I’ll admit it, I am a member of the Circle Club. One of the millions upon millions of viewers who fell into Netflix’s web of social anxiety and Michelle Buteau’s witty banter.
If you’re late to the game, essentially players compete for a cash prize by trying to win the world’s most unusual popularity game. They make and break friendships, blocking each other in pursuit of the top spots.
Much like real-world social media, all messages are open to interpretation and speculation. What I didn’t realize as I snacked on my veggie straws judging every pointless hashtag and side-eye emoji from the other side of my screen, was that I would soon be faced with a life-size blocking within my circle.
Spot the Warning Signs of Toxic Friendship
Toxic friends can present themselves in a lot of ways, from being perpetually disappointing to completely exhausting. It can feel utterly one-sided and overly taxing yet still, in the name of an unspoken oath or perhaps decades of invested time, it can be difficult to cut ties.
As I tumbled clumsily into my 40s, I accepted that even though it sucks, some people need to be blocked.
If you’re on the same yoga mat, here are seven red flags to consider when dealing with a less than positive or toxic friendship:
- They disrespect boundaries.
Boundaries are quite tricky in any relationship but supportive friends—especially long-time ones—will work hard to understand and respect the limits you set in place. Consistently making you feel like the bad guy for establishing boundaries should cause you to pause for a minute and evaluate where you stand.
- They dismiss your other friends.
Maybe it’s jealousy, maybe it’s possessiveness; either way, well-adjusted friends shouldn’t make you feel guilty about hanging out with other people. If they are insecure about themselves or your friendship, this can also look like refusing to hang out with you if other people are involved.
- They are a perpetual victim.
Things happen, it’s true. But no matter what, this person will make it feel like the world is a sand trap instead of an oyster. Even when there are legitimate concerns, they rarely take steps to remedy situations and their MO of always being in a crisis can be draining.
- Rarely take responsibility for their actions.
Owning up to mistakes isn’t exactly human nature, but in any relationship that lasts longer than a stick of gum, it’s going to come up. Healthy friendships should be able to have honest conversations, find resolutions, and move forward. Toxic behavior will go to great lengths to justify their behavior and deny other people’s perspectives. This can also mean spewing hateful things or casting shame as they escalate to protect their own egos.
- You withhold your truth.
When you are trying to maintain fragments of a friendship that is unhealthy, you can find yourself holding onto hurts or not speaking up in an effort to “keep the peace.” While this can also boil down to a personality trait, eventually the lid will blow from the pressure and pent-up resentment may cause irreparable harm when the truth finally does come to light.
- It’s always on their terms.
Especially in adulthood, time is a precious commodity. A friend that isn’t supportive of you always demands that your relationship is on their turf and in accordance with their timeline. They don’t seem invested in you or empathetic to anything you may have going on in your life. Their focus remains squarely on themselves with little room for compromise.
- You aren’t disappointed when they back out.
One telltale sign of a toxic friendship is that you find yourself breathing a sigh of relief when they back out or your plans get canceled. If you find yourself on edge because they always bring the drama, it’s time for some serious revaluation.
This isn’t to say you should send up the “blocked” message on your group chat. Attempt to have an open conversation and share some of your concerns. You never know, they could be clueless as to their behavior. However, if they become defensive or begin berating you, it may be time to instill some distance.
Everyone has bad days—heck, bad seasons. And drama is bound to surface no matter what. Toxicity happens repeatedly and you’ll often notice multiple offenses.
Life changes, and so do people. Friends from childhood or college may not make it to your adult circle, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make that friendship any less important or lessen the impact they had in your life.
What absolutely will ruin the friendship you had is holding onto it long after its expiration date. Like food that’s been left out too long, it can become toxic. It’s best to let that ish go.