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5 Friendship Red Flags to Look Out For

July 11, 2024

Three Brooklyn friends smiling and posing for a picture. Do you know the red flags for toxic friendships?

Friendship is a fundamental aspect of our lives, contributing to our emotional well-being and personal growth. It’s also just fun! There’s nothing better than feeling like you have people who really get you. However, not all friendships are created equal, and it’s crucial to be discerning when it comes to building and maintaining connections. While having differences is natural, certain behaviors can indicate toxic or unhealthy dynamics. Let’s explore five red flags to be mindful of as you navigate your friendships. After all, it’s important to invest your time in friendships that make you feel supported, confident and valued. 

1. You Always Feel Drained

Brooklyn friends sitting along a river enjoying their friendship.

A healthy friendship requires reciprocity—the give-and-take that forms the foundation of mutual support. If you find yourself consistently putting in more effort, time or emotional energy than your friend, it may be a red flag. If your friend consistently monopolizes the conversation, causing you to feel like you’re supporting them much more than they’re supporting you, that may also be a red flag. Emotional support is a fundamental aspect of friendship, and a lack thereof may indicate a superficial connection. Healthy friendships involve empathy, active listening and a genuine interest in each other’s well-being. They also thrive on balance, and both parties should contribute to the relationship’s growth and maintenance. If you feel constantly drained or unappreciated, it’s time to reassess the dynamics of your friendship and communicate openly about your needs.

2. Your Friend Doesn’t Respect Your Boundaries

Respecting boundaries is crucial in any relationship. A genuine friendship should be built on a foundation of trust and mutual respect for each other’s personal space and limits. If a friend is consistently overstepping your boundaries, whether it’s prying into personal matters, disrespecting your time or pressuring you, that’s a red flag. Healthy friendships are characterized by a shared understanding and respect for each other’s comfort zones.

3. Too Many “Playful” Put-Downs

We’ve all heard it before: 

“You’re so sensitive.” 

“Oh, just relax.” 

“It was supposed to be funny!” 

While banter and teasing can be common in friendships, too many “playful” put-downs can signify deeper issues within the dynamics of the friendship. Such comments, even when masked as being funny, may contribute to an unhealthy environment where subtle forms of disrespect and undermining become normalized. Constant teasing that targets a friend’s vulnerabilities or consistently belittles them can erode self-esteem and strain the fabric of the relationship over time. It’s essential to recognize when playful banter crosses the line into hurtful territory. 

4. Jealousy and Competition

Three Manhattan friends laying with their feet up on the wall, talking about life.

It’s essential to be there for your friends when they’re going through a rough time. In fact, you may have a lot of friends supporting you when things in your life go awry. But if those same friends aren’t celebrating your joys, and you’re noticing a little bit of jealousy when things go well, it could be time to reassess your friendship. Of course, jealousy is natural (to an extent). But if your friend is letting jealousy get in the way of their support for your accomplishments, that’s not fair. Friends should uplift and inspire each other rather than view success or achievements as threats. If you find that your friend often undermines your accomplishments or subtly competes with you, it’s important to notice this and have an open conversation about it.

5. Other Friends Aren’t Allowed 

When a friend attempts to dictate or restrict connections with your other friends, this should set off a red flag. While close bonds are cherished, a healthy friendship encourages the autonomy of individuals to maintain many relationships. If a friend is insistent on exclusivity, it can raise concerns about possessiveness or potential manipulation. Genuine friendships should foster personal growth and allow for a network of positive connections. 

How to Deal with Red Flags Once You’ve Identified Them

Now that we’ve identified some red flags, let’s explore how to navigate them. Here are some tips for addressing friendship red flags:

  • Open Communication
    • Healthy relationships thrive on open communication. If you notice red flags, initiate a respectful and honest conversation with your friend in a safe space. Share your feelings, concerns and expectations, and encourage them to do the same. Clear communication can lead to a deeper understanding of one another and a path to potential resolutions.
  • Set Boundaries
    • If boundary violations are a recurring issue, establish clear boundaries and communicate them assertively. Setting boundaries is not only about protecting yourself but also about fostering a healthy and respectful dynamic in the friendship.
  • Self-Reflection
    • Take the time to reflect on your own needs and priorities in a friendship. Understand what you value in a connection and assess whether the current friendship aligns with those values. Self-reflection can guide you in making decisions about the relationships you want to invest in.
  • Seek Support
    • If you’re unsure about friendship red flags, consider seeking support from other friends, family members or even a therapist. Having an external perspective can provide valuable insights and help you make informed decisions about the relationship.
  • Know When to Let Go
    • While it’s natural to want to salvage a friendship, especially after many years, it’s equally important to recognize when it’s in your best interest to let go. If red flags persist despite your efforts, and the friendship is causing more harm than good, prioritizing your well-being may involve distancing yourself from the toxic dynamic.

Friendship dynamics are tough. You may naturally drift apart from friends or realize one of your friends has significantly different values than you do. Being attuned to friendship red flags allows for proactive decision-making and the cultivation of healthy connections. By prioritizing reciprocity, respecting boundaries, offering emotional support, fostering positive attitudes and navigating challenges through open communication, you can build and maintain friendships that contribute positively to your well-being and personal growth. Remember, healthy friendships are a source of joy, support, and shared growth, so choose them wisely!


The truth is, there’s no single or one-size-fits-all definition of friendship success. Everyone has a different idea of what they want their friendships to look like. That is why it’s important to get clear on what that looks like for you. Once you have a better understanding of yourself and your values, you can start designing your relationships based on the things that are most important to you. 

Two Manhattan friends smiling because they have such a good friendship.

Therapy for women in Manhattan and Brooklyn is a great way to figure out what success looks like for you. At Manhattan Wellness, we will provide you with a safe space to explore your feelings and goals. So you can find clarity on what you want for yourself. We will pair your vulnerability with our empathy and encouragement. Then together we will uncover the key elements that will take you from where you are now to where you want to be. If you are ready to make the changes you want in your life:

  1. Submit a Contact Form or Email Us at
  2. Learn More About Our Team of Female Therapists and Our Areas of Expertise
  3. Let’s Talk About How We Can Help You Feel Empowered & Ready To Take The Next Step. 

We believe that you have the power within yourself to make the changes you want and find your version of success. Our female therapists are here to support you in navigating this journey. Allowing you to reclaim your identity and take control of your life. Thus allowing you to create the future you’ve been dreaming of.


At Manhattan Wellness, our therapists are here to support you in navigating this journey and reclaiming your identity. So you can take control of your life and create the future you’ve been dreaming of. This is why we offer a variety of services to ensure you get the support, care, and guidance necessary. The therapy services we offer are Therapy for Maternal Mental Health, Self-Esteem Counseling, and Anxiety Treatment. Along with Dating/Relationship Counseling, Counseling for College Students, and more. Feel as if you are not living the life you deserve? Let’s talk about

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