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This Is How Emotionally Abusive Friends Act

What About Your Friends?

I only have a brother and he doesn't have any children (yet). So, although I don't have any blood nieces or nephews, I do have what I call "love nieces and nephews". Whenever we have Auntie-Shellie-n-them time, something I mention (at least every third conversation) is "A bad platonic friend can do far worse damage than a bad girlfriend or boyfriend can ever do." I know from which I speak because, while growing up, I had a female friend who was one of the worst things to happen to me, to date. It took years for me to break free from her toxicity, but if I were to summarize what she was in one sentence, it's this—she was an extremely emotionally abusive individual.

There are a dozen times a dozen reasons why being in an emotionally abusive friendship is so problematic. But one of the main problems is it can put cracks (if not straight-up potholes) into the foundation of how you think all relationships should be. I say this because, if you want your relationships to be healthy, they all should be rooted in friendship.

Unfortunately, because this is the kind of topic that is not addressed as much as it should be, a lot of us don't realize the deep wounds we have due to some of the current emotional abuse that certain "friends" inflict upon us or the scars (which result in our hardheartedness) that remain because of past emotional abuse.

If you're wondering if some of the discomfort you're currently experiencing with a few of your friends might have to do with the emotional abuse they're dishing out that you haven't be fully aware of, here are some clear signs that that's exactly what's going on.

Signs You're In An Emotionally Abusive Friendship

1. You’re Constantly Walking on Eggshells in Their Presence

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A couple of days ago, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about how one of their friends can never receive criticism. While they are able to easily dish out boatloads of it, when someone calls them out on their stuff, they either go on the attack or they think their friend isn't being very supportive.

The immediate thought that comes to mind when I think about these kinds of individuals is they probably have some deep-rooted childhood or adolescent issues that need to be addressed. Chances are, their parents were verbally, mentally or emotionally abusive in their delivery, which has caused them to become hyper-sensitive. Or, they are narcissistic, perhaps, without really realizing it (some signs of narcissism including being arrogant, extremely prideful, having a sense of entitlement, being selfish and they aren't very empathetic).

People who are like this aren't looking for the kind of friendships that will help them to grow into better people. They merely want folks around them who will make them feel like they are awesome, flawless even, all of the time. Oh, and they also like individuals who act like they can't survive without their insight and guidance. This combination typically results in you having to walk on eggshells in their presence.

Friendships should be a place where you can fully express yourself. If this sounds foreign to you or you've got a friend who penalizes you for being real—or being real with them—this is another indication that you probably have an emotionally abusive situation on your hands.

2. Their Needs Are the Only Ones That Really Matter

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Last year sometime, I penned a piece about a best friend who ghosted me. What really tripped me out about it is she had the balls to do it after a few years of holding her hand through an affair (an affair she was having). When I confronted her about how toxic the situation was and how poorly she had been treating me throughout it, that's when she got ghost. Wow. Just wow.

Now that I've had some (more) time to heal and process, something that I realize is, during the last five or so years of our friendship, everything was about her and her needs. The moment I expressed that I actually had some of my own, all of a sudden, we had problems.

No friendship is healthy when it's not rooted in mutual respect and constant reciprocity. If you've got a friendship that only works because you're the one working it, to a certain degree, yes…you are in an emotionally abusive situation.

3. They’re Controlling and/or Manipulative

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Some of us have been controlled and manipulated for so long, we don't even know what signs to look for. I'll give you some. Signs of being controlled by a friend include them—making you feel bad for not thinking or acting like they do; constantly making plans in the friendship without taking your own wants or feelings into consideration; making you feel guilty for not sharing all of your life's details; inserting themselves into areas of your life where you did not invite them and/or them not asking you things but them making demands instead.

Signs of manipulation? Emotional instability. Constantly creating drama. Gaslighting you. Having a lack of respect for your personal, emotional or relational boundaries. Refusing to take personal accountability and responsibility for their offenses and mistakes. Only reaching out when they need something.

Yeah, this emotionally abusive friendship thing is more common than you thought, huh? I feel you.

4. They’re Not Trustworthy

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Recently, I was talking to a sistah friend about someone we mutually know. When she asked me why I didn't feel comfortable getting closer to this individual, I told her that she simply didn't seem to be very trustworthy.

While on the surface, a lot of us define trustworthiness as someone who we can trust with our business and secrets, it actually goes deeper than that. A trustworthy person is genuine. A trustworthy person is consistent (including when it comes to their moods). A trustworthy person empathetic, compassionate and they operate from a place of integrity.

When you're in a friendship with someone who is trustworthy, you can be totally confident that they have your back whether they are in or out of your presence. However, when you're in a "friendship" with someone who isn't, you never really feel totally at ease or safe.

5. They Never Make Mistakes but They Think You Make a Ton of ‘Em

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That former best friend that I mentioned earlier? Something that was a constant about her is she had a reason, excuse, justification or all three for every poor choice that she made. So much to the point that I don't think she really believed that she did anything wrong. Oh, but when I did something she didn't like, either she would go weeks without speaking (you know, she'd take the passive aggressive route) or berate me about it.

A good friend is gonna call you out and be open to being called out. You both will trust each other enough to allow that to happen. At the same time, they will also support you as you slip up along the way, encourage you as you learn from your mistakes and affirm you so that you will gain even more confidence to pick yourself up and move forward—as you do the same for them.

If this is a foreign concept in one or more of your friendships, well…there's a motto that I think you should immediately start applying to your life—I will bloom whether you water me or not. I saw this on a T-shirt. Cop one so that you can start to gas your own self up to set some much-needed boundaries with your friend because if they are always right and you are always wrong, not only is your friendship unhealthy, you are being emotionally abused as well.

6. You Never Really Know Where You Stand

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Hurt people hurt people. We've all heard that before. Personally, I think part of the reason why certain folks are abusive in their friendships is because they are emotionally unstable within. And how can you really feel safe with an emotionally unstable person? They're the ones who are hot (really nice to you) one moment and cold (literally freezing you out) the next. They're also the ones who claim that you're their bestie one day and then (usually due to something you have no clue about) they stop talking to you.

Emotionally unstable people tend to have all kinds of cracks in their foundation, making it hard to build anything real, long or lasting with them. If you just read that sentence and someone's name immediately came to mind, I don't have to say it, do I? Yep. On some level, you're probably involved with an emotionally abusive friend. Bless your heart. Know that you know, it's time to be a friend to yourself and, at the very least, set some new boundaries. And best, get out of it. Stat.

Want more stories like this? Check out these related xoNecole reads:

3 Warning Signs You're In Love With A Narcissist

Being A People-Pleaser Taught Me The Power Of The Word "No"

My Father Taught Me Love Is A Hell Of A Drug

The Empath's Guide To An Emotionally-Balanced Life

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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.

Reparations

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
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