Friends In Low Places: How To Recognize A Toxic Friendship

How To Recognize A Toxic Friendship

“There’s no room for toxic friends. Toxic friendships don’t have to be tolerated, so walk away. Easier said than done, but it’s possible.” – Unknown

Key Points:

Toxicity can be present in friendships as well as in romantic relationships.

In a relationship, a narcissist may use a range of tactics, including shaming, to maintain control.

Personal boundaries are needed to maintain self-respect and establish expectations of treatment.

Abusive and toxic tendencies do not exist solely in romantic relationships. Friendships of all lengths and depths are equally susceptible to draining, stressful, and negative emotions. Every relationship—familial, friend, or romantic—will experience conflict at some point or other. However, the difference between the conflict of a normal relationship and a toxic relationship is the repetition or continuity of the toxicity.

A major aspect of being human is acknowledging our free will and the repercussions from that freedom. We may not always choose the right or good path to take and sometimes we make decisions out of anger or stubbornness. Recognizing errors, making amends, and continuing to evolve is how healthy, nontoxic people separate themselves from narcissists.

Unfortunately, healthy people often find themselves in close relationships with narcissistic individuals, and the resulting toxicity leeches the very health and well-being right out of them.

Being overly competitive, lacking empathy, withholding support, and constantly tearing down other people are all toxic and narcissistic traits. All humans are prone to competitiveness and pettiness, but for a narcissist, cruelty is a way of life. Gaslighting and obsession with control are not unique to romantic relationships but also friendships.

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

Here Comes The Bride(zilla)

Weddings and engagements are notorious for bringing out the worst in any bride, and Victoria’s former friend Grace was no different. “My friend was engaged and planning her wedding. We had been friends for a few years, and she was the godmother to my child,” recalls Victoria. Grace and her partner were originally from the same city but decided to have a destination wedding.

Grace asked Victoria and her godchild to be in her wedding, and Victoria happily accepted. However, as the wedding planning went on, more and more toxic traits began to strain their friendship. “Grace decided the wedding would be on a Sunday evening, with other events beginning on Saturday morning. I started to panic because now I would have to take off more days from work, add on days and nights to the resort bill, and take my child out of school for more days than expected.”

As a single mom, Victoria had to plan every penny very carefully. To add to the bill, the wedding was right before a major holiday, “and the plane fare was through the roof.”

The next red flag was the disagreement over the bridesmaid dresses. Whereas some brides choose very expensive gowns, Grace was the opposite. However, with the cheaper price tags came another roadblock. “Grace wanted to order the dresses from a very, very cheap company overseas. I was already nervous about the plane tickets and travel costs for the wedding so a cheap dress was a relief”, says Victoria.

However, the dresses were not accommodating size-wise. “The largest size they came in was comparable to a size 10/12 in US sizes, and I needed at least a 14/16. I have a naturally large bust, so everything else was fitting except the chest area. I took my measurements several times and the size chart stopped before I began.” Frustrated, Victoria tried to talk to Grace about finding a similar dress at a better, more accommodating designer but she refused.

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Kristy Lee Hochenberger

Kristy Lee Hochenberger is a doctoral student of psychology at Capella University and a member of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology. A graduate of prestigious Wells College, Kristy Lee is also a licensed funeral director and co-founder of Salt City Legacy Scholars, Inc, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that awards scholarships and financial assistance to young women across New York State. In addition to her Bachelor's degree, Kristy Lee has an Associate's Degree in Occupational Services as well as a Master of Business Administration. A native of Queens, NY, she currently resides in upstate New York where she is an adjunct faculty member at Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) and University of the People.View Author posts