It had taken me fourteen years to realize that my friendship with my best friend was toxic.
It started out small. My best friend would always belittle me under the pretext that “she’s being honest and would not want to lie to me because I was her best friend.” Her words slowly turned into small manipulative acts. Albeit indirectly, my friend would make comments that inflicted doubt on myself and the slightest thing I do. Whatever it was, my friend always had a negative say in it.
However, because she held a special place in my heart, I’d usually brush off her comments and move on…For fourteen years.
We had to go through our separate paths in college and that’s when I started learning and evaluating all my past relationships. I grew older and away from her despite me. The less I interacted with her, the more I began noticing her subliminal, toxic, and controlling behaviors. However, it was not until I made new friends, with whom I have a healthy relationship now, that I realized something extremely important:
This person was only projecting her own insecurities onto me. Whether about the way she looked, her lack of achievement, grades in school, career choice, you name it! . The worst part of it is? I let her do it.
What Is A Toxic Friendship (Relationship)?
To keep it short and simple, a toxic friendship is a relationship characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, and sometimes dominance and control. A toxic friendship tends to leave you feeling drained. Although the effects of a toxic person may not show on you immediately, they slowly manifest on a long-term basis.
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Identifying the Traits of a Toxic Friendships
There are many traits that can help you identify a toxic friendship. Some of them include :
– A disturbing level of codependency
– Constant deprecation and belittling
– Inducing guilt
– Overreaction or deflection of issues
– Control, possessiveness
– Manipulation, use
– Discouraging, etc.
Toxic friends won’t always make you feel bad about yourself; it is a reason why, even when you can sometimes spot the toxicity in the friendship, you may have a hard time letting go of it.
Because the notion of “friends are supposed to be there for each other, through thick and thin” is inlaid within some of us’ morals, it renders the process of letting go and severing ties with a toxic friend, even harder.
A toxic friend could leave you feeling bad for your own feelings. As mentioned above, they usually induce guilt in order to stir away any unwanted attention when called out for example for a certain behavior. In this sense, they always make you feel like you have done something wrong. With time, toxic friends make it harder for you to speak about your achievements or share good news, as they either constantly belittle them, or make them feel like they are pale in comparison to theirs.
For someone with a mental illness, this process is even more challenging. A toxic friend is more likely to worsen your mental illness or hinder your recovery.
How to Make a Smooth Exit?
Psychotherapist Emma Azzopardi, believes that it is important to set boundaries in every personal relationship. For example, the ability to say no to a request, is a first step to set your boundaries and become aware of when certain situations do not fit you.
As much as the beautiful memories sometimes hold us back from ending a friendship, sometimes it is very helpful to write down a list and weigh the pros and cons. Not only will it help you identify the nature of the toxicity, but it will give you a reasonable motive to end the friendship.
Communication goes a long way. If you want to keep the friendship and feel like you can address the issues that had you feeling low, communicate with your friend. Let them know how their behavior makes you feel, and maybe bring up the list of pros and cons to help you address your problems. At this point, your friend might either be willing to change… or not.
In case of the latter, go with one principle: cut back, not out. Even though it sounds tempting sometimes to walk straight out of the door, you need to take your time to pack your things and make sure you have not forgotten anything. A slow and gradual exit will not only determine how much contact you want with your friend but make the grieving process much easier. You may wish to keep contact with them on special occasions, or maybe not. But do not cut the ties abruptly.
Always remember to take your time to grieve a friendship. It is not easy to let go of somebody with whom you have shared the best and worst.
It is important to have friends who support you. That is why you must learn to be more assertive to prevent previous experiences from happening again. As you choose your friends, remember to have people by your side, who believe in you in the times that you don’t. Always surround yourself with the people who help you improve and help you achieve your goals. Do not settle for less than what you deserve.
At the end of the day, try to keep in mind that there is no bad guy in the story. No matter how old and deep some friendships are, sometimes they both grow to have different visions and goals. Their values might collide with yours at some point; and that alone is enough reason to start reassessing yourself and the people around you. Even if their energy and presence made you feel good at some point, it also brought out the worst of you. Don’t let it happen again.
Because I am learning to see the glass half full, this friendship showed me my real worth. After I severed ties with my best friend, I had more free time for myself, for the goals I set, for my dreams. I slowly started working on my bad habits and developing new good ones. For example, I started journaling to distract myself from her absence. That alone, helped me keep my life more organized and in line and eventually grow to the person I am today.
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