Good friends are invaluable. They provide support, advice, and understanding when you need it most. Not all friends are good friends though. Some of your most longstanding friendships may be filled with toxic behaviors that are damaging to your personal life and your mental health. Let’s take a closer look at what defines a toxic friendship and how you can end a toxic friendship if you are in one.
What Is a Toxic Friendship?
Toxic friendships come in many forms. Some involve an unhealthy level of codependency, where one friend feels completely hopeless without the other. Some people are toxic because of their behaviors, actions or beliefs. Being friends with those types of people could have a negative impact on your life.
Think of all the friendships that you have. Are there any that leave you feeling sad, stressed, or weighed down? Is there a person in your life that persistently belittles you or makes you feel unworthy of their friendship? Do you think your life would be better if a specific person was not in it? If so, you may have a toxic friendship.
Note: A person does not have to be mean to be toxic to you. In fact, the person may not be toxic to other people. This is about how that person impacts your life specifically.
Confronting a Toxic Friend
It’s possible that your friend is unaware of his actions. Before you decide to end the friendship completely, consider talking to the person about the situation. Explain why you think friendship is toxic and what needs to change for you to continue with the friendship.
For example, let’s say your friend is noticeably jealous of you. Every time you find success, he aims to knock you down (or point out how he is better in some way). You could talk to your friend about being more supportive or allowing you to be in the spotlight from time to time.
If the relationship as a whole is toxic, talk to your friend about taking a break. This is usually the case with codependent friendships. “I think we have become too reliant on each other, and we need some space to figure out our own identities.” This shows that you do not want to end the friendship completely, but you do want to see a change in behavior.
Creating Distance in a Toxic Friendship
If you have decided to officially end the friendship, you can approach it in two ways. You can slowly stop communicating with the person until you no longer interact with each other. Or you can tell the person the friendship is over and cease communication altogether. The transition will be difficult, but you have to think about what’s best for both of you.
If you cannot completely cease communication with the person, limit communication to required settings only. For instance, you may work with this person and need to discuss matters pertaining to work. You can do that as part of your job, but avoid interacting after hours or in social environments.
Life after a Toxic Friendship – How to Improve Your Mental Health
Throughout this entire process, you can lean on your therapist for guidance and support. If you do not have a therapist, we would gladly match you with a licensed counselor near you. Contact Oakland Psychological Clinic to learn more.
No matter how long you’ve been friends with this person, they have had an influence on your life. Separating yourself from that influence will come with its own obstacles, but you don’t have to face them alone. Your therapist will help you find coping strategies fit for your lifestyle, and he or she will help you form new bonds with positive supporters. Along the way, you can pinpoint the sources of your mental health struggles and find personalized solutions for each of them.
Better mental health is closer than you think.