It’s not always easy to spot a toxic relationship. While high school health ed classes highlight physical abuse within romantic relationships when talking about them, they rarely delve into the more nuanced ways people can become toxic to you. The signs aren’t always very clear.
But unlike what some people may lead you to believe, toxic relationships aren’t just reserved for romantic partnerships — in fact, friendships can be just as unhealthy. Here are just a few subtle signs that you might be involved in a toxic friendship.
1. They claim they “tell it as it is”, but mostly they just belittle you.
Sure, your friend might pride themselves in being “straightforward” or “honest”, but why does that only seem to happen when they’re picking at you? They claim they want to help you by pointing out your flaws, but once it becomes a consistent thing they do, it becomes less about helping and more about hurting.
2. They get jealous when you spend time with other people.
Sometimes friends get jealous of friends — that’s just how it is. But if they act like you aren’t allowed to have other close friends or get upset when you decide to hang out with someone else, that’s a red flag that they feel some kind of ownership over you.
3. They make you feel guilty all the time.
Did you accidentally sleep through brunch? Did you have to cancel plans on a Friday night because you didn’t feel well? Did you forget to edit your friend’s paper in time? Sure, they have a right to feel a little upset, but if they’re constantly making you feel guilty about what you do, that’s not OK. It’s less about how upset they are and more about the power they have over your emotions.
4. They like to leave you out of things “by accident”.
Even though they get angry with you for being forgetful, they always manage to forget to send you the invite to brunch with the friends or a night out. They want to remind you that they dictate the situation and they can control how you feel.
5. They talk behind your back.
You may notice that your other friends have been treating you differently or that they seem to know all the drama in your life without you even telling them. If you get the feeling they’ve been saying unfavorable things about you when you’re not around, it might be because they are.
6. They always forget to pay you back.
If someone is constantly borrowing from you but never giving you the money back, is it actually borrowing? While there’s a chance they may be forgetful, there’s also a chance they’re taking advantage of you and your goodwill.
7. They try to make you feel like they’re the better friend.
Does your friend is constantly make a point about how they’re such a good friend while simultaneously making you feel guilty for not being as great of a friend back? Chances are they’re trying to make you feel like you owe them something or make you believe you can’t survive without them.
8. They hate all your significant others.
Sure, friends are supposed to look out for you and make sure you don’t date someone terrible, but why do they always hate your significant others? It’s probably because they don’t like the idea of someone taking their place in your life. After all, toxic relationships rely on you needing them, and if you have someone else to lean on, it just makes their influence weaker.
9. They talk you up — when it’s convenient for them.
Toxic friends don’t always cut you down. In fact, sometimes it seems like they’re the most supportive people in your life. But that only seems to be the case when it’s not something that interferes with their influence or that even helps them out. Don’t mistake someone’s well wishes for themself as well wishes for you.
10. They’re always the victim, no matter the situation.
Have you ever gotten mad at them, only for them to turn around and find a way that makes it your fault? No, you’re not crazy — it’s a pretty common tactic toxic people use. After all, if you’re always to blame, you’ll feel worse about themselves and their influence will be stronger.
11. They make you feel incredibly special.
Of course, this alone is not a sign of a toxic relationship — you should feel special in healthy relationships as well! But mixed in with all the other red flags, this one is a pretty big one. If your friend makes you feel like you and you alone are the most important thing to them, they probably expect for you to return the favor. After all, it’s much less about your place in their life as their place in yours.
12. You’ve had a bad feeling about them before, but you can’t explain it.
Sometimes you just have to listen to your gut. The signs aren’t always clear, and they aren’t always cut and dry. But if someone makes you feel manipulated or bad about yourself, they’re probably not a good friend to have around. Sometimes it’s just healthier to cut people out.