The Positive Side: “Toxic Friendships”

Toxic friendships as a topic have never been the pinnacle of interest when we mention toxicity in a relationship. It was only until recently that the conversation has taken social media by a slow but steady storm.

When I first read the words “toxic friendships” on Twitter, the first thought that came to mind was: “Well, about time”. This was a prevalent problem during high school, and I wish I had seen such a topic arise sooner, for me and everyone. 

Saying that, sadly, this experience isn’t exempting friendships in your adult years, they could just as well fall into the traps of toxic friendships. 

The word ‘toxic’ seemed to lost its pith of value over the years, due to its overuse and misuse.

There’s a lot we can discuss when it comes to toxic relationships. More frequently, we are told about the advice of applying it on significant others but talking about friendships could just as well take such a turn. 

Let’s dive in deeper into a few ways you may be in a toxic friendship.  

  1. Transactional relationship: You may not notice it right away but in a friendship where it feels like the other person is always taking and never giving back, feeling like they’re talking to you for the benefit and gain for themselves and use you for their own needs, but when you’re in need, or otherwise they’re nowhere in sight this might be a transactional relationship/friendship. 
  2. Friends can gaslight you too: Just because you feel like you’re buddies doesn’t mean someone can’t gaslight you, the way they may talk to you, or heard through their tone could depict such manipulation. 
  3. Friendships should make you a better you: Like any relationship, this person or group of people should help you one way or another, they should better you, make you eager to improve yourself and inspire you to be a better you. If they cause you more stress and anxiety than any of those positive emotions, then you know you’re heading south. 
  4. Everything starts to feel a little competitive: you know I mentioned inspiring each other in the previous point? Well, this is the point when it’s spiteful motivation, it’s taking it a little too far. Sure, there is a way to keep competition healthy but what I am pointing out here is if you feel like you are continually trying to “one-up” each other or you or they feel jealous for the achievements you’re making.
  5. Feeling used: This is similar to the transactional relationship point. Also, an issue that might have gotten you here in the first place: You feel like they choose when they want to show interest in you, talk to you when they decide, and manipulate their appearance a great friend to an onlooker. 
  6. Actions and Reactions: It comes down to acknowledging your actions and reactions to them too. For instance, when you get an alert that they’ve messaged you, what’s your immediate response? Are you rolling your eyes? Is there a spike of anxiety? Do you dread to see them next? Do you feel exhausted being around them, are you tired because you’re giving more than receiving? 

How to help yourself in a toxic friendship

Like every advice, especially the blanket advice, I always suggest to take it with a pinch of salt and add a little nuance as it’s generalised and tailored. 

  1. Acknowledgement: Acknowledge that friendships can outgrow each other, whether toxic or not, and that’s okay.
  2. Break-ups should be acceptable within friendships too: I’ve realised this is important as people grow and change. Similarly, I’ve recently come across the “newly” acceptance of breaking ties with toxic people in our family, why not friends then? Friends can feel like they’re tied to you forever one way or another until they organically move out of your life without a prediction to when. On top of that, we are connected with the unconditional love that comes to friendships or the length of time you’ve known them may feel like a guilt trip to leaving them. It seems most people’s advice then is to keep on going and stick to them as they flutter by with “They can’t be that bad.” 
  3. Boundaries: In every relationship- love, friendships, even work, boundaries are essential. This is a start, especially if we’re going with the competitive point and the transactional types. 
  4. Communication: So much of our problems can be solved with communication. But just as important is understanding afterwards. It’s all fine and dandy when you tell someone they have hurt you, for instance, but if they continue after because they don’t understand your perspective, communication points to nothing. This might include being more direct and addressin the issues head-on and seeing if any changes are possible. 

That’s it for this episode of The Positive Side!

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