10 Signs You’ve Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend

Sometimes, the closest people to you are actually doing the most damage and bringing the most drama into your life.

What About Your Friends?

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.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Should You Take An Ex-Friend Back?

10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships

I Was 'Ghosted' By My Best Friend

According To Aristotle, We Need 'Utility', 'Pleasure' & 'Good' Friends

Feature image by Giphy

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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