Toxic friends complicate your life. These people are more than a nuisance, they’re parasitic. Precious time slips away as you deal with their negativity; and you’re left wondering why you feel so despondent. If you’re ready to simplify your life, you can’t condone these toxic friendships any longer.
What Toxic Friends Do
- They drain you. – You feel psychologically and emotionally depleted after spending time with them, instead of uplifted. (Read Emotional Blackmail.)
- They are unsupportive. – You’re afraid to tell them about new, important aspects of your life because they’ve been unsupportive or downright rude about your ideas in the past.
- They are up to no good. – They regularly partake in activities that are morally unjust.
- Their values and interests are opposite to your own. – Dissimilar value systems often mix like oil and water. This doesn’t necessarily mean the other person is wrong, it just means they aren’t right for you.
- They are unreliable. – They always break their promises.
- They only contact you when they need something. – Otherwise you never hear from them.
- They aren’t meeting you halfway. – If you are always the one calling your friend to make plans and going out of your way to be with them, but they never return the favor and attempt to go out of her way for you, there’s a problem.
- They are jealous of you. – Jealousy is: “I want what you have and I want to take it away from you.”
- They have zero ambition. – Beware; a lack of ambition can be contagious. As the saying goes, “You can’t soar like an eagle when you hang out with turkeys.”
- They constantly drive you to moments of insanity. – You catch yourself daydreaming about how good it would feel to throw a banana cream pie in their face. 😉
My Story of Toxicity
Here’s why I know how bad these friendships can be: I’ve been on both sides of the court. Yeah, I have my share of victim stories about friends who were friends only if I agreed with them and gave them the spotlight. I’ve got tales of woe about past friends who were fabulous and fun, provided I didn’t try to cut into their time by (gasp!) spending time alone and having other friendships. (You know, having a life outside of them?)
But the truth is I’ve also been a terrible friend at times, and I realize this. In the past I have neglected some friendships by relying on the other person to stay in touch instead of reaching out myself. Some of these friendships withered away over time because of my toxic behavior. Bottom line: Toxicity is a two-way street – you have to be a good friend too. (Hold this thought; we’ll come back to it.)
How to End a Toxic Friendship
In my experience there are two ways to end a toxic friendship: quickly and painfully or slowly and awkwardly. Neither is fun, neither is neat, and neither is easy.
If you still want to keep this person in your life, just to a lesser degree:
- Stop responding to fake crisis calls. – If you don’t drop everything to take their “I’m so devastated! My boss gave me a look that I think means he secretly hates me and that jerk from marketing wore the same shirt as me” calls, they’ll find someone else who will. Or they’ll deal with it. Either way, it’s okay to step back and get off the first alert calling list for non-emergencies.
- Take positive control of negative conversations. – It’s okay to change the topic, talk about you, or steer conversations away from pity parties and self-absorbed sagas. Be willing to disagree with them and deal with the consequences.
- Demonstrate that you won’t be insulted or belittled. – To be honest, I’ve never had much luck trying to call toxic people out when they’ve insulted me. The best response I’ve gotten is, “I’m sorry you took what I said so personally.” Much more effective has been ending conversations with sickening sweetness or just plain abruptness. The message is clear: There is no reward for subtle digs and no games will be played at your end. (Read In Sheep’s Clothing.)
- Be brutally honest. – Some people really don’t recognize their own toxic tendencies or their inconsiderate behavior. You can actually tell a person, “I feel like you ignore me until you need something.” You can also be honest if their overly negative attitude is what’s driving you away: “I’m trying to focus on positive things. What’s something good that we can talk about?” It may work and it may not, but your honesty will ensure that any friendship that continues forward is built on mutually beneficial ground.
If you just want to completely end your relationship with the person in question:
- Stop taking their calls completely. – If you’re stuck seeing them on a regular basis, like a coworker, keep things on a purely professional level. Find a reason to leave and excuse yourself as needed. It’s passive aggressive to expect avoidance to handle the problem, but it’s an important component. You can’t cut ties if you still chat on a regular basis.
- Firmly tell them you’ve had enough. – If you’ve decided it’s time to cut a truly toxic influence out of your life, you can let them know honestly (without being cruel). “I just can’t be friends with you right now” isn’t fun to hear, but it has the benefit of putting everybody on the same page.
- Make new friends worth having. – Seriously! Give your time to friends you connect with and enjoy. The long shadows of toxic friends shrink considerably when you’ve got better things to do with your time than worry about their negativity.
