We tend to associate emotional abuse with romantic relationships only, but that isn’t always the case. Recently, I’ve had the experience of cutting ties with a toxic friend.
I met this person within the last year, and by the end of last semester, I started to see a pattern. I would receive multiple texts with a persistent desire to check the status of our friendship and to make sure that I was all in. No matter what I said or did to prove we were friends, it was never quite enough.
Eventually, I received a long message about how I am not putting enough effort into our friendship. While it isn’t when the emotional abuse started, it is when I finally began to notice it. The signs follow a pattern I hope others can recognize if they ever encounter toxic friends.
They are never wrong. Every time you make a point, they will not adjust their arguments to adapt to what you’ve said. Their opinion is gold, and you will never be able to find a better one.
After conversations with them, you feel stupid, small and insignificant. If you ask for their advice but then don’t take it, they will passively remind you that you are a fool. Instead of supporting you in a decision, they will demean your decision-making skills and your intelligence.
Your friendship will never be good enough. If you do not meet their expectations of friendship, they will make you feel guilty for putting time into things they claim shouldn’t matter as much as your friendship with them, like school and work. Anger generally follows this closely.
If you try to end the friendship, they will take shots at your personality, intelligence and ability to be a good person and friend. Sometimes it is just through text; other times they will attack you over social media or even in person. Again, anger follows closely behind this, and they will try to guilt you into not breaking off the friendship.
They want to be the center of all of your attention. Sometimes, they take it as far as cutting down any actual romantic relationship you have, telling you that if you put too much effort into it, you’ll end up lonely in the long run.
Being their friend is exhausting. Every conversation focuses on them and their needs and their emotions. They can self-deprecate like a professional, fishing for compliments hidden in concerns that no one will ever care about them. And for some reason it has become your sole job to convince them otherwise.
For a long time I tried to do this. Then, I simply desired to prove that I am not a bad person and that I have healthy friendships in my life and that this was not one of them. I also wanted beyond all hope for an admission of guilt — that their actions were out-of-line and an absolutely horrendous way to treat someone you call a friend.
But throughout all of our conversations, a whole array of negative emotions took turns ruining my day. From stress, annoyance and anger to hurt, sadness and eventually fear, I wrestled with how to get the person to leave me alone.
The relief I felt when I finally blocked them on all social media and cut off any way to contact me again opened my eyes to the serious toll this “friendship” was taking on my life. No one should ever feel afraid that a desperate ex-friend would show up at his or her door asking for forgiveness or a fight. And no one should let said “friend” tear him or her down.
When you hear about it in the media, through Student Life or from a friend, it is easy to scoff and say that you would never let a toxic friend infect your life. As a self-respecting person with generally healthy relationships in my life, I thought the same. But it really does happen to anyone.
If any relationship ever makes you feel less than whole, cut it out of your life. Toxic friends are no friends at all, and your happiness is more important than avoiding burned bridges.