Have you ever felt annoyed or irritated after a conversation with a close friend? You think back to a point in the conversation where you felt off, but no matter how hard you try, you draw a blank. Was it something she said? Or the way she said it? Either way, It sounded condescending and it took you by surprise. Fret not, you’re not alone. Turns out, toxic friendship is quite common. Not only does it put a dampener on your relationship, but if continued repeatedly for long term it can have a debilitating effect on your mental health.
But first, what is a toxic relationship?
Toxic relationship is “any relationship between people where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other. There’s usually a lack of support, cohesiveness and a disrespect for the other’s lifestyle choices.”
Still not sure? Let me share a conversation I had with a friend sometime back that left a bitter taste in my mouth (and eventually a complete change in my attitude towards her) For the sake of anonymity let’s call her Ellie. Ellie and I had been friends for over a decade. One day, finding time in our busy schedule, we caught up for coffee. Half-way through our catch-up:
E: And what else is new. You don’t look very good. Is everything OK?
Me (munching on a cake and looking the best version of myself): Umm yeah.. I’m fantastic babe. Everything is good.
E: No it doesn’t look like it. It looks like something is on your mind, like you’re worried. Is Arvind’s family forcing you guys to have a baby?
Me (What?! Where did that come from): No bro. It’s all cool. I have no idea where you’re getting these thoughts.
E: Hmm. Ok. But if he is bothering you, you tell him to speak to me. I’ll talk to him and tell him not to force you on this… You look sad and depressed, and I know something is up.
Me (Now visibly irritated): If there is something I will obviously come and talk to you. But there isn’t, so can you please stop pushing it?
E: See.. you’re getting upset. I knew something was wrong.
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
Before meeting her I was happy and relaxed. Post this conversation, I was irritable and snappy. I went to bed doubting myself. I woke up the next morning and dismissed this interaction as a one-off thing. But I was wrong. Over the years this pattern continued.. If you’ve not had the pleasure of having these special folks in your life (yes, sarcasm). Congratulations! Your friend-radar is more developed than mine. Some tips to keep it that way.
5 signs to watch out for:
- Trust the vibes: Or the gut. If a friend genuinely loves you and cares for you, they will show it in a way which is nurturing and supportive. After a conversation with them you should have a feeling of positivity and warmth. If you feel annoyed or bad about yourself, you need to re-think if the friendship is really worth it.
- Keep competition at bay: A little competition causes no harm – sure – but keep it in check. It’s easy to start comparing your lives once you grow old and that’s when the jealousy monster shows its ugly head.
- Giving should equal receiving: You cannot give from an empty cup. A healthy relationship is one where there is equal measures of give and take. You cannot be understanding and supportive, if you don’t get the same in return.
- Trust issues: In my case, I am 100% sure Ellie talks ill about me to her other friends. How do I know this? Because she talks ill about her other friends to me. She has been doing it since the time I’ve known her. This should have been a warning sign (but obviously I didn’t pay attention to it)
- Enjoyment: If a cancelled plan with them makes you happy, it’s probably because you’re tired of putting up with the charade.
My friendship with Ellie meant a lot to me. Back in the day we would guzzle down drinks and make promises to always have each other’s back. It’s not easy to severe such a strong bond. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, read on.
5 ways to keep your aura drama free:
- Give them space: Maybe there’s something going on in their lives. Give them some space and the benefit of doubt. What i’ve learnt is people show their nasty, hurtful side to those closest to them I know it’s messed up, but it’s true. So cut down face/talk time and focus on some time away from them.
- Be equally nasty: Because why not? Give them a taste of their own medicine. If you really have a friendship that has seen everything, it’s OK to bring out the best and worst with each other. What can happen? You’ll either end up hating each other for a few days or you’ll both realise that it’s just not worth the drama.
- Zone out: Plug in some music and attend to your chores. (Don’t forget to mumble a few words every now and then) This way you can be there for your friend, without letting the condescending words affect you.
- Keep it short: Your dog needs to be taken to the vet, a new project deadline, an emergency salon important – make up excuses. Keep the conversation short and to the point. Give them time to cool off and then you can continue your long gossip sessions.
- Call it quits: If nothing works, you need to assess if you really need their presence in your life. If you don’t want to completely cut off, you can slowly cut down interaction and keep it to the minimum – calls on birthdays and anniversaries
With Ellie, after trying a mix of points 1 – 4 I have accepted that our paths have diverged. What was once special, is now a cause for discomfort. I still speak to her on special occasions, but it’s always a quick phone call. I no longer have the mindset to take on the taunts and a patronising attitude, least of all from a friend. And even you don’t. On that note, I’ll let Calvin and Hobbs sum it up with some wise words.