Finally, Be a Good Friend
It doesn’t help to cut toxic friends out of your life if you’re not ready to foster quality friendships. On occasion, you may find that the toxicity of a friendship drains away when you start being a better friend yourself. Honestly, I’m not trying to preach; this is something I’m working on in my life.
Make that first call, offer a genuine compliment, schedule a fun outing with another person in mind, send that ridiculously funny card for no real reason – there are tons of ways to nurture your friendships. When you’re surrounded by good friends and good intentions, it’s amazing how pettiness and toxicity simply evaporates. (I’ve written about this extensively in the relationships chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
The floor is yours:
What are your experiences with toxic friendships? How can we better recognize them? What else can we do about it? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and of course, play nice. 🙂
Photo by: Paolo Marconi
I’ve been on both sides of the court myself. More so on the negative side. It’s a sickening feeling; but I like to say I’m on the other “team” more often nowadays days.
Thanks for this post, it really kicked some sense into me!
Kimyung Kim says
This is how I view if I want someone as a friend.
If I suddenly became wheelchair bound: would my friend
a. be there to support me during the initial shock phase
b. continue to hang out with me despite my condition
c. whip my butt when I’m feeling sorry for myself (not literally 🙂
Cause good friends are there during a crisis, friends regardless of your life situation, and challenge you to be your best.
Vincent Nguyen says
Toxic friendship is an interesting topic, especially after I read one of James Altucher’s articles. I can’t really remember the name, but his message was “bring closer those you raise you up and cut out those who bring you down.”
When I first read that, I began looking through my own social circle. I realized there were at least a few “close friends” that were very draining and toxic. They were quick to criticize everyone, never gave true support, and were generally only interested in how they can benefit from something.
Luckily for me, I moved to Arizona and started with a new environment last year. I had to leave tons of amazing friendships but we still keep in touch. The good thing is that opportunities are flying open for me and I now know how to recognize toxic friendships. With this knowledge, I purposefully surround myself with friends of high quality that help me grow.
Wow! As simple as that…
I have been with such toxic people with the exact frames of mind you describe. Freedom from toxicity is what we all deserve!
Great article, I’ve had my fair share of toxic friendships. My question is: What do you do if you are in a business partnership with your ‘toxic friend?’ How are you supposed to handle the constant weight of negativity and pessimism?
Wow, this has been such a great coincidence. Just this morning, before I turned on my computer, I was thinking about this friend who doesn’t usually ever call me unless she needs something from me. She doesn’t take it well if I score better than her at tests or if someone compliments me. Our finals are approaching, and everyone is nervous. And lately, she just calls me every two hours or so just to demand how much I’ve studied. And when I ask her how she’s doing, she just lies and tells me and everyone else that she’s hasn’t touched the books, she spends half a day sleeping, and so on. So now, I’m trying to limit answering her calls once or twice per day. She also acts like a swamp and pulls down everyone with her. So, I’m trying to step off her radar for a while…
Motivational Speaker | Craig Harper says
A long time ago I decided to work consciously at removing the sociological, emotional and psychological toxins from my life; toxic conversations, toxic attitudes, toxic beliefs, toxic relationships, toxic environments and of course, toxic people. We don’t need people, circumstances or situations poisoning our life or any part thereof, but that’s exactly what (some) people will do (knowingly or not) if we let them. So I choose, not.
Great article, you guys always seem to post just when I need it! What I want to know is what do you do when it’s a family member that’s toxic?
I’ve been having issues with my Dad for a while now, but lately it’s so bad I don’t even want to be in the same place as him! He’s constantly putting people down and never seems to support anyone with what they want to do. He’s a very negative person and it’s draining to be around and it really stresses me out when I’m with him.
The problem isn’t just with my Dad though; both myself and my youngest sister have spoken to our Mum about the way our Dad acts and how we don’t want him to be around so much (our Dad doesn’t live with us, but our Mum and he are back together and he spends quite a bit of time at our house). But, when we mention this to Mum she gets really defensive and thinks that we don’t want them back together (we have never said that she can’t still see him – just that it would be easier on us if they went out or she goes to his place instead of him coming to ours).
So what can we do when any conversation with our Dad ends-up in an argument and we end-up upset, and talking to Mum doesn’t help either?
It’s much harder to ignore calls and tell them you’ve had enough of their behaviour when it’s your parents and you have to see them all the time.
