Here’s How to Know When to End a Toxic Friendship

Having a social network of friends is super important, as good people in your life provide happiness and fun. However, friendships are supposed to uplift you and make you feel good about yourself, and sometimes there are a few relationships that might not be so rewarding after all. 

how to recognize a toxic friendship

No matter how close you are to this person (sometimes it’s even a best friend from childhood or someone you spend most of your time with in the present), it’s possible that the relationship is actually pretty toxic, where one or both of you chooses to bring the other down or is a bad influence in some way. Whatever it is, a toxic friendship can leave you feeling less accomplished, insecure, regretful, jealous, or (insert any other negative emotions that bring stress and burden to your life). 

If you do think you have an unhealthy friendship, it’s important to end it and find ways to work on loving yourself and securing healthy, positive relationships instead that leave you feeling fulfilled and loved. Here’s how to know you’re in a toxic friendship and a few tips on how to cope—as it’ll be hard to call it quits for sure, especially if the friendship was a deep or lengthy one.

Your friend brings down your energy

If you always feel like you’re bored or angry when talking to this person, then it’s not someone who should be in your life. You want to enjoy time with that person! What’s more, if they seem to try and sabotage you and appear jealous of your success, they’re also not a helpful influence.

“If the minute you start to get your life together and do good things, your friend steps in to bring you down, it could be toxic,” says relationship counselor David Bennett

They bring you into drama

Is this friend always complaining about someone in the group or trying to create stress and drama? Then they’re not a good relationship to have in your life, as you’ll become a part of their mess too, and you don’t need that stress!

“If you try to mind your own business and treat people right, but your friend is always dragging you into low-energy drama and conflict, they could be toxic,” explains Bennett.

Plus, who knows what this “friend” is saying about you to the others if they thrive off of drama.

“Gossiping behind your back, not respecting your choices, or trying to control you are all boundary violations that could indicate a toxic friendship,” he adds. 

You can’t be yourself

Are you always trying to act more “cool” or like how they would? Or do they make you feel embarrassed often for how you dress, what you like to do, how you speak or joke around, or more? Then this friend isn’t actually a friend, and they don’t care for you unconditionally and accept you for who you are.

“True friends can honestly communicate with each other, but if you feel like you can’t be yourself around them, then it could be toxic,” says Bennett. If you do mention how you’re feeling and they aren’t responsive—perhaps they shrug it off or make fun of you for saying something—then it’s time to let them go.

Now, how to end it

Stand up to your toxic friends and tell them how they act is not okay.

“One way to end toxic friendships is to remove the toxicity as much as possible. It may be as simple as standing up to your toxic friends regarding their toxic behavior,” says Bennett. Some friends may not be aware how their behavior is impacting you, and by honestly letting them know, it might set the friendship on the right path. If this happens, you can actually salvage the friendship and make it positive. 

Yet, if this doesn’t work, turn them into acquaintances.

“There is no need to necessarily remove toxic friends from your life, if the toxicity isn’t too extreme. You can engage them on a lesser level, and turn them into lesser friends or acquaintances,” says Bennett. For example, you could still hang out with them from time to time but stop sharing everything with them or seeing them too regularly.

Lastly, you can cut out your toxic friends entirely. “If you can’t engage your toxic friends less, or just know that you need to cut them from your life for your own sanity, then realize it is okay to cut them out of your life. However, I suggest this be a last resort,” says Bennett. 

How to move on

First, make a point to strengthen your high-energy friendships.

“If you disengage toxic friends, start engaging more high-energy friends and acquaintances. Reward high-energy people with your time and energy and you’ll find this can help you deal with the loss of toxic friends,” he says. Focus on planning workout dates, dinner dates, happy hours, mani and pedi appointments, and more to keep yourself busy and get closer to good influences in your life. 

And look for new friends, too!

“While making friends as an adult can be challenging, it is possible. Open yourself up to meeting new people, and you’ll find that there are good, quality friends out there, which can help you cope with the loss of a toxic friendship,” he says. 

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About Isadora Baum

Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, author, and certified health coach. She writes for various magazines, such as Cooking Light, SHAPE, Men's Health, Women's Health, Health, Prevention, POPSUGAR, Runner's World, Bustle, and more. She is also the author of the book "5-Minute Energy." She can't resist a good sample, a killer margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. Beyond magazines, she helps grow businesses through blogging and content marketing strategy.