Friends. How many of us have them? Friends. Ones we can depend on? The older I get and the more time I spend on this planet, the more I think Whodini straight up preached in those lyrics. It really is true that, if you've got even one friend to speak of, you are truly blessed because, let's be honest—we humans are a trip out here. Two flawed individuals who are trying to make any type of emotional connection work is a feat within itself. But man, when one of those folks is fake, opportunistic, low-key envious, disloyal or simply doesn't know what being a true friend consists of, they can send you on an emotional roller coaster ride that is truly unlike any other. You can find yourself being a friend to someone who is literally the worst kind of enemy.
I've been there. Oh, have I been there. And to prevent you from experiencing the complete and totally WTF moments I have or maybe even help you recognize if you've got a pattern of having "non-friend friends", here are seven signs that just because you call someone your "friend" doesn't automatically or necessarily mean that they are even close to being a real one.
1. If You Weren’t Reaching Out, the Two of You Wouldn’t Communicate
There is someone I know who considers me one of her closest friends. Chile, no I'm not. For one thing, in order for us to be bosom buddies, I have to be able to get in on that decision (some of y'all will catch that later) and second, I haven't heard from that girl in months upon months. The funny—or not so funny, depending on how you look at it—thing is that, the last time I saw her, I told her that I wasn't going to initiate contact anymore, that the next time we spoke, it would be if/when she reached out. When she asked why I was implementing that little rule, I told her point blank, "Because the only reason we speak as much as we do is because I am the one who checks on you." She laughed it off and said I would hear from her the following week. Like I said, that was months ago.
I already know that when I see her again, she's gonna be on the flattery tip; she always is. And you know what? I ain't even mad. On a lot of levels, she's cool people. But are we actual friends? Nah. My friends call me. I call them. They email me. I email them. There's a consistent mutuality that exists—consistently so. This girl? She's basically just a nice person. There's no love lost. It's just that she's not in my inner court by any stretch. (If you want to know what I mean by that, check out "Always Remember That Friendships Have 'Levels' To Them"). Her total lack of initiative proves that she doesn't deserve to be.
2. Their Needs Are an Emergency While Yours Aren’t Even a Priority
When I wrote the article "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'", what I meant by that is, if you are truly committed to someone and they are truly committed to you, there are going to be times when both of you are inconvenienced. Your friend might need you to stay up with her all night as she grieves the breakdown of a relationship (or friendship), or you might need a few bucks from them in order to pay an unexpected bill. In my friendships, it's not a second thought for me and my peeps to have each other's backs; it's a given. Oh, but there is a woman I know who is stingy as all get out. When she needs something, not only is she quick to ask, but she pretty much assumes that I'm gonna come through. Why? Because I always have. But the past 5-6 times that I've asked her for something, she has always had an excuse. When I brought it to her attention, she even had an excuse for her excuses.
Listen, maturity will teach you that no one owes us anything in life. But if you've got a so-called friend who always expects you to help them out, even though they do not show up for you in a pinch—sis, that is not a friend. That is a user.
3. They’re Your Friend in Your Face but Shady Behind Your Back
A wise person once said, "The person who hears other people talking behind your back but does nothing and might even join in is called an acquaintance. But the person who has a problem with it, will call them out, or will call you and tell you about it, they are a friend." I agree with this to a large extent. If I were to change anything, I would say that anyone who claims to care about you on some level and joins in on gossip about you is not really even an acquaintance. Low-key, they are a hater. Also, based on what your friends know about you and how you react to things, it may not be a good idea to bring certain things directly to your attention. Sometimes, that could make matters worse instead of better. What a true friend will do is handle it and squash it. They will definitely give yappers the impression that they are the last person who should bring up anything negative about you. Point blank and period.
I'm telling you, it can be a hard and oh-so-painful lesson to learn that some people aren't your friend for friend's sake. Nah, they just want to be around you in order to collect information to spread around. So yeah, if you can't say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the people close to you wouldn't tell your business, throw shade or stab you in the back outside of your presence, are they really your friend? Somehow, I doubt it.