The biggest one for me is no ambition. If they are ambitious the rest falls into place as well.
I also have encountered toxic friends in the past, and really they can drain your physical and emotional energy. Some toxic friends use reverse psychology and make you feel guilty at times should you refuse to help them. That’s why I now don’t care if I only have few friends, because at least I know they’re for keeps.
Another great article. More power!
I had to look at myself and what I had been contributing to toxic friends.
I had just had some major life changing events (brain surgery, my dog passing, and moving from another country back to my home town).
It had been years since I had proximity relations with many of those I considered friends.
Long story short, friends who my husband & I thought we were closest too turned out to be far different than the facade they kept up over the years.
It was ugly… 15 year friendship ended.
Top reasons they were let go:
jealousy of our financials
Proclaimed to be open minded but put others that didn’t see things their way down.
disrespectful of peoples time – being chronically late.
Granted after facing all the crap we had in a three month time span we were pretty needy, but just the same we had always been available for them.
It finally dawned on me after several uncaring and snarky remarks that they really only pretended to care. 15 years I made the effort… and if I didn’t try all those years there would have been less investment. Its been 3 months since we told them flat out we were done. Sure, it turned into it was us that was the problem and I am still trying to let my anger go.
My boyfriend’s close friend came back from traveling in Australia a couple of years ago and brought back his new girlfriend. As such, we became friends by default. However, she is really not my kind of person and we have very different values and lead different lives. I’ve been struggling for so long between distancing myself from her but still making the sacrifice to hang out with her for my boyfriends sake. The thing is, unlike my best friends who uplift me, this girl brings out the absolute worst in me and causes arguments between me and my boyfriend because sometimes I just cannot be around her. What to do?!
I was really close to someone who was actually quite toxic. At the time, however, I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong with our relationship; I just knew I was putting in a lot more work and being treated as if I didn’t matter. When I finally had had enough of it I ended the friendship. I felt as if I had done something wrong when I walked away.
A few years later (last holiday season) I saw her while out and about. It was no different from the last time I had seen her and this time as I walked away I realized she’s toxic and I don’t need that noise in my life! Thanks for the great reminder of what is important in friendships. And, the great reminder that it is a two-way street and we all need to continuously work on relationships that are important in our lives.
I just recently let two such friends go (the quick & painful way). I’d hung onto them while going through some tough personal stuff, but then events happened with each of them that made me realize I don’t need my “new” life cluttered with people who don’t share my values or who belittle people and refuse to recognize it.
But now there’s a big hole in my social circle and I’m feeling lonely, because my good friends aren’t as available. That part isn’t fun, and I find myself revisiting the reasons I let those two go.
WOW! Love this post today. I’ve written about my long experience of being in a very toxic relationship… it was quite healing to write it all down! It finally came down to just forcing myself to cut all ties and contact completely. With the help of friends and a professional, I was able to cut him completely from my life. He actually had the gall to say he thought I was seeking professional help to help me stay IN the relationship, which just gave me more confidence I was doing the right thing.
I will never forget how freeing and empowering the feeling was to have that burden off my back and start taking care of myself. There was a backlash of hateful attacks from him afterwards, but I know it was just because I stopped letting him have control of me with his manipulations. In the end I came out stronger and happier than ever. In the process, I learned a lot about myself and my contribution to the toxic relationship and have used the experience to grow and help others. I continue to ignore his attempts to make contact with me. I don’t always comment on your posts Marc and Angel, but I do read them all… always such a blessing! Thank you 🙂
Another great post.
I’ve also been on both sides. As I have gotton older, I am more precious about my time. I am happy to stay away from the toxic relationships whether that is for a period of time or on a permanent basis. I choose to put myself first and I have no problem with letting the toxic ones go. I have also really built my own relationship with myself – like you said. I am my best friend. I will never let me down. Yes I have some fabulous friends and I love them dearly, but I come first. I have to.
Thanks for a great post.
With love from London (”,)
Mark B says
Great post. I had a boss who displayed all of these characteristics. He really was hard work and particularly needy. And treated me and everyone else like dirt, whilst still wanting to be our friend. Worst thing was that his boss really was his best friend, so leaving us all with no chain to report grievances through. I was even told by HR to sort it out with him. Impossible! Caused no end of sleepless nights, stress for which I required counseling and new explosion of my marriage. I eventually dealt with this by leaving. It was the only way. And things have never been better! Toxic people cause more harm than we know!
