• Resolving Problems

Five Ways To Unload A Toxic Friend

Published: March 15, 2008 | Last Updated: December 9, 2021 By | 80 Replies Continue Reading
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It’s common for women to find themselves stuck in a toxic friendship, uncertain about how to unload a toxic friend.

Contrary to the myth of best friends forever, many female friendships don’t always turn out the way we hoped they would.

When a close friend is always in need of one thing or another—money, favors, introductions, coddling, praise, or simply more time and coddling 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. Have you ever gotten involved with a toxic friend who constantly makes one-sided demands of you and you feel as if you aren’t able to say no to her?

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 imbalanced and possible toxic. Many women have a hard time extricating themselves from these relationships that have gotten familiar over time.

Who tends to remain in toxic relationships?

This often includes:

• 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.

How can you unload a toxic friend?

Here are some possible ways to handle this tricky situation:

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 (80)

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  1. Former friend says:

    I had four friends turn against me a few months ago because I dared to disagree with them. They shunned me, gave me the silent treatment, bashed me to others. At first I was shocked then angry then thoughtful. Yep, I thought about it for weeks and realized they were never friends but toxic friends. I straightened myself up and proceeded to move on. Happily move on. It worked. Unfortunately, they are back. Inviting me to parties and dinner. I say no each time. I’m thinking they aren’t too smart or being toxic people don’t realize that not everyone wants to be their friend. Unbelievable.

  2. kim says:

    I have a friendship that is slowly going sour (for me) but I don’t see the situation described above. She is not a mean person, she has never said anything cruel to me. But I am realizing she’s just a very ANGRY person and every time we’re together she has something she has to “unload” about. To make it worse we are on opposite policital spectrums, which was not in the past a problem, but now her thing she has to “unload” about is always political. I don’t respond because arguing is fruitless. She has said racist things and even though she knows I’m Jewish she has said things like “he tried to Jew me down on the price” which shocked me. Time for me to back away slowly. How though? She’s “a nice person”, goes to church, does volunteer work, tells funny jokes….

    • kim says:

      *political* typo
      Now that I reread this I think the “Jew” comment qualifies as saying something mean to me. However unintentional.

  3. alabhaois says:

    I read once where our great First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

    Does anyone think this is true?

    • Sela says:

      If someone is mean, they are mean. If you keep taking their meanness that might make her ridiculous statement true.

  4. TLB says:

    I am a man and I’m going through the same thing. I guess guys don’t usually have this problem (or they don’t about it) so I’m telling my story on here. I have been going through the same things everyone else has. He says I’m his best friend all the time yet he treats me like shit. Belittling me, making me feel guilty, and making me feel stupid. I know there is good in him but he refuses to do right. He is just so lost. I don’t hate him I am just run out of patience and has hit too close to home with his behavior. I hope he gets his life together but I’m not going to be around whether or not he will.

  5. D says:

    Compassion is always called for from human beings with hearts and consciences.

    Establishing and maintaining boundaries that protect you and yours are vital to life and love.

    Defending them (by calm and firm assertion and reassertion) against violation by others, whether they intend to harm you or do so out of their own weakness (such as ignorance or desperation) is part and parcel of being responsible for yourself and your family, not to mention intelligent, even wise.

    Stand at your gate without doubt or apology. Feed the hungry as you are able, but do NOT let seducers/flatterers and thieves into your court/household/camp.

  6. Marjan says:

    Hi, I just got rid of some who claimed me for anything. She thinks my private life is bogus. She demands a lot from me. Like I’m in a relationship with her. Accept we don’t live together. That’s how it felt like. She needed something from me, but I didn’t have the opportunity to go to her. And second I didn’t feel like it either. So I told her I couldn’t go. She got mad and started talking (more like japing) about my priorities. After I told her why I couldn’t come. She told me I was selfish, naïf, dumb and didn’t know how to treat friends. I think it’s more like the other way around. Anyway she said she couldn’t deal with me anymore. And ended the friendship. I told her to grow up and deal with everything for herself. That I couldn’t deal with her crap anymore. Afterwards I wrote her a letter how I thought everything haven’t heard from her ever since. I think I made my point about her.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Like some of these posts are saying, i guess a lot of people are stuck in these toxic relationships because of low self esteem, but not all of them and the writer stated that. As they wrote, I was stuck in a toxic relationship because I felt “sorry” for my friend and thought I was the last person that could help them. I then realized, after a thread of bad moral choices and continuous emotional/physical draining, they wouldn’t change anytime soon. They weren’t always this way, and I gave them about 5 years to improve themselves after repeated deep talks and “moments of realization” but nothing ever changed. I am now in an important part of my life where I have found true ambition and motivation to grow and succeed in my profession while they are still running their thread of bad moral choices and using other people as their new “hero” (since i’ve distanced myself for the past year). Many people in my past and present have told me that this friend is toxic, but I could not see it. It wasn’t until they’re bad behavior became permanent and my morals/values (and supposedly theirs) were completely opposite of their actions, that I saw them for who they really are. I hope one day they will better themselves, but I won’t be there to see it because…sayonara!

  8. Carole Heath says:

    In my opinion toxic friends can cause you great stress and anxiety which you don’t want at all. Friends should be a pleasure to be with not feel you with dread every time you meet them. Why some people act in such a nasty way I just cannot really get my head around. If you don’t like someone cut ties and walk away. But in same cases maybe it is not that cut and dried. Perhaps some people get pleasure out of being nasty to others and throwing out remarks directed at the person they are envious of. I would not put up with any of their tactless insensitive behaviour I would move on and find some real good friends. As the old maxim goes as one door closes another one opens.

