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7 Toxic Habits That Can Definitely Sabotage Friendships

Be careful. You could be slowly ruining your friendships without even realizing it.

What About Your Friends?

When you work in the self-help sphere, something that you tend to hear often is the word "sabotage". More specifically, self-sabotage. Due to all kinds of issues that really deserve their own word count space, there are all kinds of reasons for why people sabotage their romantic relationships, certain job opportunities and one other thing that I'm gonna tackle today—friendships. I know it probably sounds super Mister-Rodgers-like to say that the best way to be a friend to someone else is to first be a friend to yourself; however, that really is the truth because, the reality is, to sabotage is to "undermine a cause". That said, it really is difficult to esteem your connections with other people when you don't see the true value in yourself, first. Once you do, though, that can lead you to the kind of friendships that are best for you, second. Yep, the two things pretty much go hand in hand.

It's important that I put that on record because, before getting into some of the toxic habits that can easily sabotage a friendship, it's a good idea to ask yourself if you're in a good space with your own self. For the sake of knowing the purpose of your friendships. For the sake of setting healthy boundaries in your friendships. Also, for the sake of not doing some of the stuff that ultimately ends friendships—friendships that actually can consist of mutual love and yet, they can still go super south due to issues like the following seven that I'm about to share with you.

1. Not Being Honest

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OK. I know that, off top, when I say "not being honest", it probably looks like I'm referring to people who lie (check out "This Is How To Tell If Someone's Lying To You"). Lawd chile. If you've got friends who lie to you all of the time, there is absolutely nothing healthy about that. I will say that I was once very close to a pathological liar. While I sensed that "something in the buttermilk ain't clean", on a few levels, it wasn't until their therapist required that they spill the beans that I recognized the magnitude of how far the falsehoods actually went. In hindsight, I realize that my codependency stuck around for the BS. Meaning, I overlooked what my gut was telling me because I wanted to be there for them and, in some ways, they nurtured the relationship on other levels (like they were giving and supportive).

Anyway, no one who constantly lies to you is a friend to you (or to themselves). That's not actually what I'm talking about, though. What I'm referring to, specifically, are passive aggressive folks. You know what I'm talking about—the kind of people who tell you they are fine when they aren't. The kind of people who present your friendship as one way in your presence and another way when they are talking to others. The kind of people who give you the impression that you're much closer to them than you actually are (check out "Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?")—and it basically all boils down to the fact that they aren't being real, genuine and/or candid with you. Not necessarily because there is some shady or malicious intent. It's mostly because they aren't letting their guard down enough to reveal who they really and truly are. As a result, your friendship with them is more of a façade than anything else. Hmph. "Façade" is actually a really good word because it means superficial. Superficial is surface stuff. And when it comes to true friendships, staying on the surface all of the time doesn't really work. If not immediately…eventually.

2. Not Taking What You Dish Out

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I say it often and I mean it every time that I do—a lot of people out here don't want friends; what they're actually looking for is fans. There are a billion different reasons why. One of them is because a lot of folks are extremely insecure. They're envious. They're always causing drama (usually because they don't trust well, so they are constantly creating problems in their mind). They're negative. They're disingenuous. They constantly live in a state of denial (facts and truth means very little to them). Know what else? They are usually very critical of others. Here's the real fascinating thing about that—they can't handle it when the mirror is put in front of their own face and you are even a little critical of them.

The best kinds of friends aren't people who only tell you what you want to hear. That's not friendship, that is flattery and flattery, more times than not, tends to have ulterior motives. So yes, emotionally mature people are well-aware of the fact that sometimes their friends are gonna call them out on their ish, tell them when they are dead wrong and definitely be the kind of support system that holds them to the kind of standard that will ultimately make them a better individual.

If you've got someone in your life who feels 1000 percent like they are to serve that role in your life yet, when the tables turn, they play the victim, lash out or give you the cold shoulder—not only is this a sign that they can't take what they dish out, it also means you are involved with someone who is so internally fragile that they could cause your friendship with them to break. Literally.

3. Not Honoring Specific Needs

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Something that I personally think doesn't get addressed enough is the fact that having multiple friendships can be more challenging than having a spouse in the sense that, when you get married (at least in this country), you're with one person. Yes, it can be challenging and trying at times to figure out how to make that relationship, not only work but last; still, it's just ONE person. Friendships? Whew. Real ones are also quite intimate. And since everyone has their own personality, likes and dislikes and even relational expectations, figuring out how to keep your friendships in a good space can sometimes require more time, effort and energy than many actually want to do.

No doubt about it, one of the biggest causes of sabotaged friendships is the fact that far too many people take on that "one size fits all" approach when that couldn't be further from the truth. Since every person you are friends with is an individual, it's important to do things like learn their love language, figure out some of their triggers, learn how some of their past has made them how they are in the present and also definitely figure out what their relational needs are (as they do the same thing for you).

I've got a friend who hates gifts yet needs a good amount of quality time. I've got a friend who hates physical touch yet is really verbally affirming. One of my friends, I don't know if you could ever say anything to hurt their feelings (we've been homies for almost 30 years now). Meanwhile, I have another who is sweet as honey and yet super sensitive, almost to the point of walking on eggshells. Back in the day, I used to be the kind of person who was like, "I'm just me. Y'all deal with it." Yet the older I get and the more I learn that healthy friendships aren't a dime a dozen, I now make adjustments so that my friends can get just what they need from me. No two friendships are just alike. Figuring out what each friend needs in order for your friendship to thrive can definitely help the relationship to go the distance. If you don't do this…well.

