Relationships (whether romantic or platonic) play a significant role in your overall emotional well-being and happiness. Strong and healthy relationships fortify you with love, support and companionship as you navigate the challenges of life. On the other hand, an unhealthy relationship can be draining and stressful, while taking a toll on your mental health. While you may experience the occasional rough patch or disagreement, you should generally feel a sense of comfort, ease and contentment in your relationships. Any feelings of discomfort or anxiety should be keenly examined, as this could be your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Here are five of the most common signs of an unhealthy or toxic friendship.
Competition and Comparison For some people, healthy competition is a motivating factor for achieving goals. For example, friends who workout together can push each other to remain committed to a fitness journey. However, competition becomes unhealthy when a friend is always trying to “one-up” you or minimize your achievements. A toxic friend is always trying to “win” and will compare aspects of your life to theirs. Examples include competing for the attention of a potential romantic partner or trying to prove that they are more financially stable or professionally successful. Competition can also exist in romantic relationships, which can easily lead to resentment and jealousy. Friends and partners should support each other and there should be no feelings of unhealthy competition. Bullying and Teasing While “roasting” or good-natured teasing can be fun, it should not go as far as bullying. If teasing is mean-spirited or touches on a topic that’s known to be extra sensitive, this is a definite red flag. Your friend or partner should not cause you to feel embarrassed in front of others and their “jokes” should not hurt your feelings. It’s possible that they may not be aware of the effect they are having on you. Have a conversation about it. If you are told to “lighten up” or if your feelings are minimized or dismissed, this is a relationship that you may want to reconsider. A good friend or
partner would never intentionally harm you or ignore a request to stop saying hurtful things. Disrespecting Boundaries Friends and parents should respect your boundaries and should not cause you to feel uncomfortable or violated. This can show up in many ways. It can be as simple as repeatedly trying to convince you to do something you’ve said you don’t want to do. Invasions of privacy such as reading your journal or going through your phone are unacceptable. Time-based boundaries can be disrespected when someone repeatedly calls you during times you’ve told them you are unavailable due to work or family obligations. Emotional boundaries are disrespected when someone keeps pushing you to talk about something you are not comfortable discussing.
When your boundaries are disrespected, it can trigger feelings of anxiety and frustration. If this kind of behavior continues even after clearly communicating your needs, you may wish to detach from this person. Unhealthy Peer Pressure A good friend will not try to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do. This can take the form of pressuring you to go to an event when you’ve said you’d rather stay home. Maybe they’ve tried to convince you to drink, smoke or try drugs when that’s not your style. Your preferences and choices should be respected and friends/partners should not impose their will on you. On the other hand, positive peer pressure can be a very healthy and helpful aspect of a friendship. Friends can push each other to study hard, exercise or achieve financial goals. It’s a good sign when the people in your life inspire you to make positive or healthy changes. Jealousy Jealousy is a normal human emotion and doesn’t automatically indicate a toxic or unhealthy relationship. The red flag is in the way the jealousy is handled. This emotion become unhealthy when it turns into resentment, sabotage or belittlement. Let’s say your friend just landed an amazing new job, while you’ve been job hunting for months without success. It’s completely understandable that you may feel a twinge of
jealousy or envy, while also being happy for your friend. In a healthy relationship, your friend should be able to emotionally support you through your job hunt, while you celebrate their new job. The people in your life should not deliberately try to make you jealous. A good friend would not deliberately brag about their new job because they want you to feel badly about your job hunt. There should be a healthy balance between sharing their good news and commiserating with you. Have you been feeling unfulfilled, uncomfortable or disrespected in your friendships? Do you want to learn how to set boundaries and build more meaningful connections? By working with a therapist, you’ll have an objective and professional third party helping you to evaluate your relationships. If you do choose to end a relationship, it’s a good idea to have professional support as you navigate the potentially challenging aftermath.