I already know. Some of y'all read the title of this piece and thought, "How in the world can anyone get to the point where they end up with a close friend who is also toxic?" Good question. I think a great example of how this can go down is the movie Something Borrowed (Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson). If you've never seen it before, it's really easy to catch because, just like BET plays Baby Boy incessantly, E! plays Something Borrowed all…of…the…time. (Sidenote—I wonder how much Taraji and Tyrese get paid every time Baby Boy airs. I recently read that the cast of Friends makes $20 million annually just on reruns alone!)
Anyway, the reason why the movie is relevant to this post is because it's about two BFFs—Darcy (played by Kate) and Rachel (played by Ginnifer). And yes, while it is a rom-com, it is also the perfect depiction of what it's like to be in a very close friendship that is anything but healthy for you. It also shows why sometimes, you need to make the oh so difficult decision to bring the relationship to a close (or at least give the bestie a demotion).
If you're not interested in watching the film or this has somehow piqued your curiosity to the point that you want to know some of the red flags to look out for right at this very moment, I've got 10 of 'em. Ten strong signs that, no matter how much you love someone, know someone or are attached to someone, it really is time to consider moving them out of the "close friend" category, so that some true friends can fill up that spot.
1. They’re Self-Absorbed.
I say it often because it's true. Unfortunately, a lot of people in this world don't want friends; they want fans. One way to detect this type of individual is to pay attention to the folks who constantly make everything about them. You call to tell them something and they turn the focus onto what they have going on. You're going through a hard time and they find a story about their life that sounds worse. Or worse, you're experiencing a great moment and they somehow find a way to one-up you. Why do they do these types of things? It's so that you will put your focus totally onto them because they feel like, of the two, they are more important—and relevant.
Be careful getting too close to a person like this. Chances are, if you're not always on the rah-rah tip with them, they will desert you—oftentimes without warning—in order to find someone who will be.
2. They’re Manipulative.
I remember a former married couple who was absolutely exhausting. The reason was because the wife, hands down, is one of the most manipulative people that I have ever met in my entire life. What really tripped me out about her is, whenever I brought that fact to her attention, it would trigger her. I could call her out for lying, cheating and sneaking to get credit cards that her husband knew absolutely nothing about (none of that is hypothetical, by the way) and she could roll with it. Oh, but tell a sistah she's got a manipulative spirit and she's about ready to fight. And you know what? I have learned that "hit dog will holler" rings true when it comes to manipulation. Folks can't stand to be told that they are because manipulative is such an ugly thing to be.
How can you know for sure if someone in your world is manipulative? Do you have a friend who likes to control you by playing the victim or guilt-tripping you? When they do something wrong or shady and you bring it to their attention, do they deflect by changing the subject? Do they try and pressure you into doing things that you don't want to do (especially if it's for them)? Maybe they come at you in ways that cause you to doubt yourself or undermine your confidence level?
Manipulative people are some of the most cryptic individuals because, when you're around them, although you know that something isn't quite right, sometimes, until you're reading an article like this one, you're not exactly sure what that something is. Now that you know, what do you plan to do about it?
3. They’re Never Wrong.
I don't trust people who don't have anything to regret. I also don't trust folks who can never admit when they are wrong and/or apologize. On the regret tip, I feel like it's dangerous to never have or show remorse for your actions (you can read more about that here). As far as not admitting when you're wrong or refusing to apologize, I mean, how arrogant can you be to not want to humble yourself in that way?
I once read an article about why it's so hard for some people to acknowledge their errors or apologize when they make a mistake (or a poor choice because those are not always one and the same). According to the author, some of the reasons are because some people don't know how to separate their error from their character (meaning, they feel like if they say "I apologize", it means they are saying that they are a "sorry individual") or that it lets the other individual totally off the hook for what they might need to own in the situation.
To me, admitting that I'm wrong helps me to grow and apologizing restores peace to my relationships. People who don't care about either of these? How can you have a healthy relationship with them if they don't want to evolve or they don't want to make sure that you're good after they've offended, hurt or harmed you? Exactly.
4. They’re Competitors and Copiers.
Once upon a time, I had a "friend" who was slick envious. But because of the low self-esteem that I had at the time, I didn't notice. How did I come to realize that she was that way? For one thing, other people told me that (yeah, sometimes your other friends can hip you to whether or not someone is toxic). Other than that, if I shared an idea with her, sometimes she would say that she recently had a similar brainstorm (hmm…). Or, if I tried an "off color" of lipstick, a few weeks later, I'd see her with it. Whenever I hit a milestone that I wanted to celebrate, she was always too busy to come. Or, if someone complimented me in their presence, they'd find a way to backhand it or discredit it.
Toxic people don't know how to let someone else bask in their individuality and progress. So, if you've got a friend who fits the bill of everything that I just said, just know that their hater-isms aren't "just how they are". They envy you and nothing good can ultimately come from constantly taking in that kind of energy.
5. They’re Shady Outside of Your Presence.
Look, even an enemy can smile in your face. That's why, the older that I get, the more that I define loyalty and trustworthiness by how my friends act whenever I'm not around. If you're a true friend, it shouldn't matter what someone says about me when they're in your presence. If it's gossipy or not true (sometimes gossip is true, it's just not anyone's business; that's why I separated it from "not true"), you shouldn't want to listen to it—this includes giving the kind of body language that shows you're interested in hearing more. Shoot, if you're a bestie, you should take it a step further and shut the conversation all the way down.
