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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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