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3 ways to spot a toxic friend and why your health depends on it!

 A few years ago, I did a really difficult thing when I “deleted” my oldest pal from my life.  She had become such a toxic friend, that I finally realized I had to walk away. This was a valuable lesson for me, as I was someone who would twist herself into a pretzel to try to maintain a friendship. The cold truth is that when someone becomes toxic to your life, no matter who it is, the best thing you can do is, throw out the garbage.

I’ve written about 3 ways you can spot a toxic friend and why it’s so important. Read below!

  1. Their presence and behaviour consistently make you feel bad, sad, small, unappreciated, invisible, drained, lethargic…

This is a BIG warning sign. We should feel energized, positive, calm, happy, joyful, relaxed around our people. Of course, conflict is inevitable, but it should be the exception, not the rule.

I met my friend, Pam in kindergarten. As children she would come to my house for lunches. As teenagers we became part of a very close knit group of 5 girlfriends. In high school we hung out with each other almost every weekend, usually throwing dance parties in someone’s basement. In university we rented cottages and traveled together. She knew everything about me and my life.  But sometime around our mid 20s something shifted. She started being catty to me in public, rude to me in front of our friends. She would often purposely exclude me from conversations or events but make a huge scene while doing it. Imagine someone being overly excited to see EVERYONE around you, but treat you like you are invisible. It felt awful.

  1.  They don’t seem interested in or capable of apologizing for their behaviour. 

You try to talk it through and they are not interested. They apologize but it feels like lip service. They apologize, but then do not make an effort to change the hurtful behaviour. Any of these actions or inactions suggest that this is not a reciprocal relationship. Move on.

One night Pam and I decided to meet up at a bar. She was with a mutual friend, Kathy. I was out with a guy friend we all knew. I talked to Pam on the phone while we were at dinner and made arrangements. I then took a 25 min cab across the city, scoured the bar for an hour before I found out she had no intention of coming. I found out when I text Kathy asking why they had not arrived yet. Her and Kathy were sitting at a pub down the street. Pam had not bothered to tell me she was not going to be there, nor did she tell Kathy that she had made plans to meet me. I asked her about it the next day. She made fun of me for bringing it up. Needless to say, no apology.

For a few years, I let it go by. I spent less time with her, I even avoided certain events. In retrospect, I see the part I played in allowing myself to be treated so poorly, for so long.  This was someone that I knew to have a history of mood issues, but she had never taken it out on me this way. My friends could see what was happening, but they stayed out of it. I tried having conversations with her. On a few different occasions, I asked “Is everything OK with us?” “Do we need to work on our friendship?” “Are you upset with me?” “It doesn’t seem like you want to hang out with me”. Every time, she would laugh it away and change the subject, or say something flippant and brush me off like I was the one with the problem.

  1. They don’t celebrate your success or express happiness when good things happen for you.

For so much of my life, Pam had been one of my greatest supporters. She was a friend who truly seemed proud of my accomplishments. With time, that also faded. Events like, introducing her to someone I love, finishing graduate school, earning a new job were no longer greeted with enthusiasm or support. If your friends can’t slap on a genuine smile and celebrate your success, you need to ask yourself what kind of friend they really are.

Eventually, I asked myself that question, and the honest answer was that this person was no longer a friend at all. She had not treated me like a friend for years.

One Saturday morning I woke up to a photo she had posted on social media including her and my core group of girlfriends. She had tagged it “all [her] best friends”. They were all up at her cottage for the weekend. I had not been invited. I broke down and cried…for a long time. I was at my end and I felt really alone.

I immediately deleted her from my phone contacts and all social media accounts. I have not once regretted it since. I thought I would miss having her in my life. The truth is, I missed her a lot when she first started being mean to me and excluding me. I missed the spontaneous, hilarious, awesome times we shared together. I missed feeling like I was part of our group. I missed having a friend who supported me. But when I had the courage to be really honest with myself, I could see that the last few years really had not been that way. So in the end, there was nothing left to miss.

I firmly believe that conflicts should be addressed and talked through. The first question I always try to ask myself when someone is upset with me, is “what have I done to contribute to this situation?” This time, I learned that even if you really want to, you cannot always resolve a conflict….for whatever reason.

I still have no idea know why Pam started treating me so poorly. To this day, she still treats me much the same way. I still see her at bridal showers, baby showers, and weddings for our mutual friends. She purposely ignores me – makes a big scene saying hello and goodbye to everyone around me and she never looks me in the eye. Sometimes, it still hurts. But most of the time, I let it roll right off my shoulder. I remind myself that this is exactly why we are no longer friends. I remind myself that I may have fewer friends, but I have loyal and thoughtful friends who truly care about me.

When someone treats you poorly, they start taking up a lot more of your energy than they are providing. Not just the energy that is drained by being around a toxic person, but the energy that is wasted trying to make sense of it all, going over and over it in your mind. You could be spending this energy doing something POSITIVE or spending that time with someone who is a positive influence in your life.

If you are dealing with a toxic friend situation, I would encourage you to ask yourself, what you’re really holding on to and why?

Negative emotions and stress can and will cause disease, especially if left unresolved. It is critical that you identify toxic friends and remove them from your atmosphere.

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