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Five ways to unload a toxic friend

March 15, 2008 | By | 74 Replies Continue Reading

Contrary to the myth of best friends forever, many female friendships don’t always turn out the way we hoped they would. The friend who is constantly making one-sided demands of you is one disappointing example.

When a close friend is always in need of one thing or another—money, favors, introductions, coddling, praise, or simply more time than you have to give—the relationship begins to grow weary. You feel like you’re walking around with an emotional ball and chain around your ankle.

The term toxic friendship refers to a variety of relationships that are consistently negative and draining. The nature of these relationships is defined by patterns, not by one-time or occasional lapses in the reciprocity that is the essence of a healthy friendship.

Why would anyone put up with a friend like that? It, too, can be explained by the concept of reciprocity. Friendships continue when they are mutually satisfying—even if the relationship is toxic. Many women have a hard time extricating themselves from these relationships. These include:

• People who like to feel needed

• People who feel like they aren’t worthy of healthier, more balanced relationships

• People who are stuck—either feeling angry or sorry for their needy friend

Get real: If your truly needy friend has been that way for some time, the real possibilities of changing the relationship verge on hopeless. Yet it’s hard to find a way out. Here are some ways to unload:

1) Change the nature of your friendship by learning to say “no” and setting boundaries (e.g. “Even though we are both single, I don’t want to spend every Friday night together” or “I can’t have dinners with you after work because I need to get home to my family.”‘)

2) Tell her that you have to tend to your own needs (or those of anyone else you can think of—your mother, your kid or your cat)

3) Slip away – Spend less time with her and add other less demanding friends to your inventory

4) Take a relationship sabbatical, a well-deserved hiatus from the friendship

5) If you’ve reached the point where you feel there is nothing really to lose, simply cut loose!

Get rid of the guilt. These are people whose needs can never be satiated. No matter what you give, what you do, how much, or how often, it will never be enough. Since character tends to endure, this person probably treats other people the same way she treats you. It’s likely that many of her friends have probably already dropped out of the picture and that’s why she is so dependent on you.


This blog entry also appeared on the Huffington Post

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Category: Toxic friends

Comments (74)

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  1. Liliana says:

    I´ve meet a girl on a forum last year. We only knew each others online but we became good friends. I always knew she was a complicated person with a bad temper but in these last few months, things got worse. If she would tell me about her problems i would try to help and she was always saying i could count on her too. But everytime i´ve talked with her about my problems, she would say my life wasn´t so bad as hers, like if my problems weren´t important. She would get mad at me for no reason; she would say offensive things; she accused me many times of not caring for her when in fact i gave her a lot of my support; she was too controller always asking me what i was doing or with who i was talking; she would get mad because i´ve made more friends and she would accuse me of not liking her because they were better; she would even try to make me stay away from the friends i had for years; she would call me dumb just because sometimes i was more positive than her. I wasn´t feeling like a friend to her anymore and i felt more like a mom. Mostly because she did some bad choices and even started taking drugs. I told her many times to seek help and see a doctor but her reply was that if i was a real friend, i wouldn´t say things like that. I wasn´t happy with her and i was feeling like i was her friend only because i felt sorry for her. I didn´t felt comfortable either because i was afraid she would tell others what we talked about. The only good moments i had was when she was without internet or decided to spend time alone. But once she got back, she started treating me bad again. To make things worse, she would always play the victim and accusing me of our problems. My other friends kept telling me to leave her and move on. I had the hope that she would get better so, i never left her. But i knew that i couldn´t spend the rest of my life like this. I had to think of my health and not to mention, she was putting me in a bad mood everytime i would talk with her. I´ve wrote to her on email a long letter of how i liked our friendship and had good memories but i couldn´t be friends with her anymore. She got mad and once again started acting like i was the problem. On that moment, i saw i was doing the right thing. I´ve blocked her on every site we were following each others, even on email. It´s been only five days and i´m sad because i never imagined the nice girl i´ve meet back then would change like this. But i´ve decided to move on with my life. I even deleted everything i had from her, texts, pictures. Doesn´t matter if it was one year of friendship. Our friendship was dead since three months, i just didn´t wanted to quit trying but i had to. I have other friends both in Real Life and online and i even made some more. I still cry and think of the good moments i had with this friend that some many times i said i wanted forever in my life. But some people we just can´t change. I hope she gets the help she needs, especially with drugs. Since i wasn´t feeling good in this friendship for months, i do feel happy too. The only thing that bothers me is knowing she keeps in denial and doesn´t assumes she´s a problem. Like is aid, we had good moments so, i don´t regret meeting her. But i do regret that i didn´t left her sooner. Doesn´t matters if you are friends with someone for months or years. If you don´t feel happy or comfortable with them, you must make a decision. Try to help them and give them a second chance, just like i did many times. But if they refuse and even treat you bad, be strong, say goodbye and move on.

  2. High Voltage says:

    Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences and feedback. I’ve had so called two female friends that I had to get rid of in the last six months.

