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toxic friendships: how to recognize and fix them

May 22, 2020

Everyone knows what to do when a romantic relationship turns toxic: end it, try to heal, and move on. But when it comes to friendships, especially those with a long history, people have a difficult time establishing boundaries when unhealthy patterns begin to emerge. If a toxic friendship is wreaking havoc in your life, consider implementing these practical tips to help restore order in your relationship.

Recognizing When a Friendship is Toxic

Often times, an unhealthy friendship won’t reveal itself right away. Instead, it will evolve subtly over time. There are some tell-tale patterns to be on the lookout for if you suspect you may be in a toxic relationship. Does your friend dominate every conversation you share? Do you feel like there is a competition continually happening between you two? Do you suspect she talks negatively about you behind your back? Does she encourage you to make poor decisions? Do you not trust her or have to walk around eggshells around her to keep the peace? Answering “yes” to any of these could be an indicator that your friendship isn’t healthy and it’s time to make a change.

What Does a Healthy Friendship Look Like?

When trying to mend a broken friendship, it helps to compare it to a healthy one. A good friendship will lift you up, encourage you, and challenge you to be a better version of yourself, while bad friendships tend to cause stress, unnecessary drama, and bring out the worst in you. Healthy, positive relationships are filled with mutual respect and trust. They allow you to be yourself, include people who give you sound advice and whose company you enjoy. 

How to Manage Expectations With Friends

All friendships have ups and downs, but knowing when and how to draw boundaries is key to creating a friendship built on honesty, trust, and respect. To transform your friendship from a toxic one to a healthy one, try setting boundaries that include clear expectations, knowing what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not, and disengaging from negative situations.

Most importantly, though, is accepting your friend for who she is. There is nothing wrong with compartmentalizing particular friendships based off of each of your needs. For example, you may have friends that you enjoy going out with but don’t feel comfortable sharing your deepest secrets with, and vice versa. This is perfectly ok! Everyone has unique strengths that they can bring to a friendship. Recognizing what those are and respecting boundaries is the key to having healthy relationships with all of your friends.

At the end of the day, many shared memories or someone’s admirable traits are not reasons enough to stay in a friendship that continues to drain you or causes undue stress in your life. If drawing boundaries and standing up for yourself isn’t enough to lay the foundation for a fresh start in your friendship, it’s time to find the courage to walk away. After all, a true friend should add joy to your life, not take it away.


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