In order to understand what makes a toxic friendship we need to understand a little bit about friendships in general.
As humans we have the innate need to have friends and people that want to interact with us. It becomes a quest all lifelong. The quest of looking for people that thinks like we do and believe the same. Sometimes the need becomes an unhealthy thing. Sometimes the need to have friends causes us to settle for people that are not exactly healthy.
The search for friends begins at a very young age. The need to have a best friend will cause such grief and anguish in the daily life of young children. Have you ever seen children at a public park? They will seek out the other children and attempt to make friends with them. They form small gangs and play well for a few moments then the pairing off begins. The alienation of one or more of the little group starts and before long there are tears and hurt feelings. This repeats every time there are children at play
Many parents will say, as long as it is the two of them they get along fine, but as soon as a third child joins in there is a fight. This is why childhood is so hard on little ones. They want to make friends and keep these friends to themselves.
As we mature, the ability to have more than one friend is learned and practiced. Some people do not gain that ability and this is the basis for problems in adult relationships.
The same is true of adults. The only difference is adults know how to play nice and not voice their jealousies and insecurities. If you watch the interactions of the adults on shows like Desperate Housewives, you will see that there are the basic playground problems with the adults, but they cover it better. The adults may seethe with emotion inside, but they do not let it show. What comes across as over the top and comedic in a television show can be painful and destructive in a real life relationship. What is seen so well in Desperate Housewives is a friendship where one person manipulates the other in order to gain something of importance. Then you see the more healthy friendships that are also characterized in this show. There are examples of friends that come to the aide of another and place a high value on their friendship and it comes through in all their interactions. Just as in real life, these are the friendships that you want to hold onto.
Sometimes toxic friendships are as simple as a clingy friend that does not want you to have any other friends. They resent you being friends with others and try to force you to choose between them. It causes stress on a friendship and creates a toxic relationship.
Other ways a friendship can be toxic is by the stronger personality taking advantage of the weaker personality. No matter if you are the weaker or stronger, you both need something from the friendship and that does not make it toxic. It is when the need is unhealthy that it becomes a problem. It is toxic when one person manipulates the friendship for their own gain. That is a problem. One person using another person for their own satisfaction, their own selfish reasons, is the making of a toxic relationship.
When a married person has a single friend, many times in a toxic friendship, the single person sees no value in the marriage of the other and works to cause problems in that marriage. This is done by encouraging the married friend to choose the friendship over the marriage. Many times it is not even noticed at first. It seems that this friendship is new and fun and fills a void in both people's lives so how can it be bad. If one person is expecting to be the most important person to the other and that person has a relationship, it starts to cause friction. This is how the marriage starts to be affected.
There are a few clues that can be seen when looking for a toxic friendship:
- One friend clings to the other and refuses to share you with other people.
- Entices you to do things you normally would not do.
- Wants you to choose them over your spouse or significant other.
- Makes you feel bad about yourself.
- Speaks to you in an abusive or condescending manner.
- Undermines your self confidence.
- Makes you question your own importance.
- Tries to convince you that other friends are not important.
- Attempts to change you to be more like them.
- Makes you feel sad or uncomfortable to be around them.
If you find that your friendship is unhealthy for you, then how do you go about stopping the friendship or fixing the relationship?
Usually the person that has caused the problem will not allow the friendship to be fixed. The person has typically had a string of past friendships that have ended due to the same reason. If this is a person that has no other friends when they come into your life, you may see it as a clue as to why that is the case. If a person can manage several friends at one time, then they will not be as apt to cause the friendship to become toxic.
The art of making friends should have progressed past the playground stage where only one person can be friends at a time. So if you can juggle friends and believe that your friends deserve personal time with their spouse as well as with other family and friends besides you, then you can feel better knowing that you are not a toxic friend.
Having a non toxic friendship will ensure that you are friends for a long time if not a lifetime.
Published by Vicki Goodwin