    • Samantha says:

      This is so true. I have come to the point where I cried, tossed my cellphone and shouted at the top of my lungs because I couldn’t get my friend to stop calling me asking for favors at 7am, 7:35am and when I answer sleepily, she’d bash on how how I sleep too much. WTF!? The problem is I couldn’t turn my phone off because I sometimes get called for my per diem job on the last minute. I have explained to my friend that I don’t like it when she calls very early in the morning, before 9am. She just won’t accept that. What I did was I put her on my reject list. And when she had the guts to ask how come her calls get a busy tone/dial tone, yet when she uses her work/husband’s/home phone it goes through, I told her that I had to do that because she doesn’t respect my time. Ya. You guessed it right. She stopped being friends with me. And I’m happier=)

      • Marci says:

        I can completely understand as “my friend” is so needy seems to me like she gets up and texts me to see how is my day going (at 7:30am??!!) if I dont respond in a couple of hours she makes sure in her next text that is the 2nd time she has been trying to get in touch with me and the 3rd time and 4th and so on…. Until she texts my husband to ask him if my phone is broken cause I have not responded to her and forget about not answering for a couple of days cause when I finally do the first thing she says to me is I have been texting you for 2 days and I had no response from you “damn” why is so for us to tell them how we feel since they dont have any problems doing it towards us? If this is non toxic I dont know what it is!!!!

  9. A person says:

    You have no idea how much I relate to this article. I mean, I’ve known she was toxic for a while, or, well, I’ve at least speculated it. Other friends have even told me that I shouldn’t be hanging out with her, but it didn’t sink in until she started putting down my family on a regular basis. It just sucks because she’s moving in with my best friend soon and I can’t do anything to save him, but warn him. I’m not even sure he sees it in her.
    All I know is I gotta get out of there.

  10. Anon says:

    I have a toxic friend that I stopped calling as much. She is in a miserable relationship and I have listened to her scream and fuss for years. She is mean and talks over me and the next day will call and say she didn’t mean to sound so weird. I have let go and quit calling her as much, but called her this past week and she was very rude and threw me off the phone. I set the phone down and told myself this was it, and I will never talk to her again. It made me realize how low my self esteem was for even allowing such a toxic person in my life. Goodbye toxic friend, simple as that. Maybe since I don’t have all her negativity in my life, that my life can start looking up.

  11. Anonymous says:

    This statement implies that EVERYONE who is the victim of toxic friends has low self-esteem. That’s not the case. That would mean 99 percent of the population or 100 percent. I’m frustrated at the implication in several of these comments on this thread that it’s somehow the person being shit upon to have perfect self-esteem, to be able to choose to not feel crappy after being shit upon, etc.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I agree with this. To not be affected when someone dumps their toxic emotional waste on you is like trying to tune out Christina Aguilera screeching out Christmas songs, or Celine Dion screaming on and on and on. If people could tune out negative stuff and stress then there wouldn’t be the condition of PSTD, which basicially stems from dealing with toxic people and situations. It takes work to get through the web of misery created through dealing with toxic people who feigned friendliness – my spouse had a tough time for the last years of his work and he is still recovering from being treated poorly and unreasonably and taken advantage for a long time when he put his heart and soul into his relationship with the company.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Your last sentence’s last words — ‘you alone are responsible for the stress and misery’ — is a statement I disagree with 2,000 percent. It is NOT the fault of the person who is the target of the toxic action is the person feels stressed and miserable. Yes, the person can “get rid” of the toxic friend. But the feelings that remain thereafter, the feelings of strress misery? Those don’t vanish poof overnight. And not every one of us is able to just get rid of those feelings. We are not computers or robots. We are a complex set of feelings and emotions and reactions and experiences. So, no, I do not agree that YOU ALONE (the person who been treated with toxicity) is “responsible” for feeling like shit because of how you’ve been treated. That is harsh as well as untrue. In my humble or not so humble opinion.

    • Laura says:

      It is your choice to stay friends with the Toxic person. So in a way you are responsible if you continue to get stressed and upset because them.

      No one should think you wont feel bad or sad because you no long have a person in your life that you spent a lot of time with. It’s that you will be better off without them. Continuing to allow them to make you feel bad is under your control… 3000% 😉

  14. Anonymous says:

    Also toxic friends seem to have a knack for choosing those with low self esteem to “befriend” and so the person with low self esteem believes they deserve to be treated poorly because it is familiar to them.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Simply stated, there are two kinds of people. Some who always end up giving of themselves, the self-sacrificing types. And others who always feel entitled to take what they can when they can if they can. Users and losers.

    A healthy friendship is a balanced relationship of give and take. You supply what your friends lack and vice-versa. Introverts attract extroverts, and both fill in each other’s gaps. You cheer each other up when you’re down, and help each other see things from various points of view. Good friends are a positive experience. They feel good to be around.

    Frenemies are not your friends. They are people you happen to know. People that will take what you give and conveniently forget to return the favour. They just want to have fun, at someone else’s expense. They are interested in their own agendas, and how you fit into fulfilling these self-absorbed delusions.

    I recently cut another one of these parasites off. And now she’s just “somebody that I used to know.”