I think you hit the nail on the head when you said I “have been on both sides of the fence.” Me too. While I definitely have had some friendships where the other person can be said to be “toxic,” I too have been guilty at times. I think we all can be toxic and hopefully we can work our way through it with self awareness and friends who actually care enough to let us know when we are out of line and we have the humility to recognize things. There is no ‘cut and dry’ method for relationships , period. We are angels and devils, all at times. There are individuals who seem perpetually stuck in toxic behavior. They are called narcissists. Things never get better with them. But most of us, I think , (hope) have a conscience and veer back and forth from selfishness, to empathy. Love your stuff. 🙂 Keep the positive message coming!
tara dillard says
In the garden several years ago I realized, “you choose the plants in your garden, choose the people in your life.”
Hit eject button that day. Wasn’t pretty for those around me, it included some family.
Life has been pretty ever since !!
Garden & Be Well, XO Tara
I recently ended a toxic relationship which had lasted almost 20 years. I’d tried several times in the past and always ended up going back to the relationship. Not only was this person displaying most of the traits you’ve listed above, he had also become increasingly demanding as his health declined due to bad life choices he’d made. Once I knew he was being medically stable, I cut him out of my life and it has made an enormous difference in my day-to-day existence. I’m able to fully focus on my job (teaching), my family, my hobbies and my other very supportive friends. I do feel hurt from time to time, realizing I spent all of those years trying to make the relationship work (and failing miserably), but I’m moving forward and not looking back. This is an excellent article… thank you!
Good points, but I think you have missed out a very important suggestion on how to deal with toxic friends, which is – to help them not be toxic. Some toxic friends are like that because it’s the only way they can draw an emotional response from someone. They do not call because they are needy and want to BE called. Many times, they are just in need. This is not emotional blackmail but a cry for help in the only way they know how. Are you sure your friend is truly toxic? They might just lack the emotional tools needed to be fair.
If they are simply a bad-apple, then fair enough but we have to find this out, the ‘why they do’ is as important as the ‘what they do’. Otherwise – by cutting them out of our lives, we are being the very thing we hate. Just be sure you haven’t misjudged someone who could really do with a hand.
I un-friended a very toxic friend on Facebook last week and I am invigorated. No more jabbing, negative and pretending to like someone I disliked immensely. Freedom at its finest.
This is a great article with very good advice. Thank you 🙂
However, there is one aspect that I think cannot always be treated as a sign of a toxic relationship. You say that you have neglected some friendships, waited for the other person to make contact, and that some of your past friendships withered because of your behavior.
I was, and currently am, there but I don’t think the reason is I am toxic as I don’t have the features that make a ‘Toxic Friend’.
In my opinion, the reason for that kind of withdrawal from a relationship can be related to simply growing apart over time and developing in different directions. The reason is that some of us are changing and some not so much or in a very different direction.
In such a situation, those who used to be our good old friends become less involved in our lives and we in theirs. It’s just a natural process. The same happens in romantic relationships sometimes and there doesn’t have to be anything toxic about it.
I too have been on both sides of the friendship coin.
People who I thought were my friends dropped me when I moved to Arizona in 2007. It was like, “Out of sight, out of mind.” I also had family members treat meet as if I was a criminal because I moved to another state. One of my cousin’s admitted she was jealous of me because she wanted to move out-of-state, but her mother and sister talked her out of it. I give her credit for admitting that she was jealous of me.
I have had moments when I wasn’t a good friend due to my own drama. Or, I was too busy with pursuing my master’s degree along with working all of the time. I didn’t recognize that my friends needed me. To quote Dr. Len Hew, “I’m sorry. Please forgive. I love you. Thank you.”
The way we can better recognize toxic friendships is to work on ourselves from the inside out. Clear out old negative thoughts and beliefs. Process them. Heal them. Forgive yourself. Forgive others.
Going forward, listen to your gut instinct and vibes about people. If you get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re around certain people, that’s a warning that something is off. Listen. Open your eyes and see the red flags, but don’t judge them.
If you’re going through a tough time, be honest with your friends. Phone them and say, “I need some space right now because of (fill in the blank).” If they offer to help, say, “Thank you.” But maybe you need to face something on your own. That’s okay. True friends will understand and will be there for you no matter what.