4. They Are Low-Key Competitive
This is an area where I've had bad friends and been a bad friend. That's why I'm not big on building close relationships with folks who have low self-esteem. People like that dislike themselves so much that they don't have a clue how to be happy for other people, celebrate other people, or not feel like they constantly have to one-up other folks. When it came to those who were closest to me, yes, I used to be that kind of person sometimes. I resented them for how they looked, what they had, or even the quality of men they dated. And that turned everything into a bitter battle of competition—or straight-up bitterness.
It is damn near impossible for anyone to love someone else when they don't even love themselves. If you've got someone in your life who always makes you feel like they are trying to outdo you, not only is that exhausting but that's pretty toxic. Friends relish in each other's come-up; they don't compete with it.
5. They Are Narcissistic AF
I grew up in an entertainment industry household. Then, I became an entertainment writer which meant that a lot of my social circle consisted of entertainers and whatnot. Boy, did it take me for-e-ver to recognize that something that automatically came with this reality was knowing a lot of narcissistic people--oodles and oodles of 'em. And just how can you know that you've got a narcissistic "friend" in your space? They're always right. They can never be corrected. Sometimes they build you up, other times they tear you down (and you never know which person is going to show up). They constantly need attention and validation. They are control freaks (including when it comes to your life, if you let them). They're disingenuous. They don't take responsibility for their actions (ie. they deflect…a lot). They refuse to empathize with your feelings and needs. They don't apologize. They act entitled. They have split personalities (or are moody as hell). They wouldn't know a boundary, if it slapped them in the face.
Whew. You know what this all boils down to, right? They are basically emotionally abusive individuals. And abuse, in any form, should never be used in the same sentence (or context) as healthy friendship.
6. They’re Dismissive AF Too
So, I live in Nashville and not too long ago, we had a pretty devastating tornado. The way that it affected me personally is I didn't have electricity for about a week. (You can't even begin to process just how deep that is until it actually happens to you). As I was waiting to "get back on the grid", I had to find ways to rig up getting a charge, like using a car charger or going to a mall to work on my laptop. Anyway, there is someone who could've made all of this so much easier and they live a bike ride away. When I asked if I could charge up for an hour, they talked about how they wouldn't be home all day, so they didn't know when I could. When I asked a few days later to do the same thing, they wrote me late at night talking about they don't check their email as much as I do, so they missed the message. Hmm…that's interesting because when they needed some of my press contacts for a project they are working on, they replied back to back to my responses within an hour. And when they wanted my opinion on some of their music, I heard from them right after sharing my insights. It's basically been like this for years. Would a true friend be like this? I doubt it.
But here's the thing. Sometimes, we keep people around and allow them to have some of the same benefits that our real friends have because they're not bad people. It's just that, as you start to define your own boundaries and expectations, you realize that they don't deserve the same access and privileges.
For me, a "boundary" that I am learning to set is to not be close to dismissive people. Dismissiveness is a subtle form of folks not giving AF. And when you take into account what the actual definition of the word is ("indicating lack of interest or approbation"), it's basically a low-key form of disrespect. True friends take an interest in your life and your needs. Anyone who, through their words and/or actions, shows that they don't...they are not much of a friend at all.
7. “Safe” Is the LAST Word You Would Use to Describe How You Feel Around Them
Probably every fourth article that I write, I mention how important the word "safe" is. That's because it is. When you feel safe, you feel secure. When you feel safe, you're not wondering if someone is going to hurt or harm you. When you feel safe, you are confident that the people in your life are reliable, they have your back, and you are never alone to deal with the ups or the downs of this world. Something else that's cool about the word "safe" is there is no "kinda" to it; either someone makes you feel safe around them or…they don't. If when you just read all of this, you found yourself squinting because a couple of people came to mind who definitely caused you to be unsure, that is a very telling sign that they are not as good of a friend as they should be or as you deserve. No matter how long you may have bestowed the honor of the "friend" title upon them, they need to be demoted. Because a friend who isn't safe isn't a friend at all. Not. At. All.
Feel me? Please tell me that you feel me. And more importantly, tell me that if someone fits this bill, you will make some much needed adjustments ASAP. So that some real friends can come into your life. People who are as far from these signs as possible.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Feature image by Giphy