    Bottom line is they’re envious. Envy. Try googling that one for a real eye-opener.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The last sentence, about “you alone are responsible for the stress and misery if you allow a toxic friend to make you feel sub-standard” would suggest to me that you could go ahead and have all the toxic friends you want. Because, you know, after all, the responsiblity lies within YOU to not react to their toxicity. But that’s not what you really mean, right? See, on the one hand you are describing tratis of a toxic friend, and thus advising how to avoid these toxic friends. But then you say that it’s the person’s own fault if she allows a toxic friend to make her feel bad. I personally think it adds a ton of pressure and stress, not to mention is not realistic, to tell people that they have that much control over how they feel when they are treated poorly. Yes, in an ideal world, we are all so filled with self-confidence, self-esteem, and insight that we can just ignore the toxic slings and arrows by others. But is this really, truly attainable? I don’t believe it is. Sure, we can work toward not caring what shitty things people do to us, but golly, that’s a baby step kind of process, isn’t it? And does it help us attain that goal by being told in such a stark way “you alone are responsible for the stress and misery.” I don’t think so. Just my opinon.

  17. Anonymous says:

    There are all kinds of toxic friends. Some are manipulative, controlling, competitive and downright caustic.

    So what characteristics do toxic friends demonstrate?

    1. Self absorbed personalities
    2. Jealously resents your friendships with others and tries to come between you and other friends
    3. A person who throws subtle slams at you
    4. A friend who resents not being the center of attention in groups
    5. A person who manipulates negative situations against you
    6. A person who demonstrates a phony, but charming personality even though you know different
    7. A person who becomes noticeably competitive over trivial things… their children, neighbors, doctors, hospital choices, all choices etc. are the best… better than yours
    8. You find yourself becoming more uncomfortable in the friendship

    These are just a few that come to mind, but if you can relate to 3-4 of them, odds are you have a toxic friend or are about to discover that you are in a toxic friendship.

    The 8 examples given above are designed by the toxic friend to make you feel sub-standard.

    Try to remember that the only person in the world who can make you feel bad about yourself — is you. If you allow a toxic friend to make you feel sub-standard, you alone are responsible for the stress and misery.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Being indirect is dishonest and disrespectful, I think.

    To a toxic friend, why can’t you just say “I’m sorry but I’m finding our relationship isn’t working as I’m sick of XY and I am moving on?” You might have to hear what’s wrong with you too… an opportunity to better yourself maybe?

  19. Anonymous says:

    I am currently suffering a toxic friend relapse and so I researched toxic friend quotes and stumbled across this! I wish I could upload to Facebook so my toxic friend reads this but I fear it would do more harm than good 🙁 For most of our 9 year friendship, there’s always ways been issues between my ‘TF’ (as I will now call her) and I. I’ve always put it down to our different personalities (me – happy, caring, giving, selfless, her – needy, self absorbed, dramatic) and that’s fine but there’s got to be point when you say “enough’s enough!” this moment came around May last year. There’d always been bitchyness towards me from my TF, the odd sly comment, the strange need she had to tell me whenever another friend had said something bad about me, but the real thing that got me down was her self-absorbtion and rudeness. I’d be there for her whenever I could, go out of my way to help her, do things for her she couldn’t do for herself, but behind all this when there was trouble she’d ignore me, or not care less when I had a ‘once a year crisis’, she on the other hand, constantly had crisises, and of course I was always there. The breaking point came last year. I’d been working with her for a year (again, she needed help and I was then brought in and employed to help her), we worked well together (or so I thought) and although she didn’t always pull her weight and I felt like sometimes I was her slave, I kept quiet. Until one day when she told a mutual friend how I didn’t help enough and she made up a load of stories up, twisting the facts to make me look bad. I ended up writing a letter, I knew she’d never meet me in person (or even confirm what she’d said about me) The letter didn’t say anything personal against her (though I would’ve loved it to have!) it just stuck to the facts – I knew she’d been lying and bitching about me and now we’re not friends, purely colleagues. Sadly I couldn’t leave the job I was helping with, two other people depended on me to be there. The next 6 months were awful, she’d send me blunt, cold texts, only when she needed to confirm details about work, I have a feeling she spoke negatively about me to my boss and other colleagues too, but this could never be proven. She’d give me dirty looks and then when others came to see us, I’d become invisable…3 months later and she changed – warm texts, she now seems to be a bit more nicer to me (though this could be act) however, I’m not falling for it and I think she knows that deep down. It’s kind of confusing now as although she’s being nicer, I can’t forget what she did, or how her friendship had got me down over the years, particularly last year. I have to keep reminding myself this “Friends are the family we pick for ourselves.” so why if we can pick our friends, would I ever pick a friend like her?!

    • ana says:

      you shouldve written your own blog or letter to irene, instead of sabotaging this one. to think that you described yourself as ” happy, caring, giving, selfless” and your friend as “her – needy, self absorbed, dramatic” are you sure it’s not the other way around? judging by what you wrote, you seem to fit your description of your friend.

      • z says:

        Ana, i dunno if you know the person who posted above but to me (someone who doesnt know either of you) when i read the post i didnt feel like the person was sabotaging this article on the blog, just another person who has been through an experience with a bad friend sharing it with everyone anonymously. and just because someone writes good things about themselves doesnt mean they are the opposite. so honestly dont be rude because seems to me you know the person and you just wanna put them down and your comment is just rude and ugly.
        best regards

        • Anonymous says:

          Thank you Z for your kind words of support! How funny that it took me adding a reply to my own post for both yours and Ana’s replies to appear! Z – I don’t know Ana so no, she’s not responding with a personal grudge, my post’s obviously just struck a nerve!

    • Anonymous says:

      So, this was me nearly 2 years ago, my how things of changed. I now don’t suffer the Toxic Friend relapses as stated above. Thankfully things and time have moved on. Though not so much for my toxic friend. As mentioned above, I endured what seemed like an eternity (though in reality it only lasted months) of nastiness after I confronted my TF by letter. After a few months she treated me better and even more so up until we stopped working together in September this year. Maybe she felt remorse, maybe she felt I’d forgiven her, who knows. All I know is things were better but I wasn’t going back that’s for sure. This was reiterated even more so every time she bitched about her friends, bad mouthed our boss and did everything in her power to ensure a colleague loss overtime hours.

