Have you ever had a friend for a year, ten years or even more, and then, out of nowhere, she turned on you? In one instant you go from confidants, almost sisters, to stuck in the mess of a toxic friendship and you don’t know what to do next.
You had her back, supported her and cared about her. You were there for her in her down times and always available when she needed to talk. Maybe you told her your dreams and desires or perhaps she was more of a “surface” friend where your conversations didn’t necessarily reach deep levels but there was a true camaraderie there — or so it seemed.
Is it possible for all of that trust to be eroded? Yes, and it happens all the time in toxic friendships. That’s what we’re going to explore below.
What is a toxic friendship?
According to Healthline, a toxic friend never offers you support or compassion when you need it.
“You feel minimized when they brush off your problems or ignored outright if they never respond to your messages or requests for help. In short, they aren’t there for you when you need a friend most.”
A toxic friend, when she no longer “needs” you, will throw you under the bus, make up lies about you, accuse you of things you didn’t do, tell you people said nasty things about you when they didn’t.
In a moment, you’ve gone from friends to frenemies, a healthy relationship to a toxic relationship, and you’re left feeling floored, confused, defensive and hurt.
Maybe you never even realized you were in a toxic friendship until you were betrayed.
Your friend just turned into a frenemy. It doesn’t make any sense… or does it?
Maybe she was showing you signs that she was a toxic friend all along and you missed them. That’s not a judgment on you, maybe you are the type to see the best in people and try to stay positive. That’s a great thing, but we also need to protect ourselves.
Before you get burned, look for the signs of toxic friendships in your relationship:
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do I look forward to the time we spend together?
Yes, she’s your friend, so you probably have fun together sometimes. But do you feel anxious or worried when you’re getting ready to hang out with her? Do you ever consider just ditching your plans because it’s just too stressful to see her?
In general, true friends won’t make you anxious. Even if you’re an introvert and prefer to stay home or be alone, thinking about your friend and doing something you enjoy together should make you smile.
2. How do I feel about myself when I’m with my friend?
Do you feel like your best self when you’re with your friend, or do you constantly think about what you’re going to say and how you’ll look and worry that she’s going to judge you? These are not good feelings!
A real friend wants you to feel good and doesn’t need to squash your joy in order to be happy. She doesn’t need to step on you to shine.
3. How do I feel about myself after our conversations or get-togethers?
Maybe when you’re with your friend, you have fun, you laugh a lot, or you feel like you’re part of a group. But when you walk away, your friendship might trigger feelings of guilt or inauthenticity.
Trust your gut! If something someone says or does hurts, that’s real and deserves attention and compassion.
4. Does this friendship empower me or drain me?
How has your friend improved your life? Have you made good choices, or has she made suggestions that seemed a little problematic to you?
Do you feel like you could take on the world when you talk about your plans, hopes, and dreams with her?
If your friend always seems to put a damper on things or offers low-key unkind “reality checks” that make you feel like maybe your dreams are too big for your ability, then that’s not a real friendship.
How does your friendship score? Does this relationship benefit your life? If so, congratulations! If not, each and every negative or uncomfortable answer is a sign that your friendship needs to change.
How to handle toxic friends:
Before you write this person off as a toxic friend, ask yourself this: Is there a way to adjust it to be more positive, fun, empowering or healthy? Perhaps you two need to have an honest talk, new healthy boundaries can be set, less or more time can be spent together, or perhaps ban certain negative topics of discussion.
This isn’t going to be easy to face, but you may also bring something to the friendship that’s causing it to be toxic without realizing it. Talking it through honestly, kindly, and openly can help you both learn about yourselves.
Just beware of the fact that truly toxic people will find a way to make everything your fault.
If you decide the friendship needs to end, here’s how to let the relationship go while still supporting your self-confidence and protecting your self-esteem.
Step 1. Recognize what you learned from the friendship.
Did you stay in integrity, having your friend’s back even though she turned on you in the end? Were you there to comfort her when she needed to talk or was having a melt-down? This means you know how to be a good friend.
Maybe you weren’t as good of friend as you could be and now you know what to do differently in your next friendship. Also recall great times you had together. Those memories don’t need to be tainted just because you won’t be friends forever. Most friendships have a shelf life and very few last forever.
Step 2. Learn to let go.
Determine if you want to keep your schedule full so you can honestly have a good reason to be unavailable or would you prefer to simply walk away and not communicate anymore? You can also have a grownup conversation letting her know that the friendship isn’t a good fit anymore (of course, frenemies aren’t exactly in their most mature state to be receptive and this could get ugly).
Trust your gut feelings and intuition; they will always guide you in the right direction.
Step 3. Grieve your loss.
Understand that even when a toxic relationship like a frenemy is eliminated from your life, there may still be a grieving period. Allow yourself to feel it rather than stuffing your emotions. (Stuffed feelings cause physical disease either now or later.)
The reason you’re moving on is to stay healthy mentally and emotionally, so if you feel hurt, anger or betrayal write it down. Journaling is clarifying. Note your feelings, reasons for them, lessons learned, what you can do (if anything) to soothe them, what you did right, what you will do differently with a new friend and, finally, what characteristics your future friends should have — being sure you possess those same traits first.
Step 4. Focus on future friendships.
Each time you find yourself thinking about how you were betrayed by your toxic friend, switch your focus to what you want in future friendships. Imagine fun activities, meaningful conversations and the comfort of good friends.
Keep this positive vision because if you continue thinking about that toxic friendship, your energy is going to attract more just like her.
It’s the Universal Law Of Vibration, not unlike The Law of Attraction, and is proven by science. We get what we focus on. Practice switching your focus to positive things you want to create more of in your life.
You are now on your way. Enjoy your time to yourself and be open to new, healthy friendships. Become best friends with your intuition. It’s there to guide you in the right direction, always.