How To Know If A Toxic Friendship Is Draining Your Energy

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Waking up tired after what you thought was a decent night’s rest can set you up for failure the rest of the day.

Thinking back to how this could have happened you remember feeling particularly out-of-sorts after you got off with your friend the night before; hearing her contentions (yet again) with the family.

It may be that you have a toxic friend who is taking more than they are giving, leaving you scrounging to maintain your daily activities.

Deciding if a friend is toxic or not is no easy feat- mentally, emotionally, or physically-and is not done overnight.

When you find a friend is not healthy for you, how do you deal with it?

We can turn to the experts to find out!

First, identifying a toxic friend is key. Many of us have them and don’t even realize the strain they are putting on our lives.

Candice Cooper-Lovett PhD, LMFT, told Scary Mommy that a red flag of a toxic friend is the lack of reciprocity.

She explains it this way:

If you find yourself giving more in the friendship and that is not being done in return, that is a tell-tale sign that your friendship may be toxic. For example, if you’re always there for them in their time of need but they are rarely there for you, that is an example of lack of reciprocity. Patterns don’t lie. Isolated incidences are different, but if you notice this trend you may find yourself in a toxic friendship.”

However, this is not the only tool in weeding out the toxic friends.

Look for signs of jealousy, possessiveness, and getting defensive. Like when you tell your friend about a lunch date with someone from high school and instead of asking how it went, they beg to know why they weren’t invited and that they thought you would have rather had lunch with them.

Then there is the toxic friend that gives negative advice and unwarranted critiques and judgement on everything you say and do; often with a backhanded compliment to boot.

These toxic friends may say, “Oh, I see you didn’t have time to get ready before meeting for coffee. It’s ok, I’m sure you wouldn’t wear that shirt if we were going dinner.”

A good rule of thumb to decide if a friend is healthy or toxic is to assess how you feel after spending time with them.

Do you feel tired, anxious, or question if you are good enough after hanging out.

Or, on the flip side, do you feel refreshed, encouraged, and empowered after a couple hours with them.

Now you are beginning to have a couple of people come to mind, but you try to convince yourself to stick it out.

But why?

So many of us stay in these toxic friendships after we identify they are reducing our happiness, and Rebecca Newkirk, counselor and licensed clinical social worker knows one area to blame.

Complex trauma is often the cause of toxic behavior, Newkirk tells Scary Mommy, saying:

Frequently, complex trauma manifests in relationships as either staying in unhealthy friendships, difficulty with boundary setting, or difficulty feeling emotionally safe in relationships.”

She goes on to explain the friend holding onto the toxic relationship has endured “some type of relationship trauma” or “they may have experienced early in their life.”

The best way to not have toxic friends is to stay clear of them from the beginning.

Be on the lookout for people who often discuss power, beauty, or ideal love, Kelsey Torgerson Dunn, MSW, LCSW, tells Scary Mommy.

If you are not quite ready to kick your toxic friend to the curb because you have invested years into the friendship or they are close to other areas in your life, then there may be a way to save it.

Create boundaries with the toxic friend, as Mommy Underground has previously reported, like limited times of communication, and having an honest conversation about the standards of friendship you are looking for.

If the friend is unable to respect the boundaries you defined to meet your needs, and keep you from taking out your frustrations out on a box of donuts, then be firm yet polite with why it necessary to part ways.

The good news is this will leave you with room to make quality mom friends, as Mommy Underground has previously reported, like the one’s you look forward to getting a text from.

It is difficult to think about losing a friend you have spent so much time trying to get to know- there is undoubtedly a bond that forms there.

However, as a mom you realize more than ever how precious your time is, and you can’t waste it in a relationship that is not only unhealthy for you, but for your children.