      Since we stopped working together, I’ve not seen her and it’s felt liberating. All I now have to stress about are things that NEED to be stressed about – missing loved ones, work stresses, but definitely NOT any of my friendships. She texts me every now and then and I reply politely as I always did but I don’t get the sick feeling I used to get at having to text and see her, because that’s just it…I don’t HAVE to see her.

      A mutual friend (and coincidently the same friend who revealed my TF’s misdemeanours in 2011) visited me a few months back and told me how she’s struggling having a friendship with my former TF. She asked if I’d ever be friends with her again and I said no. She told me that my TF has “gone downhill” lately and she feels the effects of losing me as friend may have contributed towards this but also feels it will benefit her in the end. Only time will tell.

      I hope it does benefit her; allow her to learn about herself and improve her future and existing friendships, because lord knows, she needs a lot of help in that department…

  20. Anonymous says:

    I did not think she was minimizing the feelings of those who have met toxic people.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Gemma, I agree with your assessment about “toxic” people. Basically I feel it takes two to tango and like you said it’s not a clear cut case of one is toxic and the other is not. I think some people can behave in such a myopic way, unable to ever see the other person’s perspective, that being around them feels overall like a toxic situation. But no, I don’t conclude that one is “toxic” and the other is “not toxic.” It has such a finite, black and white aura about it. Personally I tend to see behaviors are “toxic” and difficult and even unacceptable, but to call a person in totality as being “toxic,” no, I can’t do it. Having said this, I am always sensitive to the hurt people have experienced and would never deny them their feelings

  22. Anonymous says:

    Just because you haven’t met someone toxic, does not mean that they aren’t out there. Trust me on this one. Perhaps the toxicity of a person stems from loneliness or pain, but they can be flat out toxic…in that you actually feel as though you have been slowly poisoned over an extended period of time. This happened to me. I am currently living in the aftermath of it and the poisonous side effects are still with me, unfortunately. I understand what you are saying about growing apart and what not, but just because you have not personally experienced a toxic person, do not assume that they are not out there. In fact, by saying so, you minimize a person’s feelings who HAS been poisoned by a toxic person. They exist. Consider yourself lucky that you have never encountered one.

    • anonymous says:

      Poisonous side effects linger for awhile but things do get better. Irene’s advice is right on – toxic friend probably treats other people the same way. Hence, a toxic friend spreads poison in groups and influences friends negatively. And unless, you want to become immature and stoop to this person’s level, you have to cut loose. It feels very liberating. You’ll cherish the good friends you have and make room for new ones.

  23. Anonymous says:

    About two years ago a long lost friend from college found me on Facebook. I was delighted to be back in touch as I’d been looking for her over the years but didn’t know her last name had changed.

    I drove 1600 miles round trip to visit her during Thanksgiving, but listening to her nonstop fussing over her kids drove me nuts and I left after three nights. Since then we talk on the phone quite often but she’s turned out to be terribly controlling–in fact, her daughter is threatening to cut off contact with her because of it. While she wants to talk more and more often, I’m beginning to dread our calls as she increasingly tries to badger me into doing what she thinks I should do. Recently she even made snippy comments about features of my personality that are strengths, such as my ability to move to a new place by myself and successfully make a new life. I was hoping to keep this friend from 35 years back but now find myself wondering whether to completely disconnect or just distance myself but stay in touch.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I had been friends with a high school parasite and constantly called her out on the way she would talk down to me. We would argue about what she would say to me and I would start mirroring the way she treated me to get her to stop. The problem is that she would start up with her snide remarks every single time. It got to where I would avoid her and make excuses to not be around her. My parents ended up talking to me after I got angry and fed up with a phone call she made one night. Essentially she wanted me to go to a show and it was something I was never interested in. My parents, siblings and friends talked to me and I had to come to terms that I had a serious parasite and not a friend.

    Turns out she was really just an opportunist and two good friends of mine in high school tried to point out how nasty she was – and how oblivious she was to her own horrific behavior.

    Years later we go on a trip and I was in pure Hell. I have never been so mad at one person and I’ve dealt with some really insufferable personalities. I blew up and yelled – really yelled at the other parasite she just had to bring along. The other parasite didn’t chip in for gas and pigged out in my car – something I told them BOTH not to do!

    I confronted her about her (my parasitic friend) behavior and she denied any wrongdoing. She damaged my car’s interior, ate like a pig when I repeatedly told her to stop and yelled at her not to. I told her to STOP being a backseat driver, etc. I have no idea what is wrong with her mentally but I can’t heal people who are that kind of sick. When you are riding in someone else’s vehicle you are a guest and are to respect the rules they have. She ignored every one of them and was an absolute spoiled brat. I should have left her and her idiot twin at a gas station. We didn’t take her car because it’s filled with trash. I’m not exaggerating.