I wanted to add this quote from Deepak Chopra…
“Whatever relationships you have attracted in your life at this moment, are precisely the ones you need in your life at this moment. There is a hidden meaning behind all events, and this hidden meaning is serving your own evolution.”
If you have toxic relationships in your life, see the gifts within them. And then heal.
I totally agree with all thee above, the question I pose to myself is:
What is the real reason behind the toxicity in people?
I still don’t know the full answer, but in trying to understand why do I exist, what is my reason for existence and also trying to understand if the other person knows his/her reason for existence or not.
I just think that if a person don’t know his/her reason for existence they will be looking for ways to feel that they belong …… It might not be in the right way and it might even be in a toxic way.
Maybe we just want to “be”, to feel that we are needed, maybe it is deeper than that, maybe we are still searching for our “WHY”.
I try to be a good friend and I always focus on the good in people.
In the past I was quite negative, it nearly destroyed me.
For the last 3 years I am working hard on being positive, to see the good and to turn my back on the negative.
Life is to precious to waist .
I found a toxic cocktail is created when one person has low self esteem and the other is somewhat of a narcissist or is a manipulator. We can never discount our part in the mix. Ask yourself why you feel the need to be belittled or ignored, why you walk on eggs avoiding saying certain things, why you keep going back for more of this type of “friendship,” or what you are getting out of the relationship? Whether to keep or end the friendship lies in the answers.
TB at BlueCollarWorkman says
Yep, just like you said, sometimes I’ve had “toxic” friends and sometimes, honestly, it’s been me who was toxic. Not calling back, not reaching out, only seeing them on my terms… a two-way street indeed.
Ivor Dunaiski says
I have experienced the best way to rid of toxic friends is to evaluate your principles. Understand those principles and live them. In a natural fashion toxicity will gradually fade from your life and if your principles are true to you, the universe will shape positively around you.
“It doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone” — this applies to both friendships and relationships. I’d rather have no friends than have toxicity in my life.
I realized recently (actually last Dec. a day before my b-day) that a friendship I have had since childhood had “once again” outgrown itself. We have been friends … almost like siblings in the sense that we bonded closely in childhood. But over the years at key points in development and opening of the heart and mind … I have felt we were simply ‘not connecting, understanding each other etc.” I have a short memory too I guess because several years would pass and I would somehow be put back in touch with her … only to realize another reason we were not ‘on the same page’ … eventually after many years of this I realized it was all inside of me. I was an only child who deeply wanted a younger sister … realized now that I cast her in that position and she needed it too (in childhood – she found she was adopted by older VERY strict and religious relatives) I was her escape and way that she could be ‘free’ to live and grow and construct her own ideas … but almost literally living through me … She for me I see was a ‘doll’ someone who followed me but did not, could not share in thoughts and ideas that were being allowed to grow and express themselves in my world.
I guess our ‘friendship’ worked as little kids more because we truly did share a lot of loves: music and instruments we played, bike riding, writing and photography. But as we grew apart and had those long periods of disconnect, I found that she had become (or always was) depressed, feeling really bad about herself – which lead to a destructive relationship that also lingered on for more than 20 years to some degree … with negative effects on her self esteem, and on her two children. The beautiful and strong elements inside herself she does not see and has been and is resigned to approach everything … even enormous blessings she has received from others (besides me) as negative, lacking or somehow not right. She has become a chronic complainer and I am definitely drained and also very sad when I am talking with her. It has been since December now since I’ve heard her voice. I’ve received a few e-mails and answer them with kindness but briefly (not my style normally) and I can say I feel so much peace … and although I think I had to mourn this friendship I realized I have mourned the ‘childhood’ one. I see now that I and many others have tried over the years to include her, enlighten her, show her her own worth, millions of possibilities – which we were often willing to support financially and otherwise (ie school, new work or business, even sent her clothes which she loved and then turned to complain about what she didn’t have…. and that since then I have simply been sucked back in again and again to someone who simply doesn’t want to change … or doesn’t care to find out if there is something even available on the other side of misery.
I have also realized my ‘coming back’ over the years time and time again was really rooted in guilt I felt about being a ‘good friend’ or ‘big sister’ to her. Now I realize that she has never been (or able to be) a good friend or sister to ME. At this point her glass seems to be perpetually half empty … and since her ‘religion’ has kept her from doing anything but ‘suffer’, I for one am removing myself from it and will offer no more than my prayers.