4. Not Being Appreciative

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There is a friendship that I had from my 20s right up until I turned 40. Around that time, I had to transition out of. There were a couple of issues within it; however, the one that had me be like, "Yeah, that's it" was the fact that this person had become so entitled that I basically couldn't stand to be in their presence anymore. All of us know certain things that we do well, right? Well, something that most folks know about me is I'm a pretty big giver—and I definitely enjoy blessing my friends. Yet this individual, I had done so much for them, that it got to a point where they started to expect it—and even acted like I was out of pocket when I would say "no", at times. So, why did I stay around for so long? Because they had other good qualities. They kept things in confidence. They prayed for me like no other person would. We had years of history and had supported one another through many people, places, things and ideas. Yet, that lack of appreciation thing really started to take its toll.

Appreciation is a really big thing in friendships. It's not just about being grateful; it's also about making sure that your friend knows that you are aware of what they bring into the friendship. It's about doing things that express how much you value them. A wise person once said, "Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them. You have to figure out who's worth your kindness and who's just taking advantage." Listen, you can love someone all day long. If you don't express that in a form of gratitude, you still could lose them, though. Straight up.

5. Not “Customizing” Each Friendship

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To a certain degree, I've already addressed this point. Still, it's important enough that I think we should go, just a bit deeper. Remember how I said that no two friendships are just alike? OK, say that you're ready to buy a new couch. At the end of the day, all couches have basically the same function. Yet things do come into play like the design, the color, the fabric that it's made out of, the size, etc. Based on what you prefer, you could end up with a couch that you hate or one that you absolutely adore.

Friendships are similar in the sense that some people just want a movie date or wine tasting buddy. Some want a person who they can share their deepest secrets with, knowing that it won't go anywhere. Some want someone who they can be on the same page with when it comes to spiritual insights or professional goals. My confidant and I don't talk nearly as much as my godchildren's mother and I do. At the same time, my confidant knows that they can ring me at 4 a.m. to discuss or vent about whatever. Meanwhile, my godchildren's mom has a very taxing career, so we have to schedule time to spend time together; plus, I've gotta be super flexible in the sense that the schedule could actually change at the last minute. There's no reason to become frustrated with either dynamic. They are individuals. That's just the way it is.

One of the best things about having really good friends is the details that you know about one another. You get each other's preferences. You know one another's quirks. You don't compare them to other friendships that you have. You see each other as true individuals. Unfortunately, far too many friendships get sabotaged because folks loop their friends all in together in the sense that they give everyone the same kind of focus when things really need to be more…customized than that.

6. Not Being Proactive

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I will say this until each and every single cow in the world comes home. One of the biggest causes of broken relationships, ANY KIND OF RELATIONSHIP, is the fact that far too many people opt for being reactive rather than proactive. What I mean by that is, they get lazy in their relationships and so they wait until their friend is irritated or even angry or hurt before putting any real attention into the friendship. If you know that your friend is big on birthdays, stop missing it and then circling back with a "happy belated" greeting card. If you know something seems a little "off" between you and your friend, don't wait for things to get worse; ask questions in order to gain some clarity. If they've pointed out to you a trigger, do your best to avoid stomping on it with your words and actions. Don't wait until a special occasion to do something special for them. And more than anything, try and be consistent in the good things that you do. Consistency is a superpower that truly doesn't get all of the credit that it deserves.

One of my closest friendships, a part of the reason why it has remained that way for so long is because we both are proactive in the sense of wanting to make the other feel like they are on the radar and not taken for granted. Proactiveness shows others that they are on your mind. Proactiveness shows that you want them to continue to be a part of your life. Proactiveness prevents you from being lazy in your friendships—so that you don't have to constantly try and fix things by acting reactively.

7. Not Allowing the Friendship to Evolve

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Let's conclude this with a huge friendship sabotage issue. Two of my favorite quotes on personal evolution is, "Many people don't want to see you grow and evolve because growth intimidates those who live complacent lifestyles" (Unknown) and "Life is about evolving. Don't stay in a situation that's not helping you grow mentally, spiritually and emotionally" (Unknown). A very huge life reality is, you can't evolve without change and as you change, that can cause your friendships to shift to some extent. Maybe you've taken on a new job that requires that you move. That is going to shift your friendship. Maybe you're single and your BFF is about to get married. That is going to shift your friendship. Perhaps you're pregnant. That is going to shift your friendship. Or you might've just lost someone very close to you. That is going to shift your friendship (death changes people; that isn't talked about enough either). Honestly, if you're making the most of every day of every year, growth is going to transpire—and that is going to shift your friendship. Especially since your friend is probably growing too.

This is why flexibility, to a large extent, is so important. You've got to love and respect your friends enough to give them to space to transform as they get older, are exposed to more and learn more things. In return, they need to do the same thing for you as well. If you keep trying to hold people to who they were in college or when they were single or, to some extent, who they were last year—it's only going to lead to unrealistic expectations, a certain amount of frustration and, at some point, it could result in your friendship with them ending.

You get old and mature enough and you accept that a lot of friendships don't have to consist of big problems and huge "fall outs". Still, if you're not staying ahead of what can sabotage your friendships—those seemingly little things that can become huge over time—you can still lose precious members of your tribe. Good friends are hard to come by. Do everything in your power to avoid toxic habits that could end up sabotaging them.

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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
Sign up

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