    Looking back on the way she treated me over the years I’m amazed I didn’t tell her to leave me alone while we were still in school. The confrontation was pointless. She basically blamed me yet again for not understanding “her kind of sarcasm”. I asked her if I had ever laughed at her nasty comments disguised as sarcasm and she finally seemed to realize a little at how mad she made me. She has started hanging out with criminals, welfare parasites, and people I just can’t stand to be around (stupid people who think they know everything and love to criticize you). Telling someone “I’m sorry you took it that way”, and “I’m sorry you feel that way” aren’t apologies. They are another way of placing blame on the person you victimized/took advantage of. She also made it a point to make it seem like I was being MEAN TO HER. Yes, the piece of trailer trash always whined like a baby and claimed I was being mean when I corrected her nasty behavior after she made cruel comments. I was always “snippy” or in a “bad mood”. She made everything about her. I didn’t apologize and told her to grow up and behave like an adult if she wanted to be treated like one.We were no longer in high school and her behavior was infantile.

    I repeatedly told her what a real friendship is like and she would smirk during the confrontation. She thinks she got away with it but she’s still stuck in a dead-end retail job that she will get fired from one day. She always claims it’s not her fault but I realize now that her attitude is a huge problem. She put me down for going to college and made snide remarks about it. I worked my butt off and she acted like my parents paid for everything.

    I got junk from the Dollar Store – she demanded gifts over $40. I would call her and she was always working – but I had gone up to work to ask her if she wanted to go out to lunch – only to find she had the week off. She’d call me to go to birthday parties for her sister’s kids (the sister on welfare who has every game console made, two big flat screen TVs, and an I Mac – but can’t afford birth control). I would tell her no, I don’t hang out with kids and have work to do. She’d hint at bringing presents for them later and even SUGGEST what I should buy! I never bought gifts for those welfare brats and ripped her a new one. If she wants me to come just for gifts then why go over to her family’s trailer for gatherings? I refused any invitation to be around her family after that. I was busy holding two jobs and quite frankly I always spend the holidays with MY FAMILY. I told her I wasn’t going to be around her family if they just wanted me to bring food and gifts. I was just another person to use and she saw nothing wrong with it. That really bothered me.

    Without realizing it, I was already cutting myself off by limiting my interaction, and closing that wallet of mine. If you start limiting time with someone who makes you miserable or stresses you out, or calls only when they want something from you don’t make excuses for them. My real friends and family members told me to go ahead and make that final cut to end the parasites’ need to ever call me again. If I hadn’t told her anything she would have kept calling me, texting, or gone by my place of employment. Since she never took my feelings into consideration I had to make it abundantly clear that I was not her friend anymore. If she can’t understand why it’s her problem but I didn’t leave her thinking we would ever talk or see each other again.

    With a friend like that who needed an enemy? I’m just glad I confronted her, told her why I hated her, and explained using specific examples as to why I can’t have her in my life anymore. When you use friends like that you have lost the privilege of their friendship. I told her what she was doing was in fact pushing people away and if the never thought she did anything wrong she needed to seek help. She smiled and smirked, brushing off what I told her. I told her since she couldn’t grasp the problem I couldn’t waste my time with her anymore. I walked away and never looked back.

    I saw some posts where people thought they were trying to help others. I can tell you personally you are wasting your time and that they need help you can’t give. You don’t need to be abused or subject yourself to outrageous and unacceptable behavior just because you feel sorry for someone.

    If in fact you continue to hang around and interact with these people they will think they can do no wrong. The parasite I ripped out of my wallet was a perfect example. Money was a third party, and since I didn’t react the way a trained psychologist would she never changed or got the help she needed. She never realized or cared (quite possibly from the get-go) that she was losing friends because of her behavior. As long as she could treat one person like crap and get away with it then I guess she thought there was no problem. I should have cut off all contact instead of gradually letting go.

    It’s so liberating and you feel like a terrible weight has been lifted off your shoulders. You don’t have to worry about a problem that should have never been yours to begin with. If her family really cared they’d force their way into her trailer and demand to know what’s going on. Her behavior was too strange to begin with and just kept getting worse. I thought I was helping but finally realized I can only help myself. Cruel, negative people bring you down and make you miserable. They destroy your self esteem and make you question your talents and abilities. We all deserve the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. No where in any document or rule book does it state you must sacrifice your health, wealth, or emotional well-being for someone else. You are NOT responsible for fixing/helping people who really can’t be helped.

    Please don’t think you have to be responsible or stage an intervention. The parasite that took advantage of me didn’t get the help she needed in large part because of her FAMILY. My friends that left her talked to her parents and they didn’t lift a finger. I foolishly thought by staying her friend I was helping. If her family didn’t care or feel she needs help even after all of the giant red flags pop up and can’t be ignored there is nothing you can do. I couldn’t ignore her behavior or make excuses for someone older than I am anymore. She wasn’t a teenager anymore but a seriously disturbed adult. I told her to get help like others have but one can only do so much. You in fact could put yourself in danger and that was something I am not willing nor required to do. Her family sees no problem, she sees no problem, and I won’t waste my precious time or money on a lost cause anymore.

    If you don’t want to talk to someone face to face I think an e-mail or talking over the phone would be fine. Some toxic people can be physically violent or unpredictable. I thought she would apologize and actually have a conversation with me. Instead she was in complete denial and didn’t care about what she had done. It was eye-opening to say the least. You don’t really owe them an explanation especially if they don’t care to ask why. You just need to make sure you clearly state they are not to contact you, your friends, or family members anymore.

  25. margarets says:

    for not setting firm enough boundaries. However there are people who are extremely needy and will take all you have to give and then some. They will trample right over any boundaries you set. And it never, ever gets better. That IS toxic.

    It’s not immature or irresponsible to remove yourself from a boundary-crossing black hole of need.