    It’s awful when people only call you when they need something. I’m not perfect and have plenty of weaknesses. There’s only so much one can take when it comes to letting others use them. It may suck to high heaven having low self esteem or feeling empty, but having the strength to research online ways to get better makes an incredible difference. So glad I found this website.

    Even though the women I was referring to are just friends, I did develop temporary crushes on them. Of course when they would talk about another guy, I couldn’t handle it for the most part. Taking them out to lunch or going the extra mile can get old real fast. I can’t blame them. I will give them props for being upfront about only liking me as a friend. My issue is I sometimes end up liking the young ladies more than a friend. It takes a lot of strength to realize that I have to detach from certain friends.

    Sending text messages and not getting responses is never a good feeling. What’s worse is when I would receive a text from this people, they would be asking me for something like a ride, or sporting event tickets, and so on. No matter what I would do for these two young ladies (at separate times of course) it would never be enough! They were never happy with my kindness and generosity.

    Sometimes people only realize what you’ve done for them when you stop and cut them off.

    It’s my fault for letting the former women friends take advantage of my generosity. It’s rough feeling like a loner but we all have to learn to become our own best friend. Easier said than done, but worth the effort!

  3. I'm Stress... says:

    I have this friend, she is nice. Really nice but she is too blunt and doesn’t take care of other people feeling. She always say something that hurt my feelings. She also doesn’t respect other people’s opinion and feel that other people is wrong. She always want to argue with other people’s choice or view. She always want to stick with me. She know that I have a best friend already but my best friend is not here. She really is trying so hard to replace my best friend. She always assume what I want. She always want to be with me and she thought I’m comfortable with anything. I give her hints that I don’t want to do a fee things that she want us to do, I even said no to her but she keep wanting me to do it. I feel very pressured by her. I’m ignoring her now cause I can’t stand her. But she keep go to me and just sit besides me. We are classmate. Being with her make me stress. She thinks that someone who likes me is crazy or got some few disconnected wire in their head. I really cannot stand her anymore. I want to be left alone. I have more friends that are better than her but she keep wanting to snatch me away from them. Please help me. I already at my wits end. Should I just tell her how I feel? Sometimes she looks too lonely that I pity her but at the same time I cannot stand her.

    • Sara says:

      Hello, I read your comment can absolutely relate to your frustration and stress this “friend” of yours has caused you. I had a very similar relationship, she was a classmate (college) and she literally would not leave me alone. She had no remorse for hurting others, always wanted to argue her opinion, would get mad at me if I didn’t support her and then would accuse me of not being a good friend, many times said how jealous she was of me, she always had to be first (very competitive), said she only hangs out with people who are good looking, publicly makes fun of people who are overweight, the list goes on. I didn’t want to be her friend EVER. Upon meeting her, I had gotten out of an abusive relationship (divorced) and understand now why I allowed her to basically take control over my life, my social life, literally every part of my life. Manipulative people prey on people who have been abused. It’s a vicious cycle. I finally cut off the relationship and guard my heart above all else. The relationship was toxic for me, and bad for her as I WAS ALLOWING HER to continue her abusive behavior. You can stand up for yourself, that person is not allowed to unleash her unhappiness upon you. I now have friends who are truly happy to see me happy, ones who support me and want the best for me. This took a long time to develop as I had many trust issues after ending the toxic relationship. I learned SO MUCH through the experience, but what’s more about how to be a good friend myself. I pray for you!

  4. Anna says:

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated as I am at a loss of what to do. It’s a tragic story, I feel as if I lost two friends not one. I have avert close friend of over 20 years that lost her husband to suicide. He was also a close friend of mine and my husband. Leading up to his suicide his wife, my close friend had said they had not be getting along and asked my advice. I repeadtly advised her that all marriages have problems and to stick with it. Her husband was the sweetest guy, would have done anything for her. She is a kind person deep down, but all the attention has to be on her. She has a fiery temper which I believe dosnt help their marriage. Since his suicide she has cut off his side of the family from seeing their children as they believe she has a part play in his suicide. She had kicked him out three days before he passed away for no reason. She is now telling people I told her to kick her husband out, something which I never said. I feel if I stand up to her she will get upset, which I want to avoid as I am Godmother to her kids and would do anything to continue having a relationship with them. I Have no idea where to go, I honestly think my life would be far much calmer if she wasn’t in it but also feel like I need to try and see her kids as they have lost so much. It’s just the way she is manipulating the situation is insensitive and I can’t find a way to deal with that.

