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Toxic Friends, You CAN'T Live With Them, But You CAN Live Without Them!

All true friendships survive with one key element…balance. Without a healthy balance of give and take, trust, commitment, honesty, loyalty and understanding, friendships can be doomed to either fail or just be unhealthy and dysfunctional.

We’ve all in some shape or form, had a toxic friendship or relationship. But what exactly is a toxic friend and how do you recognise when a friendship becomes toxic?

Friendships starting on an equal footing can become dysfunctional when one of you perhaps widens their circle of friends through a new job, a new relationship or maybe just a change in circumstances. The common ground has shifted.

In a healthy friendship or relationship, this should be ok, real friends are happy for you to expand your social life or watch and share the news of the growing success in your career. However, when the other person is threatened by your new situation, they can become resentful and determined to try and keep things static. They may try to jeopardise your new found success and happiness with skilful, yet destructive undertones, anything from subtle criticism to try knocking your confidence, to more obvious ways like out right lying, or creating dramas so they can be the centre of attention.

The following are a useful checklist when assessing whether you have a toxic friendship.

* Do they regularly break their promises or arrangements with little or no notice, giving woefully weak or clearly untrue excuses?
* Are they take, take take, offering nothing or very little in return?
* Are they a drama queen, regularly trying to make you part of their dramas?
* Do they regularly lie about people and situations?
* Have you found out they are talking negatively about you behind your back and betraying your confidences.
* Do they judge you rather than accepting and loving you for who you are?
* Do they try and exert control over your life without taking into consideration what you want?
* Are they generally miserable, trying to take you down with them?
* Do they constantly try to get one up on you?
* Do they try and guilt you for feeling happy?
* Do they see any other friends you have as competition, rather than part of your circle?
* Do you feel worse after spending time with them?

How do you break free of a toxic friendship?

Toxic friends usually hang on to you like there is no tomorrow, especially when they know the game is up. However, it’s important to stand your ground and not be pulled into old habits as they try and manipulate you further.

Boundaries are a big part of creating and maintaining healthy friendships. When trying to disengage yourself from a toxic friendship, if you don’t feel able to completely walk away, negotiate with yourself what behaviours you are willing to accept by creating a mental or written list of what you are no longer willing to put up with.

Breaking free is of course harder, but when you have made the decision to break free from a dysfunctional friendship or relationship, don’t be manipulated back into it. Expand your social circle by joining groups, clubs and going out with work colleagues, to meet like minded people who make you feel good about yourself.

Be honest and tell them you don’t feel you have anything further in common. Give examples of why you feel this, be specific. Toxic friends usually have deep rooted insecurities that make them behave in the way they do. By giving reasons you are giving them an opportunity to change the way they behave, with view to them making new and healthier friendships with other people.

Reflect on why you were in this friendship, do you yourself have low self esteem, or insecurities that were holding you back on building healthy and functioning friendships. Do these issues make you feel you only have the capacity of being down trodden, rather than existing as a valued and loved individual of equal standing.

Finally, remember we only get from life and those around us, what WE think we deserve, so remind yourself regularly that you deserve only the best.

Copyright Elizabeth Bacchus 2009

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