  26. Anonymous says:

    A “needier” friend is possibly hurting more in the friendship than the friend who is not. Someone who wants and needs more interaction isn’t “toxic,” they are just trying to solve their own pain of loneliness. Coming to you to help with it is something they are allowed to do. If you do not need as much interaction as they do, then the friendship is out of balance but don’t label it as toxic. It only becomes toxic when you are not able to set clear boundaries with a “needy” friend and you react in unhealthy ways such as ignoring them, dismissing them, cancelling on them, not following through, etc. Grow up and take some responsibility for yourself and the relationships in your life instead of blaming others.

    • Dawn says:

      You sound like a guilty toxic friend making another excuse for your bad behavior. If you are that needy go pay a therapist to listen to your hours of whining.

  27. lacole says:

    Gemma…great points. The ending of any friendship is awful, but when it ends over not one crystal clear reason or by someone that is just clearly not good for you, I think only makes it harder. I have been dealing with alot of “fog” since my friendship unoffically ended a few months back. Alot of little things that just grew and manifested themselves into larger and even more unhealthy issues over the past few years, to the point where it was just unbearable…but not really “toxic”.

    Sometimes I think dealing with it this way is even harder…the questioning, guilt, wondering…etc.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for saying what I wanted to! Unless someone is really hurting you and a detriment to your life try to help.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Well put. I agree with many points.

  30. Gemma says:

    Hi. Great blog, great article. Would just like to say I find the endings of all friendships very painful and traumatic (and guilt producing too), even when they’re not with a toxic person. I’ve had wonderful friendships end (just drifting apart, neither person toxic) which flooded me with feelings of anxiety and distress.

    Also, I’d like to challenge the concept of “toxic people”. In my experience, often neither party in a broken friendship can really be classed as toxic. More often both parties have made mistakes, said subtly wounding things, given offence, failed to apologise, failed to communicate, miscommunicated, and so on. For me, it’s not a clean-cut case of toxic person and innocent martyr, which is solved by a swift dumping. It’s more a grey area – two people who grew apart for unclear reasons and whose eventual separation is just as ambiguous and inexplicable.

    Perhaps we can have an insightful article on just how ambiguous friendships are? I’ve tried really hard to be a good friend, and yet fallen flat on my face so many times. I don’t know if the people I’ve befriended ever appreciated my kind overtures. I’ve done nothing “wrong”, but still feel guilt-ridden. I’ve never met a genuinely toxic person, only confusing (and confused) people.

  31. Sarah Says says:

    I’ve had to quietly leave relationships before (and that’s my style, slowly letting go, instead of having an up front conversation) and it was because the friendships weren’t serving me anymore. In one case, it was such a one-sided relationship that it was a huge time and energy investment.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps you should seek the feedback of a therapist to get to the bottom of this. If you are an adult, and two people cut the friendship off, there has to be a reason. Perhaps it’s something you did or said. I recently broke off a very old friendship. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but I felt as if I was carrying a 1000 pound weight around my neck. The neediness was suffocating. The jealousy over other friendships that I had. She also has a mental illness that she is not fully involved in treating. I just couldn’t take it anymore.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I had a friend who had serious mental health issues who dumped me and I am very sad for her. I know I was a good friend and that her behavior was not based on the reality of the friendship.For example I was told I stole from her after taking a day of my life to go to her apt to do laundry for her mother when she was in the hospital. Her mother was staying there to watch her dog but her mother was elderly. She not only accused me of theft, which I didnt do but that I was selfish for not staying at her apt. to watch the dog as I said I would.t I was hesitant because I was afraid she would accuse me of stealing if I stayed there, which she ended up doing when I went to do the laundry. The reason she wanted me to stay instead of her motehr is because she was afraid her mother would steal, but I had become just like mother in her mind, a thief too.

    If something that is untrue is “real” to someone, if the “real” belief is something untrue that is not in their best interests to believe that is not good. hopefully they can get some counseling so that they can make decisions from what is really true and what is best for them. I was ready to employ some strategies to make the friendship healthier like not tolerating false accusations and insisting on more of a mutual friendship but I think she got scared that I would no longer ignore some problems I saw she had and wanted to help her get help for, or support her through myself.Her sickness is a defense mechanism against trusting and she wasnt able to take a step towards health. I would still help her if I could because she will end up homeless and seriously mentally compromised in the future without support as she doesnt see her problems clearly and cant manage life on her own, which is nothing to be ashamed of. While I would be friends again, I would have offered more tough love, that is what she needed, though she would probably reject me if I had conditions on the friendship. The hard part is if you mentioned anything, even gently, she might refuse to speak with you. But I have learned new communication techniiques for if I have the chance again and if i dont God will use them for something.
    The only condition I would have is that she work on getting well and she will not get well without therapy. If she would insist on remaining sick and I would have to be the whipping post as a result, I would give an ultimatum or just take breaks when she becomes nasty. It didnt hurt me too much becuase I know she is sick and I have plenthy of friends and family who relate to me as I am.
    It’s really sad to see someone who has so much potential behave in ways that she not only shut me out, but her 3 adult sons dont want to see her because it hurts them when she is sick too. If she would just admit her problems and get well I know over time they would go back into her life. She imight have grandchidren in the future that she will never get to see. Anway, enough of my blundering. I dont know whether to call her a toxic friend becasue she is disabled from behaving diffrently, it’s people who know better and who consciously choose not to reflect and are self centered that I consider toxic and stay away from. And aside from her I refuse to be the only person to make effort to maintain friendship. I can only afford one like my described friend, and will only be there for her and never anyone else with such problems again.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Wow! This could be my letter. I wonder how you are doing now? I know it’s been a while since this was written. I too had a breakup with a group of girls and it was very difficult but I know it was for the best. I was dealing with a mean girls senario. I still think of them, especially around the holidays. My life is filled with friends and family. I don’t feel like I need to get “permission” to have dinner with other friends or hide who I’m talking to on the phone for fear of jealousy.
    There was so much competition with these girls with our children etc….I don’t miss it and I spend more time with who and what is important in my life.
    It’s funny the older I get the more selfish I am with my time and who I spend it with.