I am blessed in that all of this has happened via phone … we live many miles away and so it has been major but a definite shift and one I feel now is permanent … to keep the distance exactly where it is.
I firmly believe if we are/were meant to connect ever again I will know from the first conversation (which should begin with what she’s learned or sees or otherwise how SHE has grown – vs a diatribe of complaining about everyone else in her life).
Oh my, she said me and my boyfriend were a very cute couple, even though he wasn’t cute. On my back she told this same boyfriend (now, my husband) that I wasn’t easy, if he was sure if he wanted to be in a relatioship with me because i was a bitch. (what?) Dony ask me why, she ended up being my made of honor. Did she help me or anything? No. Did she call me asking if I needed anything? No. Did she call on the day of the wedding or stayed with me? No. She didnt want me to have a wedding party at this venue because she had found another one ‘much better’ that i would love. Same day she was drunk and the real reason came out: she wanted to do her wedding party at this place i had picked (note: she didnt even have a fiancee yet). She said she hated make up, that she didnt understand why I would spend money buying stuff. One day I found at her place the very same make up set I had bought little while ago. I’m over this person now. So over that I’m vanishing from her life without telling anything. And I dont think she will even say something like ‘what happened?’. Anyways, I am going to be so much better without her on my life. Cheers!
Angel, thank you. I can never say enough thank yous to G-d for how in my darkest moments, hope almost ebbed to death, I chanced upon your website and you and Marc have begun to breathe back life into me.
I am deeply familiar with toxic people.
They steer you wrong, give bad advice. You may recognize this in advance if you can notice the subtle feeling you get that this advice will throw you off course. Antidote: Fake innocence and tag them on it by asking sweetly – Amazing idea – Did you ever do that?
They celebrate your failures and frustrations. You are desperately trying to accomplish something and face obstacles but want support. Instead, they give you speeches about the wealth of other stuff to do in the world, and maybe it’s time to drop this silly dream of yours. Antidote: Read Marc and Angel Hack Life and follow your dreams anyway.
They steal your prize ideas. (elaboration of #8 above) When you mention an idea or event that you think is important, they say they think it’s a stupid waste of time (or money, etc). You end up not doing it. Then you find out that they did do it. Antidote: When you know something is worthwhile, trust yourself, do it. Invest in yourself, and KEEP QUIET around these people. Second antidote: Be honest with yourself and know that not everybody is out for your success – so don’t solicit advice from them.
Angel, Thank you again for the gift you are to me and the others.
Oh, do I know toxic relationships – and they are easy to spot when that other person makes you feel as though you are under them, that you are less than them. Recognizing them is easy – they tend to make you feel worthless just for being you and many can do it in insidious ways and under the guise of ‘I was only kidding.’ If they are making you feel unjustly bad about yourself – its likely toxic.
Many a time I think that when we tell our ‘friend’ how their conduct makes us feel and then they make efforts to correct their behaviour – it is likely not a toxic relationship per se – but perhaps this ‘friend’ just didn’t know that their conduct hurts you. If they correct and are sorry for how they treated you – relationships can be restored.
Toxic relationships are the ones where you confront (even lovingly) and they go into denial, get defensive, maybe even blame-shift (where they blame you instead of accepting responsibility for their actions), thus not owning up to their behaviour or tactics. It’s crazy-making. I’ve even experienced where they totally run down someone they hate and then look at you and vehemently say, ‘And you’re just like them!’ This is toxic and if in a relationship with this person, run!
In my case, I had to break relationship, but not before trying very hard to win this person. I tried loving them into loving me. It did not work – and her behaviour continued, and how she treated me actually worsened over time and it got to a point where I couldn’t endure it anymore. Toxic people suck the life out of you and I was at a point where I felt like an empty shell. I had to let her go.
When I went back to school, I ended up dumping a handful of people. Hanging out with them was a drag, a heavy iron ball on my leg when I was trying to lift myself up into a state of mind that I could do this going back to college thing. Best thing I ever did for myself was end those relationships. No ambition, focused on their victimhood, stuck in stupid, and, as I saw as I was progressing through my program, extremely anti-intellectual and simple-minded. Good riddance.
Jacques Rigaut says
Regarding the first point, as an introvert, I feel feel psychologically and emotionally depleted after spending time with _anyone_, sometimes after spending time with even… myself. 🙂
I used to be married to a very toxic person. I left her 3 years ago, and today I have no problem distancing myself from a toxic person. It is easy once you get the hang of it, just ignore them.
