Maintaining friendships is hard work. Anyone who’s ever managed to hold down a long-lasting one will know they have their fair share of ups and downs.
But you get through the good and bad together – because that’s what friendship is about.
In some instances, however, it can be detrimental to your mental health and wellbeing to stay friends with someone.
These friendships might’ve started off beautifully, and you definitely had moments you cherish dearly, but somewhere along the way it became toxic to be around them (for whatever reason).
While you might want to stick around because of the memories, staying in an unhealthy friendship can have a catastrophic impact on one’s long-term emotional health.
So how can you tell if you’re in a toxic friendship?
A common symptom of a bad friendship is feeling constantly stressed and anxious over the smallest of things, explains Jackman.
“When a friendship stops bringing you joy and you see a negative shift in your mental health, personality or self-esteem, it is often considered toxic,” he says.
There are some more signs that you can look out for when trying to assess whether you’re in a toxic friendship. First and foremost is a lack of trust. If you don’t trust this person as much as you probably should, it’s not a great sign.
Another is hostile communication. If you keep facing aggressive behaviour or the silent treatment and constantly have to be on guard around this friend, you probably need to reevaluate your friendship, explains Jackman.
Other signs you might be in a toxic friendship include facing manipulation and controlling behaviour, and constantly being lied to about the smallest things.
And if you find yourself making excuses about your friend’s bad behaviour to other people, that’s also a sure-fire sign that you need to rethink this relationship.
How do you end a toxic friendship?
Clear and concise communication with the person involved is key in ending a toxic friendship, says the therapist. Attempting to ghost someone in the hopes of the friend ‘getting the hint’ is not the best approach.
“Make your intentions clear, and explain calmly the specific reasons you no longer feel that the individual is having a positive impact on your life,” he says.
“It can be helpful to take some time before speaking with them to write down on paper or your phone some specific instances or reasons when you’ve felt hurt by their behaviour towards you.”
Your friend might be shocked at first, but being honest can help them understand their issues and maybe even work through them. They might even begin to reevaluate how they treat their loved ones.
And if you’re someone who is dealing with the long-term impact of getting out of a toxic friendship, Jackman recommends therapy to help process the trauma.
“A holistic approach to looking at all aspects of your life, including your relationships with others, work and home environments, past traumas and personal challenges can help to identify the underlying cause of your problems,” he adds, “and help you to rebuild and recover.”
Here’s to healthier friendships in 2023.