  35. Anonymous says:

    If the relationship is not mutually beneficial – move on.
    It is just that simple. Anything else is a case for a shrink either for you or the other person.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your comments, I agree and I have now come to the point where I don’t want anything to do with them. I have invited my sons mutual friends. However we live in the same Village (in the UK) and our children play soccer together and also are in the same year (Grade) at school, I bump into them everyday despite my attempts to avoid. I don’t look at them or say hello. We have a social function we are due to attend next week which i am dreading. It is not a simple case of walking away and not contacting. I am not going to speak to them again but it’s still awkward and uncomfotable. They hog our mutual friends at functions despite the fact they want to stay out of it and have been generally very uncaring about the impact of this on my family. I am not prepared to move given the current economic climate and just can’t seem to get away from them.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I could have practically written this as my situation is almost identical, however, I think in my situation the roles may be reversed.

    I finally (after 15+ years) of friendship with these folks, began to recognize a behavioural pattern towards my family that was increasing and becoming more blatent and hurtful in the later years. They were controlling situations and teaching their own children (who had been close to mine since birth) the same behaviour towards us. Friction started, and it has been a long, drawn out process (1 – 2 years) trying to remove ourselves from their clutches. We discussed it with them, I tried to explain my feelings, but she just didn’t get it (and still doesn’t). We moved away (not far enough), however, out of their immediate area. We have not seen or spoken to them in a year, but she still sends my kids cards/gifts/emails and has her children calling my children even tho there is very clear tension between our families (kids are all under 10).

    We eventually had to bring the kids on board and put our foot down and let them know the truth about it all b/c they (the toxins) kept using the kids to get to us. (i.e. have their youngest call mine out of the blue – so that mine would beg me to see him) . It took me a long time (a lot of guilt and seperating my own feelings from what is in the best interest of the kids) to come to the realization that the parents (momma and papa toxin) are filtering their toxins through the kids and although my kids may not fully realize it, their (the toxins’) behaviour towards them (& us) is very very unhealthy (long drawn out pattern of behaviour). & quite frankly, I don’t think they’ll (the toxins) will ever get it.

    Now that our kids know the truth, we will cut them (the toxins) out at Every Angle, without giving in to them or w/o the guilt. They will eventually (will have to) come to terms that we don’t want them in our lives. We just want them to leave us alone. We will ignore them, reject all invites, and return any more gifts/cards that they send.

    My advice to you, if you are recieving the message that they don’t want you in their life – accept it, leave them alone and move on. I am not suggesting that you are the toxic one, however, in any case, if you are receiving negativety from someone, walk away. Life is too short. Have your own parties and invite whoever YOU want. But not them. Make new friends, create new experiences for your family and channel your energy towards the positives in your life and don’t look back.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Two years ago I was dumped by two long term friends at the same time. It cut me to the core. Its now two years on and I still have so much hatred towards them. One wrote me a nasty letter the other ditched the friendship by phone. I still hate them so much. Why is this so? and How can I come to terms with it and move on? I did try to reconcile with both, but my efforts were ignored.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes the dumpers can also be toxic. This seems to happen to me whenever they become pregnant. I am always happy for them, but it appears for some reason they end up ditching me. They will say silly crap such as “I got to move on, I have to concentrate on my kids”. This angers me because I DO realise that life changes for a women the minute she becomes pregnant/mother. But for some reason they jettison me. These days I have decided if a friend gets married or pregnant I wish them well but move on. I have been hurt too many times by pregnant/married with children friendships.

  40. Irene says:

    It has to be difficult to let go of 35 years of friendship and the family ties associated with them. Yet, it sounds like you felt very clear about your decision and don’t have any regrets. In fact, you seem relieved.

    Can I add my two cents for next time? I couldn’t help but thinking, that things might have worked out differently if you had set some boundaries each time you felt you were being used rather than letting all these hurts accumulate.

    I hope this works out well for you.

    Best,
    Irene

     

  41. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Irene, he is still playing with our mutual friends children which is good as they are trying to remain impartial and are not particularly happy that my son is being left out. I now know our friendship has ended however but it seems a shame that it should affect the children. I think he is handling it better than I have !!

  42. Irene says:

    Although your situation is more common than you might think, it is very uncomfortable—and unfortunate for your son. The best thing you can do is to make sure that your son has opportunities to be with other groups of kids, either through school, sports, or family outings.

     

    My best,

    Irene

  43. Anonymous says:

    I know what you mean by awkward. When you fall out with a friend it can affect the whole family and friendship groups. I fell out with my Best Friend the back end of last year and have made several attempts to make it up with her that have failed. We both made mistakes but she can’t let anything go. She said she would try and then her husband talked her out of it. The reason I wanted to get things back to at least civility is that our children were best friends at school and also play soccer together. Now it has ruined their friendship as they can no longer play togther outside of school and are both aware of tensions between us. Our families have fallen out and we have a small group of mutual friends who are sort of in the middle but try to keep out of it best they can. Now my ex friend has taken to inviting all of the mutual friends children round to play and leaves only my son out. Then her son taunts my son about it. It hurts tremendously but I can’t resolve it as they don’t want to. It’s so uncomfortable for us all I’m not sure what I can do. My husband says nothing as they aren’t real friends if they could hurt our son in that way. My son is very grown up and although it hurts him he says he can cope with it.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I had to divorce a very old friend of 35 years. We are both over 50 and with adult children.
    My friend had become critical, condescending, and even sometimes hostile and competitive. She gossiped obsessively about another friend she liked to criticize and it seemed the criticism was done to elevate her own eroding self esteem. She regularly liked to use me for things like computer support, engineering services, and even to hire her daughter.