Professionally, we do not have this choice, and we may have to work with people who are. We have to just manage the toxicity and its effect on us. It’s a process that takes practice.
I am slowly backing away from a toxic relationship, but what do I do now that they owe me $3500.00? I do not want to lose the money. I thought they could be trusted and the money was loaned to them before I woke up and smelled the coffee. Thank you, Angel for all the articles I receive they have helped change my perspective and knowledge in many areas of my life.
David Rapp says
Wow! Best comments I have seen in a while. I am guilty on being on both sides of this coin. It took a lot of doing and self-help reading, but I figured out some of the things that made me toxic to others. Not fun at all. So I had to drop 5 friendships that I was ruining.
On the flip side, 15 years later, my Toxic radar is much better for me and others. Some quick ones I learned the hard way:
1. If nothing is ever their fault, responsibility or issue…they are toxic.
2. Constant complaining but have no solutions or make no effort to change….they are toxic. You cannot complain your way into happiness.
3. They quit quickly. I am so guilty of this one. Make lots of plans, but have no follow through or they quit at the first sign of resistence.
4. Everything needs to be on their terms and conditions. Mass manipulation and control freak alert.
5. I and me. Positive “I” statements are healthy, but not required at all times. If a person can only tell you a positive story about themselves and no one else, everything is a comparison to them.
When I am being toxic, I go for the short and painful whenever I can, especially if its close proximity. If its long distance, I let it wither and die on its own.
These are lessons I wished I had learned long ago, oh what might have been…….
This post is incredibly insightful and right on spot. Unfortunately, I can answer yes to each of those “toxic” criteria – the only problem is the relationship is with an adult child. I was really surprised to see the word toxic as I had already used that word myself to describe my child’s mindset and behavior.
Very difficult to watch someone you love continue on such a negative path, to support and love them, and yet be able to set boundaries that protect yourself.
Very difficult indeed.
Thank you!!!! I received a rather upsetting e-mail yesterday from a long time friend . In reading your post today I saw how toxic this friend is – I’m only needed in times of her crises. I can let this friendship go and all the guilt I was feeling with it.
K. Goodman says
After 52 years on this Earth, when I meet new people, I am now on alert for the following:
Do they ever ask me a question about my life? Do they make eye contact when we are talking? If I pick up the check at lunch (or similar), do they reciprocate in some way down the line? If I do them a “big favor,” a) will I feel comfortable asking them for a big favor, b) when I ask are they willing/happy to help me, too? Am I always the one coordinating getting together? Do they criticize other people a lot, because it won’t be long before they are criticizing me. Do they play the victim? Run! And, more important to me than almost all the other ones is: Do they do what they say they will do, are they a person of their word, do they have the integrity to deliver what they promise? Nothing is more disappointing to me than a serial-promise-breaker. Why would I keep a friend who NEVER delivers on anything? I don’t.
I know its a tall order to fill, but at this point in my life I am surrounded by the very best people I have ever known, people who I know will be there, who are willing to help me out and give me a chance to do the same, we reciprocate, we celebrate ourselves (even the small stuff), and we share our good times without jealousy and bad times with support and respect. Honor yourself at all costs, and you will surround yourself with like people. The others will bounce off, because they just don’t get it.
Brenda Taggart says
Great post, filled with lots of helpful information. Like you, I have been both the toxic friend and the one who has a toxic friend and learned lots about myself and others when I realized the relationship was going south.
Sharing this post.
I have been in a toxic relationship with a man for about 8 months. The last 4, he moved in with me. It has been a real eye opener. He drinks much more than I can tolerate, he won’t work (he’s on disability, but can still work and earn $1,000/month), he may have T cell Lymphona, yet he still smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day and doesn’t eat anything all day long except junk food and drink beer, he has never followed through on anything he says he’s going to do, and basically he was just a mooch.
When he did do something nice for me, such as cook dinner, he would always throw it up in my face, and of course, when I came home from work every day, he had been drinking and covering it up. He lies about many things, and when I came home Monday, I could tell he had been drinking and asked him how many beers he had had. He denied drinking anything. So, I check the trash cans outside, and they had been emptied. I then went to the dumpster and found the “evidence”, a 6 pack of empty tall boys in the same trash sack I had in the house that morning (I had planted something in it so I would know which one was which). I immediately went into the house and told him to get out – NOW.
