Friendships can be tricky sometimes, even long after you’ve left high school behind. But if the drama keeps following you everywhere you go well into your adult life, it might be time to ask yourself: am I being a toxic friend? Here are some signs you’re a less than perfect friend and what to do about it.
- You spend the whole time talking about your own life. Everyone needs a chance to vent about their jobs, their exes, and life in general. However, if you start noticing that your friends never get a chance to talk, it could be a sign that you’re refusing to listen to them. You’d rather let them feel sorry for you than let them talk about their feelings, and that’s pretty toxic. Over time, your friends will start feeling like they don’t add anything to the conversations, and they’re stuck talking to a narcissist. Not a good look for you. If you struggle with talking about yourself too much, remember to breathe and ask your friends how they’ve been doing. Then don’t interrupt until they’ve finished talking.
- You can’t keep a secret. When your friend tells you to keep something private, do you tell everyone else as soon as their back is turned? If someone tells you a secret, it’s your job to keep that information secret. Even telling your best friend is a no-no. Gossip is one of the most toxic traits out there, and sooner or later, it will start pushing people away from you. A lot of people start off by sharing tiny secrets with their best friend (“we tell each other everything!”). Then one day, you look up and realize that you haven’t kept a secret in years. But don’t despair. Gossip is a habit that you can break. When the urge comes to share someone else’s secret, try changing the subject instead. Google some conversation starters if you have to.
- You get possessive when your friends hang out with other people. Sometimes it’s easy to get possessive of your friends. We all want to be loved, and it can make you feel insecure if you have to share your friend with someone else, whether it’s another friend or a significant other. Personally, this is something I really struggle with. I hate feeling like I could be replaced by someone else. However, it really isn’t that big of a deal if your friends hang out with other people. When you start feeling jealous and possessive, remind yourself to be nice. Only two things could come from this scenario: you meet some new people through your friend, or you push your friend away and lose the friendship.
- You want them to think, act, and dress like you. If you pressure your friends to do things your way, you could be a toxic friend. Pay attention to yourself when you give your friends advice: are you telling them what you would do in their place? Are you trying to control their physical appearance or the people they hang out with? Toxic friends have a hard time with boundaries, and they often overstep from helpful advice to control freak. When you feel like you might be a bit too much of a control freak, see if there’s another way to feel in control of yourself, such as journaling. Your friends are individual people, and they deserve to be themselves, just like you do.
- You’re always afraid that your friends will try to leave you. Obviously, nobody wants to lose their friends. But if you constantly worry about losing your friends at every step, it could be a sign that you’re acting toxic. When you feel insecure about your friendships, you’re more likely to act defensive, jealous, and territorial with your friends, and that will only push them away faster. Instead, try to remember that friends can come and go. And if they don’t want to be friends with you, just remember that it probably wasn’t meant to be.
- You cover up a lot of harsh comments with “I’m just teasing!” Most friendships eventually reach a point where you both feel comfortable with some good-natured teasing. However, it’s easy for things to get toxic if you point out their insecurities, make them look bad in front of others, or just flat out bully them. Every person is different, and one friend might be really hurt by something you meant as a harmless joke. Be sure that you watch your friend’s body language and make sure that they’re okay with being teased. And never do it to embarrass them in front of their crush!
- You complain about how much your friends have (or haven’t) changed. One sign of a toxic friendship is that you constantly talk about how your friends act so different nowadays. People change at different times, and at different rates. Part of being a good friend is accepting that your friends will change in some ways, and not in others. From your friend’s point of view, it can be so tiring to hear someone talk constantly about how much they miss the way you used to act. If you miss the way they used to be, maybe mention it once, and then keep it to yourself.
- You’re clingy one day and aloof the next. Your friends need to feel like they can depend on you to be (mostly) consistent in how you treat them. Don’t act clingy one day and then completely ignore them the next. If you need some alone time, that’s okay. Just try to mix it up so you have some days with medium interaction, some days with a lot of interaction, etc. Going straight from clingy to silent is like an emotional polar plunge. If you struggle with this, try to mellow out on the days when you feel clingy. When you don’t want to talk to them, just send them a meme or a quick text to let them know you haven’t forgotten them.