The only way to have a friend is to be one. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I just returned from a weekend with my grade school besties and all I can say is; thank goodness for true friends. There is something special about the fact that friends are the people you choose to have in your life. Take a moment to reflect on your own friendships and some of your favorite memories. Whether it’s laughing until you cry or having adventures together, friends are the tribe we create for ourselves.

But not all friendships create fun adventures or joyful memories. Some friendships can actually be a source of pain, strain and stress. Do you have friends who make you feel bad? Who expect your undivided attention and loyalty but do not provide that in return? Or who are not there for you when you need them?

Any relationship that becomes a source of pain or creates stress on a regular basis, can be considered a Toxic Friendship.

There are many reasons people stay in unhealthy friendships. Sometimes it’s a shared history that makes you stay, or the negative behavior seemed to happen slowly over time so it’s hard to even determine when the friendship went from enjoyable to stress provoking. There are a few common characteristics of toxic friendships that I have observed in my psychotherapy practice and experienced in my own life. If you are feeling like you might need to re-evaluate some relationships, here is a good start point. Ask yourself if the friend in question is insensitive to your feelings, takes advantage of your kindness or does not make themselves available when you need them.  If you answered yes to any of the above questions you might want to dig a little deeper to determine if de-friending is in order.

I believe it is possible to transform a relationship if you have the willingness. But willingness alone is not enough. So along with willingness…

In a Toxic Friendship you must understand your 50% BEFORE you can change it.

By asking yourself a few more pointed questions about your relationship, you can begin to see the truth, good or bad. Think about the time you spend with this person and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does spending time with your friend make you feel defensive, upset or exhausted?

  • Do you spend time justifying your own behavior or feeling like you need to convince your friend to approve of your decisions?

  • Are you happy and relaxed with this friend?

  • Do you withhold or hesitate to share good news with this friend as you think he or she will feel jealous rather than happy for you?

  • Do you feel put down, attacked, judged or used?

  • Do you feel a sense of dread or obligation when you make plans with the friend? Does the friendship feel unbalanced and like a lot of hard work?

  • Do you feel responsible for things that happen to your friend?

  • Has your friend betrayed your confidences?

Honestly answering these questions should have created clarity about the state of your friendships. But don’t despair, even if some of the above questions were a yes, it may not be hopeless. There are ways to draw better boundaries in your friendships. You must understand that every relationship in your life is comprised of 50% you and 50% the other party. If you decide that the friendship is worth it, you can change your 50%, have an honest conversation about what you have been experiencing and see if anything changes. Some friendships will be flexible enough to grow and become healthier and some will not. Also know that you may be acting out an unresolved past injury in a current friendship. Does your friend’s behavior feel familiar to you and can you see any similarities with any familial relationships? Decoding and understanding any underlying attraction to an unhealthy friendship is key to resolving the old injury and providing clarity about what is actually happening now.

Since it’s your life, it’s your job to determine who gets the privilege of being in it. @Terri_Cole (Click to Tweet!)

Qualities of a healthy friendship. A good, healthy friendship involves supporting one another, and being able to listen without judgement. Good friends are not in competition with each other. Something good happening for one does not equate to something bad happening to the other. Good friends care for one another, and keep each others confidence. Good friends spend time helping each other overcome issues rather than creating them. Good friendships are relationships that feel natural and help both people feel good about themselves. All good relationships require work but building and maintaining a healthy friendship doesn’t feel like work, it feels like an investment in your life and your future, that you’re happy to make.

I hope this post has inspired you to prioritize getting your own needs met in your friendships. Learning to draw better boundaries and speak your truth will increase the quality of all of your relationships. In the comments below please share your thoughts or questions about toxic friendships. I hope you have a healthy week and as always, take care of you.

Love Love Love


Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. Sign up for Terri’s weekly Tune Up Tips and follow her on Twitter.

*Image courtesy of Douglas Muth