When someone can look you in the eye and tell you bald faced lies, they are bad news! He left that night, and still hasn’t been back to get his stuff, which I’ve dragged into the garage, so he doesn’t have to come back into my home. I can’t believe I put up with this erratic behavior for 4 months, but I kept thinking he would change. I kicked him out 3 weeks ago, but let him come home, as I felt sorry for him. Only 1 friend in this town (he moved here from another town), and he promised to change. Nope, he’s worse than he was. I was divorced last year from a 25 year marriage, and went into this relationship because he was so sweet and attentive to me during the courtship. He still is, when he’s sober, but that has become few and far between.
Anyway, I have to move on and close this chapter of my life. None of my friends liked him… he is bad news, but I’m hard headed. I’m a business owner and have a beautiful home, nice auto, and he has nothing, basically. I found out from my neighbors that he was walking to the convenience store every day and bringing back a big brown sack of beer every morning. The only thing I can say is “why didn’t I listen to my better judgement”, and I’m glad I’ve come back to my senses and gotten him out. I’m much happier, and it’s only been 2 days since he’s been gone. I got to go home to a peaceful house last evening, and was able to relax and enjoy. My TMJ is still acting up, but I think it will ease up with him gone.
Thanks for listening. This was very therapeutic for me… Love your website. It’s helped me a lot!
Oh my gawd – my relationship with my “romantic” partner is toxic. I guess I needed this wake-up call 🙁
Oh Joy! Great Topic.
Well, there are those who never stop talking so u never get a word in edgewise. It’s not a conversation if both parties don’t get to share, its a monopoly of run on sentences with no pause to ensure that they aren’t cut off from their all important droning on of useless info that you really don’t care to hear anyway!
There are the toxic relationships that allow for double standards which leave you feeling guilty for your failures, as they progress on with little or no remorse for theirs, because after all, their failures are always YOUR fault!
And of course, there is that one person in my life that is suspicious of everything I say and will condemn all I do. For instance, I noted that she ‘Looked really happy’ in a picture she posted online. Her reply read, “what do you mean, LOOKED!”… I could hear the attitude spilling over. Same person, when I call, always has a reason why my timing is just terrible. Even when I follow her schedule, it seems that’s the one day she went to bed early or she had to hold up the world that day and was just exhausted and wants to let you know, not in words but in dramatic sighs and labored breaths that she had to do it alone! Oh Joy. Yes, the Toxicity of dysfunction runs rampant.
And yes, I have contributed as well. I tend to ruminate after letdowns. I have been told to let go, yet, I CLING for dear life to the ‘blows’ dealt to me by others.
We’re all Toxic at times. The challenge is in keeping focus on the positive, in spite of the negative, and to be content no matter where you are.
Cavalry Clean says
I hate insincere happiness. When my friend is jealous she always over compensates by putting on a huge grin or acting overly happy.
I’m going to print this and blue-tack it to my wall.
My experience has been mainly with toxic family members. I had the ones that lied, stole, insulted, bullied etc. and it was tough at first to let go of them. However, I quickly realized how much better my life was without them…and quiet!!! I also haven’t had the ridiculous blow out occasions, especially Christmas and the brawls etc. for almost a decade. I’ve made my own life and a nice one at that. Also, I live far enough away from each and every one of the relatives, so in the event that one of them Did want to visit, I would give them incorrect directions that would send them on a little back road trip in the opposite direction!!! I’m absolutely not interested in “going back” to that foolishness…
I happened to be dumped by three girlfriends of 30 years, because they said I was selfish. Like, they wanted to go for a walk and I just wanted to sit on the dock… Could justify both sides I suppose, the way they did it was very hurtful. ( so much more to story…). I have been burned and am very gun-shy at this point in life. I am really tired of being the person who always initiates conversation, then others taking over, I am tired of asking others about themselves and getting nothing in return. I do not believe I am toxic. I happen to feel very alone and hurt.
Oh God so much drama in toxic friendships, especially for girls. It’s been 2 years since my breakup with my 2 best friends of nearly 10 years. It ended quickly and very painfully, we were so close it hurt so much, there are times when I tried to fix our relationship but it just didn’t work out anymore for us and I’m too tired to be the one to blame all the times. But I feel so relieved now, free to be me, and free to say what I want to say… because they really sucked the life out of me and could be very mean.
There are reason why some people didn’t make it to our future, so let them go and move on.