  5. BBfriend says:

    I was involved in a triangle of friends with two other women for the last 9 years. We have all known each other for over 20 years though, a source of pride for them. I realized well over a year ago that the dynamics of the friendships were wrong for me. One friend is dominant, a Queen Bee, and chose what we all did together. She is charming and beautiful and well connected in the community. The other was needy and alway needed favours, anxious and nervous, but also beautiful and friendly. And I was the passive one, who always would go with the flow. I rearranged my life for the needy one when she moved to our city. Helped her with child care, helped them move. Any time a favour needed doing, I was there. But I didn’t really find it very reciprocated and I felt that she took advantage, manipulating me to get me to do what she needed me to do, rather then being upfront and honest. I had to set up some boundaries with the needy one and ever since I did that I have been subtly left out, or passed over, many many times. Meanwhile they both would spend lots of time together and always making plans together. If I could participate, fine. But if it didn’t fit my schedule they would not make the effort to rearrange things so i could participate. I started to feel very insecure and left out. It took me a while to recognize that this was not my own insecurity, but rather their behaviour. We had many issues come up where I would end up apologizing for being insecure in their ever closer connection. I was really open and honest about my feelings and where they were coming from. They rarely apologized, but rather i would get lectured instead. Things just got progressively worse over time. I felt like I was the third wheel many times. when it was convenient they would take me out and parade me around like a trophy going on and on about how great it was that we were friends for so long. I noticed that every time we went out somewhere that everyone knew them both, but I would have to be introduced. This tipped me off that I was truly being left out. It was when my step mother got sick with lung cancer that I started to really see what was happening in the dynamic. They would only ever talk about themselves. Their problems were bigger and more inspiring then mine. I would get cut off in conversation any time I started to talk about my problems. I was left out of more and more events, but they would tell me that it was not true and it was my insecurity issues. I was lied to and manipulated to believe it was all in my head. My husband would often shake his head and wonder why I tolerated such treatment. My mother died after a long horrible battle. When I turned around to look for my friends they just were not there. they seemed consumed by their own lives and had little time for me. They were also insensitive and inconsiderate to the point of insulting. Many things happened in the last few months to show me over and over that they just did not have regard or respect for me. I finally had enough and told them so. It did not go well, of course. We have not spoken in weeks. I am finally starting to get over the shock of it and feel relieved. I have second guessed my decision many times over. I do miss them and have to remind myself that they were never really there for me in the way I had imagined. It is hard to let the relationships go. We all live in the same neighbourhood. But despite our perceived closeness, and thankfully, we do not run in the same circles. I know we will run into each other from time to time. I would like for it to be cordial at least. I have many other friends and have started to branch out and experience other relationships more meaningfully. There is always hope for new and better friendships!

  6. LaTrice says:

    It’s difficult to stay positive in a toxic friendship, especially when someone is clingy and overstepping their boundaries. Although there’s nothing wrong with having a support system, sometimes staying in the friendship can be overwhelming.

    Friendships are voluntary, and it takes two people to make it work. It’s important to meet each other halfway with communication. How long can a best friend stick around, when a best friend is taking the friendship for granted? There’s nothing wrong with standing up for what’s right!!

    I’ve traveled down this road with my ex-best friend that I had known for most of my life. I don’t mind helping someone in need, but at the same time, I HATE being used for selfish reasons. From the accusations, to the disrespectful behavior that I had to endure, my ex-best friend’s actions gave me no choice but to walk away for good.

    I can forgive him, but I’ll NEVER forget how poorly he was mistreating me. We’ll NEVER be friends again in this lifetime, and I’m okay with that.

    • High Voltage says:

      Well Said! Thank you for sharing. I can relate.

      Sometimes people don’t realize what we do for them until we stop and cut them off!

  7. A high school girlfriend lets call he victim #1 has gotten a hold of me through Facebook about 4 months ago and she is just so devastated the way our other friend from school is treating her. I never asked but for some reason victim #2 friend flat out told her don’t keep calling me. I’ve told you No you cant stay in my family cottage until you find something and no you can not stay at my & hubby’s place when you come to town for all your court hearings. Then she continues to tell me all the things she did for victim #2 when in college. How she did all of #1’s homework and don’t ask me how but she took all of #1 test as well?? How she took her here and there …blah blah blah. Then she starts with getting emotional & crying and goes on & on. So, because I’ve now
    listened to her tell me all her problems she all of a sudden has this fantastic idea to share with me??? I’m now. Victim #3. Evidently both of them have a time share in Maui. Then she tells me she has already booked her timeshare for sometime around her birthday for 6 days. She has a problem with flying from California to Maui which is 3 months away. for some reason she is unable to find a thing online and is now in a panic that she won’t be able to get a flight. So, I tell her let me check a few things out first and I will get back to you. I work nights on Med- , surg – Ortho floor 3 nights @12 hour shifts a week. I happened to be getting ready & on my way to work. I contact my husband and discuss this with him.

    I will continue with my situation again tomorrow.(if anyone know how I can paste my 10 hour email I wrote this afternoon please let me know. I want to include it with this blog).

    to be continued…
    by twistedvalentine55

  8. marjan says:

    The piont is that we who has or had a toxic friend are frustrated because they just don’t see what they are doing and not just to us but to themselves as well. There will be a point in their lives that they see what are doing and don’t see that they are digging There own graves untill it’s to late. In the hope they see what they have done to you as a so called friend.
    The chance is quite slim they will see the light. But that will not be a problem for me anymore. It’s a done deal for me.

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