TOXIC : How to identify toxic relationships and how to break free

Before you start belting out the early 2000’s Britney Spears song I just want to give you a clear heads up that this is not what this post is about. I’m sorry to disappoint you. sing-singing-singer-microphone-64274However, if you’re looking for a good laugh, just YouTube the words “Toxic American Idol Fail” and I’m sure there are plenty of videos there that can entertain you for hours. And while you’re at it search YouTube for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow Australian Idol Fail”. Yup, you’re welcome!

In today’s post I want to share with you a few things to look out for if you think you’re in a toxic friendship. I also want to talk about some ways that you may need to “detox” your relationships.

I’ve found in the last few years I have reevaluated the meaning of friendship. Sometimes it can be hard to define what we mean as “friends”. With things like social media, it’s easy to assume our connections rely on how many followers we have or “likes” we get online. If you’re still using Facebook, it will even tell you how many “friends” you actually have. (Yes, I still use Facebook.) While there’s nothing wrong with having social media to keep up with old friends, I think we often forget what true solid friendships look like. The people you hang out with in person, the people you cry with, the people you laugh with, the people you call when you have good and bad news, and the people who have seen you at your best and worst.

So what do you do with that toxic “friend”? And who are they anyway?

pexels-photo-190249I’m not asking you to send a questionnaire to all of your friends to be “evaluated”. In fact you may not have any toxic people in your life at the moment. However, it’s always good to know how to spot them to protect yourself. And if you do have any of them, I’ll go over some things that may help you to break free. Keep in mind a toxic person is NOT someone who occasionally gives constructive criticism, someone who catches up with you because they are insanely busy, or someone who has a bad day and wants to talk. I may not know all of the warning signs and there will be times where you’ll say, “I never saw that one coming!”. But here is a list of some things to look out for that I have personally experienced that may be of help to you.

The Dictator

This person cannot allow you to do ANYTHING without their permission. Although they may not look like Regina George, there is nothing you are allowed to do before receiving their approval. They may even get angry with you when they find out you went to another friends bridal shower without asking them. They may even be upset with you for wearing something that they don’t approve of. As silly as this sounds, this relationship is toxic.

The Announcer

This is the “friend” that will get close to you only to share all of your personal conversations with everyone else. The root cause of this persons behavior is most likely that they are lonely, board, or don’t have a sense of self-worth. Although these are all sad descriptions, this person has no problem getting attention at the expense of your trust. I once had a “friend” that would ask what they could “pray for me” only to announce on Facebook that my husband was getting deployed and where he was going. Although I was not very close to this person in reality, I felt betrayed. They truly did not care for the safety of my family or myself and only wanted to share my information that I told them in private for personal gain.

The Needy Ex

This isn’t referring to your actual ex. But they might as well be best friends. This person may never give you the time of day when you have anything exciting or disheartening to share. In fact they may even tell you that they don’t have time for you or tell you your stories are not that exciting to them. You won’t hear from this person for months or even pexels-photo-57784
years. But as soon as they need to dump on someone, you will randomly hear from this person. Don’t mistake them with a friend who is just seriously busy and just needs someone to talk to. That happens to the best of us every now and then. This “friend” however, will expect you to “pick up exactly where you left off” even if they haven’t talked to you in years.  I once had a friend who would treat me this way. We had met at a church. After she and I had known each other for a few months, we both moved to different states, and our friendship became long distance. For the first year we stayed in touch but both of us got busy. I eventually didn’t hear from her for over a year. One day I got a phone call from my “friend”.  Even though I was glad to hear from her, she only wanted to call me to talk badly about her new friends. After she unloaded her frustrations for over an hour and a half, I tried to update her on what was going on in my life, she only interrupted to tell me more about her “awful” friends. I felt exhausted after “talking” with her.

The Jealous Ex

Similar to the “friend” described above, this person will drop off the face of the earth for several months to years. When they need stability or “an old friend” to chat with, they will expect you to be miserable and lonely because they left. They will also expect that you’ll have made no other friends after they disappeared. I had a friend once that did not communicate for over a year. I didn’t have any way of contacting her because she was woman-975339_1920not on any social media and had changed her phone number.  One day, I got a voice mail from her. She told me that she missed me and wanted me to call her back.  When I called her back to see if she was ok, she got angry with me when she found out that I had other friends in my life and went on to tell me that she and I would always be “best friends.” I didn’t know what to say or do. So much had happened since we last talked and to me it was as if I was talking to a stranger. My husband was about to be sent away on orders.  I couldn’t even plan a vacation with Seth without feeling guilty because she would ask why I wasn’t going to fly out to vacation with her. At this point I had not seen her in almost three years. She made me feel like a traitor for having other friends, and would call multiple times a day while I was at work. If I was unable to pick up the phone, she would leave voice messages. When I would call her back during break she would say things like, “Well I know you are getting busy with your job but…”.  I would feel terrible for even doing normal things like going to work.

The “Deal Maker”

This “friend” will buy you gifts or do nice things for you only to expect things in return. You may have never asked for their “gifts” but a simple “thank you” will never be enough for this person. If you don’t do what they want you to do or if you aren’t able to spend time with them on a specific day they may say things like “but I bought you coffee last week” or “but I did this for you” and hang these “kind” gestures over your head. They may also never make you feel guilty, but they will constantly try to buy you things if they feel that you are not as close as you used to be or as close as they like you to be. If you have this “friend” RUN! Nothing you do will ever be enough for them. A gift is a gift because there are no strings attached. If a friend does something nice for you, it should be because it was their choice, not because they expected you to “do whatever they said” later. This is not a true friendship.

