University.