The word "friend" should be synonymous with the word "advocate". Advocate literally means "to speak in favor of". If you can't say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that your close friends have your back, both in and outside of your presence, are you sure they are truly your friends? Are they really?
6. They Don’t Respect or Honor the “Codes”.
Whenever I come across articles with questions like "Is it OK to date your friend's ex?", I'm like, "Why does this require 500 words or more to come up with the answer?" It's a hard "no" for me. Ugh. And eww. I've got some friends with some okay-looking boyfriends or husbands, but that's just it—because they are with my friend, I can't get past seeing their men like I would a cute second cousin at a family reunion. They are with my friend. They've been intimate with my friend. Whether they know it or not, my friend has told me some things that make me impressed that they are with them. So yeah, even if my friend breaks up with their man, I'll pass.
All of this reminds me of a convo I had with a bestie. As we were discussing a shirt that I used to own that connected people to their sex partners by way of proxy to illustrate how easily HIV can spread, I said to her, "If that shirt is true, we've technically slept together." Her ex and my ex have dated the same woman; slept with her too. See my point?
My friend and I can't control that. But I can certainly control messing with the man she has now—both in the present and future.
So yeah, if you're not sure that your friend thinks along these same lines or that they wouldn't dishonor any other friend loyalty codes that you may have, that's something else to pay close attention to. A code-breaker is one of the worst things that a so-called friend can be. On so many levels and for so many reasons.
7. They Don’t Really Care About Your Feelings.
Semi-recently, I had a conversation with a guy friend about something he did that really hurt my feelings. Just to paint a clear picture, not only did he do something to hurt me, but when I conveyed how it made me feel, he ghosted. For months. As I shared with him just how devastated I was, he went on to talk about how, while he didn't want to hurt me, he didn't know how to handle the situation and so he figured that silence was best; not for my sake but his own. Do you know what that boils down to? Ole' boy didn't really care about my feelings. And you know what? A lot of people have friends—close friends—who are a lot like him.
If you've got someone in your life who isn't empathetic or compassionate, who doesn't provide a listening ear or shoulder to cry on when you need it, who doesn't try and be there for you when you're hurting (whether it's because of something they did or life did, in general)—they are showing that they are emotionally detached from you. How can relationship be real or lasting without a true intimate connection? Without both individuals caring about how the other truly feels and showing that by showing up?
8. They Take Way More Than They Give.
I've shared before that I once had a "friend" who, in the entire almost two decades of being friends with her, I can only recall one thing that she ever gave me. It was a five-dollar ring. Me, on the other hand? You never know who's reading this stuff, so I won't get into specifics. Let's just say that I spent thousands of dollars easily. I mean, I can think of one gift alone that was close to that.
You probably read that and focused more on how much I spent vs. how little she did. I get it. But here's the thing—most of my inner circle are pretty big givers; not all of the time, but when we're inspired to do something super special for one another, it's a done deal. And yes, sometimes the price tag is way more than $39.95.
Besides, my issue with this particular person isn't that she didn't give as much as I did; it's that she didn't really give at all. Oh, but she was always ready to take. Toxic people tend to do that. They're selfish. They're opportunistic as well. What it all boils down to is, so long as you're meeting their needs, at the end of the day, that's all that really matters to them. That's not how a true friendship works. Not by a long shot.
9. They Are Always in Some Sort of Drama.
Always in a mood. Constantly falling out with someone. Overreacting to every darn thing. Needing to be the center of attention—online and off—all of the time. Making mountains out of molehills. Addicted to gossip. Super picky. Easily stressed. Mad controlling. DRAINING. This is what it's like to be a drama queen or king. If you read all of that and was exhausted, chances are, someone in your life is one. And drama? It is the textbook definition of toxic.
So, why do so many of us stay clique-tight with people who are dramatic? Not too get super deep and psychological, but I personally think that it has something to do with our childhoods. If our parents or other relatives were like this, we're probably used to it. That's the bad news. The good news is, now that you're grown, you can choose who you want to be around. Do you really want to choose drama? (Don't answer right away. Allow that to sink in for a bit.)
10. They Keep You Around Solely for Their Benefit.
You've got a great career. You have impressive resources and connections. You've got a big heart. You're unbelievably supportive and loyal. You're long-suffering (you're the kind of individual who can put up with a lot). Who wouldn't want to have someone like this in their corner?
You know the saying, "Keep your friends close and your enemy closer"? A toxic person even feels this way about their friends. They don't keep people close out of love, respect and appreciation. They keep them close because their friend has something (or many things) that they want. In other words, they're a user. You deserve so much better than that.
Whew. Now that all of that has been brought out into the open, I will say that since none of us are perfect, you may have some close friends with one or two of these issues. But if your eyes got big to more than half, you may think that that person is your close friend but really they are someone you need to distance yourself from, quick, fast and in a hurry. Because being close to you is a privilege and if someone is toxic, they are taking advantage of that. They are slowly chipping away at you too. You deserve a true close friend. Baby, if yours fit this list, they are so…not…it.
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