9 Signs You’re Being A Toxic Friend Without Realizing It
Friendships can be complex, and when you're so wrapped up in your own everyday life and problems, it can be hard to take a step back and look at how your actions can affect others. If your relationships have recently felt strained, you may be exhibiting some signs you're being a toxic friend, and you might be surprised to find how subtle these indicators are. Even if your habits aren't intentional, they could be really hurting another person, and it's important to whether you're really stepping up as a good friend to the others around you.
Toxic friendships are unhealthy friendships that can negatively affect wellbeing. "When we talk about toxic friendships, we are typically referring to a more stable pattern or way of relating, as opposed to a one-time thing or more transient conflict," says therapist and friend researcher Miriam Kirmayer over email. "Friendships are dyadic and dynamic; they are an ongoing process between two people. As a result, both friends contribute to the overall quality and stability of their relationship. And while it can be more difficult to spot, it’s entirely possible that sometimes, we’re the one behaving in ways that contribute to a toxic or unhealthy friendship."
If you feel some issues in your friendships but can't pinpoint anything the other person is doing, consider these nine signs that you're being a toxic friend without realizing it.
1. Your Conversations Are Always About You
Healthy friendships are founded on reciprocity and balance. Look back on your recent interactions with your friends, such as your text messages, and see if your conversations overwhelmingly revolve around you. "This can be a sign that the balance is off," says Kirmayer. "This can be hard to spot when you are in the moment — it’s easy to get carried away when sharing personal or exciting stories."
2. You Repeatedly Cancel Plans
"Canceling plans last minute, taking a long time to call a friend back, or forgetting to reply to text messages might not seem like a big deal, and we can usually come up with a good reason for this kind of behavior (e.g., not feeling well, being too busy or preoccupied)," says Kirmayer. "But when it happens repeatedly, it can make our friend feel like they aren’t a priority or that we don’t value their time and friendship."
3. You Need Constant Reassurance
Friends provide each other with emotional and practical support, but it’s a careful balance between turning to our friends for help or advice and being overly dependent on them. "Reassurance seeking by repeatedly checking in with our friends or constantly rehashing situations or problems without coming up with an active plan for problem solving (a process known as co-rumination) can negatively impact our friendships and wellbeing," says Kirmayer.
4. You Have Unrealistic Expectations
"If you are constantly feeling let down by your friends, especially when it happens with more than one friend, the problem might be your expectations," says Kirmayer. "Setting boundaries and expecting our friends treat us with respect, consistency, and kindness is essential. But expecting that a friend will never mess up and say something hurtful, or that they will prioritize us over their other friends, relationships, and responsibilities or personal needs all the time is not realistic."
5. You Give Advice When Not Asked
Friends are here to provide each other with all kinds of support, including guidance and advice. Although unsolicited advice is more common in the context of close friendships, it can be a sign of a toxic friendship, especially when it happens repeatedly. "Giving our opinion and telling a friend what we think they should do without having been asked explicitly can come across as 'judgy' and usually isn’t nearly as helpful as we think it is," says Kirmayer. "Sometimes our friends don’t want advice. They really want and need a listening ear."
6. You Always Have To Stay Connected
Consider if you're calling, emailing, or texting your friend constantly," says psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. over email. "You may believe that your constant desire to connect and share shows your friend how much you care about him or her. In reality, it may be an annoyance and you may be intruding on a friend’s space. Your friend may want you to back off, but not know how to tell you and, instead, pull back from the relationship, which makes you only try to increase contact even more."
7. You Get Mad At Every Little Thing
Conflict is inevitable in any close relationship, but overindulging in conflict and calling a friend out every single time they say or do something hurtful, or taking our issues out on the people close to us like our friends, isn’t in our best interest. "It’s not giving you the chance to fully connect with your friend and enjoy your relationship," says Kirmayer.
8. You Avoid Conflict
On the flip side, avoiding conflict altogether is not the answer either. "It can lead to resentment and bubble over in some fairly surprising ways and at inopportune times," says Kirmayer. "Of course, no one likes to argue or fight, especially with a friend, but working through a conflict isn’t all bad. It can actually bring you closer together and is a great opportunity to work on your communication skills."
9. You're Overly Friendly With Their Significant Others
Some people are just flirtatious, and they may be friendly with someone's date or partner as a way of showing affection or that you really like the person. "It’s your way of saying that you dig him or her," says Koenig. "But your friend is probably wondering what your intentions are and not seeing your actions as being part and parcel of friendship."