Am I a toxic friend? Friendships can be difficult to navigate at times. Figuring out whether you are in a healthy friendship is not always as cut and dry as you might assume. Sometimes you’re the victim in a friendship. However, there are also days when you are the toxic friend leaving someone feeling less than. The good news is if you can find that you’re the toxic friend you can do things to change and make the relationship more healthy for both of you.
How to know if you’re the toxic friend
The easy question to ask is whether or not your friend is toxic. We all have the inherent ability to see fault in others. However, taking the time to truly look inward is the hard work not many are willing to do. If you truly value your friendship with this person, you will ask yourself the following questions honestly. Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you find yourself asking, “Am I the toxic one in the friendship?”
Do I respect their boundaries?
Setting boundaries is your friend’s way of telling you they value the friendship enough to want to keep it. Boundaries are their way of saying they want to keep the friendship as long as it stays healthy to them. Boundaries can feel uncomfortable when you’re used to the friendship working a certain way. When asking if you are a toxic friend, by honest, do you respect their boundaries? If your friend sets a time you shouldn’t call, a conversation topic they’re not comfortable with, or even a way they expect you to handle their feelings, do you respect that?
If you don’t, do a good job of respecting your friend’s boundaries, now is a good time to make a change. Start with an apology for not honoring them in the past. Then it can help to discuss the boundaries again with your friend so you can be more intentional about honoring them.
Do I let them have a life outside of our friendship?
Having a close friendship can be an amazing experience. It’s so nice to have someone who really gets you and wants to do life with you. However, it’s also important to understand that your friendship should not be all-encompassing. It is completely healthy to have interests and experiences separate from one another. Friendships can become more work than their worth when the expectation is that your whole world revolves around your friend.
If you don’t do a good job of letting them have a life outside of your friendship it may be time to look into finding your own interests beyond your friendship. Ask yourself why you need them to be a part of everything you do and why you can’t be on your own.
Do I have a problem with them having other friends?
When you have a close friend it can be hard to see them become close with other people. After all, they are your person. The beautiful thing about friendship is that you don’t have to have just one best friend. You can have a variety of friends for different interests. When you make someone your only friend and demand the same of them, you can quickly make a friendship with you feel like work. This is not a healthy way to run a relationship.
If you are hoping to do better in this area, it may help to start by looking at why them having other friends bothers you. Is it an insecurity you are not dealing with? Is it because of the way someone else has abandoned you? This may be a topic for your therapist to work through with you.
Do you take more than you give?
Friendships should have a balance of give and take between both of you. A relationship becomes toxic when one person demands to receive all of the other person’s time, energy, and even physical resources. Do you take more than you give in your friendship? Are you always the one who needs to be cared for? Do you speak more than you listen?
If this is you, it’s not always intentional but it is so important to find that balance. Your friend will get tired of constantly meeting your needs while theirs are unmet. Take the time to actively listen to what they need and find ways to give back to them. This could be physical items such as money or giving your time and attention to be supportive.
Are you critical?
When a friend comes to you with a weakness or insecurity or even a mistake they made, how do you handle that? Are you critical of them? Constructive criticism is offered when a person is willing and ready to accept it. While you might mean well, if a person is not ready for your “help” it can leave them feeling small or feeling angry. Take an honest look at how you address your friend when it comes to their struggles and weaknesses.
One of my favorite things to do with a person who is sharing a struggle with me is to ask, “are you after solutions or do you just want to vent?” Try this approach when you see something in your friend that maybe could use some work. They may not see it as an issue or they may not want solutions at that time because they don’t have the mental margin for your solutions.
Can you let them grow as a person?
Friendships that stand the test of time will have people growing out of certain behaviors or character traits. This can be difficult if that behavior was something they always did with you. One example I often give is drinking alcohol. If your friend stopped drinking alcohol, would you be their friend still without making them feel bad about making this change or trying to make them go back to the way you like them best? A true quality friendship allows for growth and change.
Growth can be hard because it can leave you feeling insecure. When people change you might ask how you fit into their life now. Don’t let that insecurity rob you of a quality friendship. Instead, find ways to learn about why they are making this change and find out if you can fit into this new part of their life.
Looking for more?
- Toxic Friend Quiz from Reach Out
- Signs of a Toxic Friend
- How To Handle Toxic Family
- How to Handle Toxic People