The Chronic Liar

pinocchio-595453_640As listed in the title, this person will never tell the truth. Perhaps by now they do not even realize they are lying anymore. However, it will be impossible to build an honest friendship due to the inconsistency in their conversation. Dishonesty can be very dangerous in a friendship. Hopefully you are able to catch on to these red flags before you get too close.

The Shape Shifter

Of all the “friends” listed in this post they are probably the least harmful. In fact I would hardly say this person is toxic. However, I’m adding them in here for you to know that this friendship will probably not strengthen you and may even do harm in the end. While this person means well, their attitude is not healthy for you or themselves. I once had a friend who would agree with everything. If I liked a movie, she loved the movie. If I had a favorite food, it was her favorite too. All along I just assumed we had a lot in common until one day I was talking with a mutual friend. I then found out my friend hated the movie she had told me she loved and she really didn’t like the restaurant she said was her favorite. I felt terrible when I heard this and wondered why she didn’t just tell me the truth. I then later realized that this was the case with all of her friends. Perhaps she wanted acceptance from other people. In the end I just felt as if I didn’t know who my friend really was.

The Quicksand

This “friend” is quite unique, but not in a good way. This person may have given up on success a long time ago and thinks you should too. They are quick to be a “listening ear” portrait-photography-girls-womenwhen you are down. Although they may guise themselves as a “shoulder to cry on”, beware. The moment you try to stand up they will constantly remind you of either your failure or anything to make you feel sad. They themselves may not be depressed but they loved to feed off of yours. As someone who actively struggles with depression, I have unfortunately attracted a few of these “friends” in my life time.  If I would try to
move forward, they would try to pull anything out of me that would make me feel depressed again. “I know that sounds like a good plan, but isn’t this just awful?” “Doesn’t that make you feel sad?” “Well, that’s nice, but you must be so upset about what happened the other day?”  Anything to make you stay in the dark. I’ve never quite understood the thought process behind this “friend”. Maybe it gives them a sense of worth when they are able to “be there for you” in your despair.

Now that I know who they are, how do I break free from a toxic friendship?

Hopefully the descriptions above do not fit any of your current friends. However, in your lifetime you will meet many people. Some of which are not meant to stay in your life forever. You can also try to catch the red flags above before establishing a friendship that may be toxic.

My friendship is toxic what do I do?

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was to have a conversation with a “friend” and tell them that we could no longer be friends. I felt like a horrible person for cutting the friendship but I also felt like a horrible person every time she called. I was never good enough or “there for her” no matter what I did. I would stay up hours into the night wondering if I did something wrong or afraid to not pick up the phone because she would be angry with me for going to work. I couldn’t even share with her the happy moments in my life because she would become upset that I was “happy without her”. If I could describe this period of my life in a few words it would probably be suffocating, miserable, and hostage. None of which are words that should describe a healthy friendship.

If any or all of the descriptions aligns with what you’re going through, I want you to take a deep breath. I also want you to know it’s going to be ok. What you may need to do is going to require a bit of courage, but if you’ve read this far, I already know you have what it takes. Depending on the type of behavior or how much you really know your friend, you may be able to confront them on their actions. However, know that this does not usually go over so well. Whatever you do, always approach the situation with love.

Remember that this does not just mean love for the other person, it also means love for yourself too.

If you are able to distance yourself it may be the best option, or if it’s an online acquaintance (usually the “announcer”) you can always remove the person from your social media. But keep in mind there are some people who will only retaliate if you don’t give them enough attention. You will need to have a direct conversation with this person. Always go into the conversation fully expecting to lose this “friend”. I know it may make you feel bad to think of that but it’s not very common that a person with these traits says, “You know, you’re so right. I have been treating you like trash. I’ve just been waiting for someone to tell me so that I can become a better person. So thank you!”

Ya… that’s not going to happen…

Approach with caution

pexels-photo-70292Now that we’ve established that this isn’t going to be easy, develop a plan on how to communicate with this person.  Take a few days to collect your thoughts. You may even write them down to make sure you are able to get a clear picture as to what you must say. Agree to meet up somewhere in public (NEVER do this at your home) or talk on the phone. Keep your focus on the message you want to get across and the final outcome for the scenario. You are not there to point fingers or to judge. As easy as it is to find flaws with others, it is not your place to tear someone down. You are having the conversation with this “friend” to express how you feel and your resolution. Be honest and direct about your message. Tell them how they have treated you has made you feel, explain why this is not something you can allow to continue, and explain what you are choosing to do. If you want some space, say that you want some space. If you think this friendship is no longer safe or healthy and you want to walk away, tell them just that. It will be one of the hardest things you ever have to do but you will walk away so much stronger for it. Your “friend” may say some pretty harsh things in return or try to “win you back” but keep focused on the final outcome. For you to be free. If words are shot back that are hurtful, kindly excuse yourself from the conversation. If either of you start getting angry the conversation will never go anywhere. Once the talk is over walk away and don’t look back. Trust in your decision. It may be difficult not to want to apologize for your decisions, especially if you were used to this person controlling your life. Always remember that you thought out your decision carefully and conveyed your message with love.

18951054_10154466519871481_1138267714172301242_nI hope today’s post has inspired you in some way. I truly hope that you are not experiencing any of these situations, but if you are I hope you are able to break free. You deserve to be happy. Remember to always be loving to others and to love yourself. Value your true friendships and always strive to become a better version of yourself daily.

Thanks for reading this weeks “thinks” see you all again next week!

Joy

 

Additional Materials

Who’s Driving? / Pastor Kenneth Wagner

Boundaries / Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

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