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How To End A Toxic Friendship And Break Free

End Toxic Friendship And Break Free

How to end a toxic friendship, really? Just like a toxic relationship can take a toll on you, toxic friendships can be equally painful and traumatizing. Everyone knows the benefits of healthy friendships, but what about the toxic ones? What about the repercussions of having horrible friends?

Healthy Versus Toxic Friendships

Healthy friendships create happier lives. Research shows that these sorts of friendships will also boost your immune response. That means they keep you healthier as well. Some studies even suggest that good friendships lead to longer lives.

Of course, for most people, good friendships are not about living longer or being healthier. They are formed and sustained because of the deep joy and satisfaction they bring.

Some friendships, however, are toxic. Fun times are often mixed with conflict, confusion, and mixed emotions. These sorts of relationships take a toll. They lead to unnecessary drama, hurt, and unhappiness. They are unhealthy and like other unhealthy elements that arise in life, their impact should be minimized.

Most often this means pushing the toxic relationship out of your life.

Does that sound harsh? Think of it this way. Would you allow a stray dog to stay in your back yard, digging up the flower bed, snarling and snapping at you when you walked out of the house, and pooping all over your redwood deck? Of course not.

Why then would you respond differently to a toxic friendship? Why allow it to remain a part of your life?

You may be thinking that it’s not easy to tell when a friendship has turned from run-of-the-mill challenging to toxic. That’s an important distinction to make. After all, throwing out every relationship that is not perfect would pretty quickly leave you without any friends.

Although there are no ‘bright lines’ that categorically divide toxic relationships from difficult but generally rewarding ones, there are some things you can think about that will provide a clearer view. Getting this sort of clarity requires that you are able to answer five questions about friendships. To help get things rolling I’ve listed those five questions below and provided answers to get you thinking.

Related: 9 Signs Of A Fake Friend

What Does A Healthy Friendship Look Like?

Every friendship is unique because every person is unique. This variety is part of what makes friendships so satisfying. Nevertheless, nearly every healthy friendship has certain similarities. That is, they are marked by specific qualities no matter the age, sex, education, etc. of the two people involved. To remember these qualities think of the acronym E-RIGS.

Shared enjoyment. This is pretty obvious. Although it’s possible to have a friendship where you don’t enjoy the other person’s company that would be both odd and rare. On the other hand, you can enjoy someone’s company and still not like them as an individual. If that is the case, you don’t have a friend, you have an amusing distraction.

Mutual respect. A real friend respects you, and that is reflected in how they speak to you and their behavior toward you. This doesn’t mean that friends can never tease one another (no need to get thin-skinned). But the teasing isn’t aimed at tearing the other person down or making them feel embarrassed.

Interest in the views and opinions of one another. In a mature friendship, each person brings something to the relationship. Their views of life, their insights, are valued. It does not mean that friends will always agree, or have the same views (that would be odd), but their ideas are nevertheless valued.

There is a shared sense of goodwill toward one another. You know that your friend wants the best for you, and likewise, you wish only the best for your friend.

Willingness to make some level of sacrifice for each other (to go ‘out of one’s way’ to help each other). Someone who is your friend has some ‘skin in the game.’ This means that he, or she, is willing to put your needs ahead of their own from time to time.

That might be spending an afternoon helping to move your furniture into a new apartment, or staying up late talking when you are heartbroken. Obviously, you can ask too much and eventually drive friends away. But if you only occasionally make these sorts of requests, a real friend will step up to the plate and help you out.

What Are Some Benefits Of Having Healthy Friendships In One’s Life?

People with healthy friendships tend to have better psychological and physical health. In addition, these friendships provide a sense of connection, meaning, purpose and community. When one runs into a rough patch in life these friendships can help keep one afloat.

A good friend can be relied upon not only for support but to splash a bucket of cold reality over your head when those rose-colored glasses are too firmly glued to your noggin.

Related: 13 Signs You Have Emotionally Intelligent Friendships

How Should A Healthy Friendship Make Someone Feel?

Most of the time it will lead to a sense of meaningful engagement and confidence grounded in being part of a larger community (a circle of friends) that values and enjoys your company.

Of course, a good friend will also be a happy companion with whom you share time, who amuses you with their insights and humor and expands your view of the world.

how to end a toxic friendship
Healthy friendships and signs of a toxic friendship

What Are 3 Clear Signs That A Friendship Is Toxic?

  • The friend constantly wishes to focus on him/herself and seldom shows genuine interest in your life. You may get the feeling that your greatest contribution to the friendship is being an audience for your friend. When you attempt to share something that is of interest to you, perhaps a recent success or some goal, the conversation is quickly turned back so that it focuses on your friend instead.
  • Another sign of toxicity is when your friend cannot be counted upon. He or she agrees to meet you and frequently fails to show up or cancels at the last moment. When you ask a favor the friend seldom responds favorably but expects you to respond every time a favor is requested.
  • The last sign of a toxic friend is tough to miss. You find that your accomplishments, goals, and ideas are frequently dismissed as unimportant. After a while just bringing them up makes you cringe because your friend’s response is to either ignore or criticize what you’ve said.

