We’ve all been there: the moment when you realize a friendship is no longer serving you or has become an unhealthy impact on your life. The term “toxic friendship” has been tossed around recently, but our partner, Real, helps us determine what that really means.
Defining Toxic: A behavioral pattern, emotional pattern, thought pattern, that is unhealthy. And from a relational standpoint, we deem that as patterns that are dysfunctional. Meaning the way I behave here, the way I'm thinking here or even my expectations here are not helping my relationship function.
The colloquialized term of 'toxic' can simply mean a relationship is not working. If a relationship is no longer working for you, you can exit that relationship—easier said than done, in some cases, right? Let’s walk through how to determine if a friendship is unhealthy and how to improve it or exit it altogether.
Identifying a toxic relationship is the first step. It's not that all of these characteristics, or even just one necessarily, make for a toxic friendship, but they can. Every recipe for friendship is different and it's the same for toxicity in our relationships. It can be helpful to ask yourself if the friend in your life does any of the following:
Put you down
Make you feel nervous
Leave you unsettled
Compare you to other people
Try to change you
Put their needs over yours always
So let's be clear, does a friendship have to be toxic in order for us to want them to end? Of course not! Friendships go through natural ebbs and flows and that means two things: First, we can want them to end for many reasons beyond their not being toxic and second, we can endure change in our friendship and have what our relationship looks like change without having to end it. There can be different reasons that we all end up at this point and it's really unique for each of us.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that might help you determine if a friendship is worth fixing or needs to end:
Defining the function of this relationship. So what did/does this friendship bring to me? Is this your funny friend— who always makes light of things? Are they a great listener who you can talk to about anything? Is this your “turn-up” friend— the friend you can always call to go out? Maybe your friend is a combination of all these things.
Evaluating how it has changed. Do you feel like you can't talk to them anymore? Do you find that you’re drained by their presence now? Do they seem to be more snarky? Have you grown in ways that are at odds with this dynamic?
If you do decide to end a friendship, direct communication is an important tool. Direct communication is at the heart of how we form new friendships, how we deepen current friendships, how we maintain our relationships and also how we make conscious and intentional decisions around potentially ending friendships when it’s time.
When saying goodbye to a friendship, there are five key things to help navigate that tough conversation:
Think about what you want to say
Think about HOW you want to say it
Give examples of what was needed
Express gratitude for the friendship
If you’re interested in working on the friendship, here are five things to consider during the conversation:
Identify your needs in the friendship
Affirm why this friendship is worth saving
Acknowledge resentments/past hurts
No matter which you choose, you should feel proud that you’re taking an important step to protect your own needs and take care of yourself. Some friendships are meant to last a lifetime, and some friendships are only meant for a certain season of life.
Check out our full line up of resources that will help strengthen your connection within your community and your relationships:
Psst...Ready to dive in? Head toReal, create an account, then enter the code ATHLETAWELL at checkout to start your free 30-day trial.
Disclaimer: Even though you may receive advice, insight, or guidance from experts in the AthletaWell Community, please note that this is not medical advice and we always recommend speaking with your doctor.