    The favors were not repaid in kind and appreciated, in fact she seemed to have a sense of entitlement. I finally took stock one day of how many favors were given and not even appreciated, and how upsetting her critical moments were. I just could not take it any more, and wrote her to end the relationship.

    This has led to some awkward moments with other friends and family, invitations excluding me, that they do not attend out of loyalty to me. It seems these friends hung around her for my sake, as I was always the organizer and social director of our outings. The adult children are also feeling awkward as we see each other on the beach and they must ignore each other too it seems.

    However, even with the awkwardness, I have moved on and still maintain my old friends and asked them to not worry about my broken relationship and make their own plans with her. They don’t seem to want to. My friends seem to be understanding, and maintain a relationship by email with her, but only superficial.

    I do not regret breaking this relationship off for one second. It took a long time for me to get the courage to do so. Particularly with the toxic gossip. I no longer felt safe in that relationship.

    I think it might take a couple of more years for this awkward feeling go go away, particularly with the eldest daughters who are 30. My daughter does not regret the break up either, she says there was always something… she couldn’t put her finger on it.

    This was a sad breakup, because it was like breaking up with a sister or toxic relative. Lots of memories, but it was for the best. I no longer feel stressed out before a visit.

  45. mixed emotion says:

    Need serious help here.
    It’s been months since i dumped my toxic girl friend. We’ve been housemates for nearly a year, eveything was fine at first then it keeps going south. So, we ended it.
    I move out and its over.
    The thing is, memories with her keep coming, doesnt matter whether it is good or bad memories.
    What’s happening?Is this normal?
    I should be happy, shouldnt I?

  46. Irene says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I do think that we learn about ourselves and about our friendships over time.

    My best,

    Irene

     

  47. Anonymous says:

    I have broken off friendships in the past and I realize that I may have hurt people in doing so. I also realize that I wasn’t strong enough or didn’t have the tools to deal with their needs and expectations, as I was having my own issues, and I was feeling walked on, picked on, criticized and ridiculed by them. It may have been MY perception of things, but if I felt it it was real for me and I had to do something about it. My decision to remove my self from these friends was difficult because I missed them in many ways, but the benefits I got to my self-esteem from not having the constant confrontation with them was monumental. In retrospect it seemed like a clearing away of “bad” influences to make room for more healthy connections – first of all with MY TRUE SELF. My now limited friendships are less circumstantial and more real, more atune with and more respectful of the real me. I can understand that sometimes “toxic friends” may be in need, but I think that sometimes these friends have such high expectations of us that they are detrimental to us. When I confronted a friend about her envious remarks and her making me feel inadequate all the time she turned on me, denied everything, played the victim and basically told me I was selfish and a bad friend…that I was never there for her, never listened, that it had always been about me! Now, although I realize she is in some dark place right now, it is hard for me to be her friend. I offer her unconditional positive regard, but nothing more or nothing less. I see her I smile, I say hello, I ask about her family, but I will never open up to her again.
    I am in a place right now where I am happy and secure about myself and the few people that I choose to share my life with. Right now I am learning to be my own best friend so that I can be a better friend to others…I am using my filters to keep toxic people not out, but at a distance. I don’t think I have to be rude, but I do have to make my boundaries clear and strong.

  48. Anonymous says:

    My ex best friend, who broke off the friendship 5 years ago said for me to ‘have a good life’ and then proceeded to call me every name in the book. I had been avoiding her but still hung out with her everyday, but I guess the few hours a day was just not sufficient enough and she decided I was no longer a true friend. We were both in our early to mid 20’s, so this was not some high school fight. She then proceeded to run my name thru the mud and wipe all her bad and needy qualities off onto me. A malignant narcissist, perhaps?? Anywho, a couple of years later she got pregnant and I decided to let bygones be bygones and continue the friendship once again after she contacted me on a social networking site. It was amazing to me how quickly the ‘favor asking’ started and the terrible gossip about her other ‘friends’ she would tell me about. Then she continued to talk badly about me to all those in our friend circle. I confronted her thru an email because I just didn’t want to see or be around her anymore and broke off the friendship again.

    I’m just saying that trying to sneak out of their lives will more than likely backfire & not to mention my ex best friend does suffer from bipolar depression and did try to slit her wrists after I wrote the last email to her. This is a tricky situation because more than likely the needy, toxic friend is in need of psychological and/or medical help.

  49. Anonymous says:

    thanks! it really help a lot not just for me but also to my friends who hate our X friend

  50. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for pointing out that there are bad friends out there, However I want to play devil’s advocate here and say that in 2006 when ALL and I do mean ALL 5 of my close friends bailed on me like a chain of dominoes I nearly died from the depression it caused. In the wake of that nightmare I found out I had a mental problem and needed HELP. Your call to DUMP Toxic Friendships would be better served by advocating INTERVENTION for people who may possibly be in serious trouble rather than leaving them behind like trash on the street corner.

    • Wrong says:

      Nope. You ARE trash when it gets to that point. We’re not our brother’s keeper and we’re not your psychiatrist.

      If you aren’t paying me $200/hour, I am not your shrink.

      Grow up.

      From Irene: Please re-read this comment. It comes across as very angry and I don’t see how it can be helpful. Would you ever say this directly to a friend?

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