Sharing that you received a promotion at work is met with “Well, it took a while, but I suppose it’s better late than never.” You are about to buy your first house and your friend responds “Nice little starter home. My first home was much bigger, but of course, I could afford it and I guess you needed to stay within a tight budget.”

Related: Toxic Friends: 10 Signs Of An Unhealthy Friendship

How Might A Toxic Friendship Make Someone Feel?

Toxic friendships will lead most people to frequently question themselves. After having spent time with this sort of friend it is easy to go away feeling angry, anxious, or frustrated. Very often a toxic friendship leads one to feel trapped. Your friend says all the right things but acts in ways that demonstrate you are not valued or respected. This can be confusing and leads some to feel stuck in the relationship.

On the one hand, your toxic friend may say how much he/she needs and values the friendship. But their behavior tells you that what they primarily value is their ability to call upon you for support, to help them out, lend them money, and walk their dog (OK, maybe not walking their dog, but you get the idea).

Instead of being appreciated for who you are, you are valued for what you can do for them. It’s not unusual for deeply toxic friendships to eventually create the conditions for depression or anxiety.

What Are Three Ways Someone Can End A Toxic Friendship?

Ending a toxic friendship is straightforward. The key is not to overthink it… don’t make it complicated. It’s not.


The very best way to end these friendships is to directly tell the other person that you have given the matter some thought and you don’t like X, Y, Z (some aspect of their interaction, behavior). After having spoken with them about this in the past it has not changed. You wish them well but will not be spending any more time together.

This is the best way because the clarity leaves no doubt as to the friendship being over. What’s more, you are able to genuinely wish them well, despite having decided not to spend more time together. If they are bitter that’s on them, not you.

Having dealt with the matter in a confident and decisive way you leave feeling better about yourself (often a much-needed antidote to the feelings generated by a toxic relationship). This does not need to lead to a huge argument.

If despite your best efforts your toxic friend turns the conversation into a heated conflict, you need to stop explaining yourself, wish him or her well and walk away.

Related: 8 Signs Your Friend Is Actually A Frenemy


Discuss with this friend the reasons you find the relationship to be toxic. Give the benefit of the doubt to your friend and assume that he/she is unaware of their toxic behavior. Remind them of the qualities that first drew you to them, and state clearly that you would like to see the friendship grow, but find it difficult to imagine that occurring unless these issues can be worked out.

The benefit of this approach is that when someone responds favorably and genuinely attempts (and succeeds) and makes changes, you will have found a very rare friend indeed. The other advantage is that most people, upon hearing you tell them they are toxic, will run for the exit – mission accomplished, friendship severed.


No longer reach out to the toxic friend. You’re thinking “Just ghost my toxic friend?” No, not ghosting. More like putting them in ‘time out’… permanently. You can answer their calls, respond to their text messages, but your conversations become brief. Your text responses are even briefer.

When he/she calls you, treat them with civility, but do not treat them as though they were part of your inner circle. They are not. When they ask you to join them in doing something, politely decline. They will eventually get the point. It avoids the unpleasantness of directly telling the person that you don’t wish to continue the friendship.

As noted in #1, however, there is a great deal to gain by being direct. That is the best way to end a toxic relationship, but if you don’t wish to take that route, use either of the other tactics. Just make sure to pull the trigger and end the relationship.

How To End A Toxic Friendship And Break Free
signs of toxic friendship


Good friendships enrich your life, provide support, and have the added benefit of improving your health. This doesn’t mean that every healthy friendship is always filled with smooth sailing.

Storms are a part of life, and you can expect to hit some rough spots in every relationship. But if you have a good friendship these difficult times don’t occur often, and they do drag on for weeks at a time. What’s more, you and your friend will be determined to patch things up in a way that is beneficial to each of you.

Toxic friendships, on the other hand, are marked by frequent stress and conflict. You are unlikely to feel consistently valued and respected. Your toxic friend will leave you feeling on edge and in doubt.

Related: The 7 Types Of Toxic Friends You Should Stay Away From

Just as you would not allow an annoying and unpleasant guest to stay in your house for years at a time, you should not permit a toxic friendship to take up residency in your life.

Make the decision to end these unhealthy relationships and move on. It may be difficult at first, but before long you’ll be rewarded with a happier and more confident outlook on life.

Want to know more about how to end a toxic friendship? Check this video out below!

How to end a toxic friendship and how to deal with toxic friends

Written By Forrest Talley   
Originally Appeared on Forrest Talley 
End Toxic Friendship And Break Free pin
How To End A Toxic Friendship And Break Free

Forrest Talley Ph.D.

Forrest Talley, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Folsom California. Prior to opening this practice, he spent 21 years working at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center. During that time he supervised MFT and SW interns, psychology interns, and medical residents. In addition, he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UCDMC. He worked in several capacities at the UCDMC CAARE Center. These include Co-Training Director of the APA approved psychology internship program, the Individual and Group Therapy Manager, primary supervisor for interns and staff, and the main supplier of bagels/cream cheese for all souls at the UCDMC CAARE Center.View Author posts

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