Relationship Advice

How to spot toxic friends


Friends are one of the reasons we wake up in the morning. For one thing, unlike family, you can choose your friends. They’re there through the good times and the bad, and you’ve probably shared some of your most precious memories with friends. That said, sometimes those friendships can turn sour. Just because you loved spending time together teasing girls at school when you were 9 doesn’t mean you’ll still be the same people at 35. Unfortunately friendships can have an expiration date.

The tough part is working out which friendships really are toxic, and which might just be going through a rough patch. Here are 5 indicators that you’re more ‘fiends’ than ‘friends’.

1.    They’re a fair weather/bad weather friend
Some friends have a magic ability to emerge from the woodwork when you’re either on the up or on a downer. You’ve probably heard of fair weather friends; the ones who are only ever around when things are going right. It’s pretty obvious why these friends are toxic as friends should be there through thick and thin, not when it suits them.  But on the opposite end of the scale are those friends who only ever seem to get in touch when they think things are going badly for you. Whether they’ve heard something from another friend, or they’ve seen your Facebook status about being in a bad way, they’ll be on the phone faster than you can say ‘Hey, I haven’t heard from Dave in a while’.

The kind of friend who is only around when you’re down is arguably even worse a fair weather friend. They thrive off your negative vibes, whether it’s because they like to feel better about themselves, or they love the drama of it all. Either way, these friends are very toxic as their own motives outweigh their desire to be a friend in need.

2.    They’re horrible about your other friends
Sometimes you just need to let off steam about a friend – it happens to all of us, because no one’s perfect. Maybe a friend of yours promised they’d come to your birthday party and never bothered to turn up. Or perhaps they said they’d help you move and pulled out at the last minute with a terrible excuse. Friends aren’t perfect and sometimes they rub us up the wrong way.

But have you ever started to vent about one of your friends to another friend, only to have the other person jump right in and rip them to shreds? There’s a big difference between getting something off your chest and being plain mean. If you have a friend who’s always having a dig at other people, do you ever wonder what they say about you behind your back?

3.    They lie to you
This one might be pretty obvious but we felt the need to include it, because too many people out there put up with too much rubbish from supposed ‘friends’. If someone lies to you  they’re quite simply toxic. OK, so we’re not talking about that little white lie they told to get out of helping you paint your bedroom, but anything bigger and that person has no right to call themselves a friend. You should be able to trust what your friends say 100%, nothing less.

4.    You wonder why you became friends in the first place
Like all relationships, friendships can run their course. Maybe you became friends at nursery when you were three years old and your lives have gone in different directions, but if you ever find yourself wondering why you’re still friends it might be time to let the friendship fizzle out. You’re probably both thinking the same thing, but wanting to be polite.

5.    Your life feels better/easier/calmer when they’re not around
There will always be some friends who make everything about them. Perhaps they have very dramatic love lives and are always calling you up for advice. Or maybe when you meet up the whole conversation is dominated by their problems and you never get a word in. Often these are the kinds of friends you can dread meeting up with. They drain all your energy and make you wonder why you spend time with them. Friendship is about give and take, and when a friend is having a hard time, naturally their problems will dominate conversation.  But if that’s the permanent state of affairs then it’s bound to wear you out. Friends should make you feel happy and relaxed.

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6 thoughts on “How to spot toxic friends

  1. Good article. I haven’t heard the term ‘fair-weather friend’ before but thats exactly how one of my now ex-friends was with me. He used to love it when something bad happened to me (one example was when my girlfriend dumped me and I lost my home on the same day), and its funny that the more depressed I was, the happier he became.

    Get rid of any toxic ‘friends’ immediately and you will see a dramatic improvement in your well-being and happiness. I just wish I did it years ago.

  2. I’m with Tony on that one. I have fair/bad weather friends and have been married/engaged to some of them. My mother was a bad weather friend. It’s a case of how much you are prepared to put up with and for how long. I’m slowly learning how to define my boundaries with people and I’m making a conscious effort to review the healthiness/unhealthiness of my relationships, trying to keep the balance positive.

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  4. eHarmony Post author

    July 25, 2011 at 11:25 AM

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  5. I agree with the comments from other members. Being widowed made for a big change in the “friend” situation. All of a sudden I was “available” as far as the men were concerned, and a threat as far as the women were concerned – I learned who were “true” friends – there when you need them – no matter what. I have to admit it has made me bit more careful in choosing friends.

  6. >If you have a friend who’s always having a dig at other people, do you ever wonder what they say about you behind your back?

    Oh, so you think a friend should never complain about wrongdoers? Then what are you doing complaining about toxic friends? If you won’t even allow a friend to complain to you about other people who’ve done him wrong then obviously you are not a good friend.

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