Now, I know you’ve been there before, where you had this magnetic and instant connection with someone and a few months down the road, you begin to feel a bit stifled and overwhelmed by this friend. The relationship begins to feel uncomfortable and you might wonder what the heck happened. How did the friendship turn from awesome to feel really toxic? How did you not see this developing?
We spoke to Summer Watson, PhD and Jen Fontanilla, a certified Money Coach to understand how to detect a toxic friendship and how to cut them off. Here's what they had to say:
Well, in some cases, it may take only a few months to begin to see the true colours and personality of a new friend or it may take a bit longer. It also may be that you just let that friend’s toxic behaviour creep slowly into your life, like a slow leaking faucet, and like that leak, it becomes more of a flood of pervasive noxious behaviour. It could have also been that you liked so many things about this person and you just dismissed the behaviour. It may be that the person was so manipulative that you thought you were just being too sensitive, questioned your own thoughts, and made excuses for your friend’s disagreeable disposition.
One thing is for certain, you may soon reach a point where you feel that this is an unhealthy relationship and you need to do something about it. Rather than reaching a boiling point or being reactive about the situation, there are steps you can take to flush the toxicity out of your life. Let’s first address some of the signs of a toxic friendship and then move on to what you can do about it.
When thinking about the friendship, focus on how you feel about the relationship. When you feel that something is not right about the friendship, it is important to listen to your inner voice. Stop ignoring that voice in your head, because it is your natural alert system telling you to pay attention.
If you are feeling the following things, it may be that you need to rethink the friendship
- Uncomfortable or unsafe.
- Overly anxious around this friend.
- That your feelings or opinions are being disregarded.
- That you are losing your voice or self by being this person’s friend.
- Isolated from your family or friends as a result of the friendship.
- That there is more strife than harmony.
- Or that this person shows a lack of empathy or concern for your well-being.
If you are experiencing a high level of angst and stress around this person or as a result of this person’s behaviour, it is time to examine what you are actually getting from this relationship that is contributing to your life in a healthy and meaningful way.
It is not easy to step away from a relationship, where you may have created a close connection to someone. However, if you are struggling and feel like your life is being exposed to a cyclone whenever this person is around, it is time to do something about the situation.
What You Can do
1. Trust yourself
Trust that inner voice. Trust your inner-knowing. What does this mean? It means that you, above anybody else, can identify when something feels off or not right. It means that you are feeling this way for a reason. It also means that it is time to lean in and pay attention.
2. Recognize that you are in a relationship that is not adding value to your life.
It may be difficult to start stepping away from the toxic friendship due to the manipulation. A manipulative person can be rather deceptive in a sly way when it comes to their behaviour. They may have learned the skill of gaslighting, which is where someone influences another in a very misleading way. It is where a friend or a partner in a relationship has so much influence over their partner or friend that they have them questioning their own thoughts, beliefs, values, actions, and memories. If you find that this is happening to you, it is time to start taking steps to distance yourself from that person.
3. It is time to set some strong boundaries.
Decide how you want to engage with the person, how often you want to connect, or if you want to disconnect from the person altogether. You need to define for yourself what you want to do with the relationship and get clear about how you are going to handle your own emotions. Boundaries are clear and intentional barriers that you put in place to help support and guard yourself against the impact of others’ behaviours and emotions. They are the guardrails that support your mental wellness and happiness.
Finally, if this relationship does not align with your personal values, if it is wreaking havoc on your life, influencing or affecting your self-esteem, if your personal behaviour patterns are changing as a result of this person being in your life and if it is affecting your mental health, it is time to reclaim your life. Surround yourself with people that are supportive and who you feel safe being with. If you need additional support, you can always seek professional help.