• Resolving Problems

Twenty Questions: Spotting a Toxic Friendship

Published: December 4, 2007 | Last Updated: September 17, 2014 By | 9 Replies Continue Reading

While most friendships have their highs and lows, a toxic friendship is characterized by consistent patterns of negativity.

Yet, the signs of a toxic friendship aren’t always obvious. Women tend to overlook, forgive, and forget to keep up our friendships—but here are some ways to determine if one of your friendships may be bad for you, either mentally, physically, or both. Ask yourself:

  1. Does scheduling time to see your friend feel like an obligation rather than a pleasure?
  2. Do you ever feel trapped when you are together?
  3. Do you feel tense in her presence?
  4. Does she often show off at your expense?
  5. Is she never reliably there when you need her?
  6. Is she self-centered, sneaky, deceitful, or disloyal?
  7. Does she have habitually bad judgment?
  8. Are you giving more than you’re getting?
  9. Does the relationship feel out-of-sync?
  10. Do you feel emotionally drained when you are with her?
  11. Do you come away from her feeling depressed?
  12. When you talk, does it feel like she isn’t listening or just doesn’t get it?
  13. Do you dread her phone calls?
  14. Do you hate when you see her screen name online when you look at your buddy list?
  15. Are her emails too long to read?
  16. Does she always choose to spend her time with men, over you, given the
  17. Has she flirted with the man in your life?
  18. Has she done anything to undermine your position at work?
  19. Can you trust her to keep your confidences?
  20. Has she betrayed you?

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Category: Toxic friends

Comments (9)

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  1. Amy says:

    About 18/20 is right from this for one of my friendships, and the others because i dont work. But its like she only tries (hardly) to be friends with me because she wants to show she can have it all or something. i honestly dont even know

  2. Tam says:

    I think “toxic” is too coined and misleading…. How about just the satisfaction in a friendship? If it’s chronically unsatisfying, it’s just not a good fit and time misspent…. when time is not renewable.

  3. Lisa says:

    This is an extremely limited list. It might even be biased; To feel depressed after spending time with a friend who is depressed, is (I mean, I thought, and im certainly no expert) an example of empathy. This whole list of questions seems almost as if it was written out of the context of someone who is wounded and may needs to ask them in their own life.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ir agree that many items on the list are subjective. Sometimes well feel burdened in intteracting but need to work thru an akward phase, not label something toxic because it makes us feel uncomfortable. Many things on the list would require considering context.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Not a great list. 1, 2, 3 could be used by someone with Avoidant attachment issues to justify ending a good friendship.

    Same with 9 – very vague

    and 15 – long emails – that’s subjective and a rather odd one to base a toxic email on. personally, I enjoy getting the long email from a friend rather than the more typical 2 sentence ones by most.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I agree – most of the items on this list are great indicators. But I think number 8 is a little more delicate. Sometimes we do have friendships where we feel we’re giving more than we get :
    1. the friend is going through a rough patch, and needs our support
    2. there is a sort of power imbalace between the friends(e.g. big age gap, different stages in life) and the friendship involves an element of guidance and mentoring to the less powerful one.
    3. we are taking for granted the efforts that our friend is making to “give” to us.
    In each of these cases the feeling that you are “giving more than you get” is not a guide to a toxic relationship, but simply a feature worth looking out for. So I would be careful when using number 8 as an indicator.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have a best friend, but I am not sure if she’s toxic or not. Sometimes I feel like I’m the toxic person in the relationship because I get really jealous of her at times, even though I try not to let this interfere with the friendship. I’ve always tried to support her and her dreams and I listen when she has problems, etc. I don’t want to feel jealous or negative about her, but she talks about herself in a way which makes me feel like she’s so special and I’m just an outsider looking in on her life. I try not to let my feelings show, but I think she senses it and enjoys a sense of superiority over me. Sometimes I’ve felt that she is jealous of me as well whenever things are going well in my life, yet she always seems so happy for me and she seems to wish the best for me. Yet there is a certain note in her voice at times, which makes me feel like she is really jealous and resentful underneath. She dumped me for a period of over half a year after we had a hurtful argument. She was mad at me for being jealous of her and she also misunderstood something I said, which made her feel that I thought she was a bad person. When we got back in touch, she told me she had “just lost track of the time”, which I did not believe. We had been talking on a weekly basis for about 3 years, so no one would just suddenly “lose track” of seven months for no good reason. I feel she has not been truthful with me about several important issues and when I asked her for the truth, she contradicted herself and denied things she said earlier. Also, when we travel together, I cannot shake the feeling that she is trying to sneak off and do things without me, including things we both agreed I should be part of. Am I wrong to mistrust her? Part of me would like to end the relationship because I find it difficult to deal with my jealous feelings and I would like to find a good reason to end it. Yet there are many things about her behavior which make me feel that I have good reason not to trust her. Can I trust my judgment?
    I’d like to talk to her about things, but I feel she may not be honest with me and tell me the truth. I don’t want to accuse her of being a liar, but since I believe she may have lied to me before, I’m not sure I can trust her to tell the truth now. What should I do? Try and path things up? Should I walk away? I feel so drained by this relationship, it’s sapping all my energy for other things. Please, any advise would help.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The “tense” question (3) was very relevant to me.

    I was friends with someone who has since dumped me and I got very hurt. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to admit that the tension I felt around her was my body’s way of telling me I was friends with someone I shouldn’t have been…

    She was SCARY!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Not only did I nod yes to each and every one of these questions on this checklist–but in the end, my “best friend” dumped me! Thanks for the perspective. Until now, I was grieving the loss of a “good friendship.” I think I was ignoring the (ever-mounting) evidence to the contrary, and wondering what *I* was doing to offend HER.

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