Friendships in adulthood can be complicated and challenging to navigate. I’m not sure why this has come as a surprise to me—I suppose I mistakenly assumed all the hard relationship stuff would be over once I was done with middle and high school. I thought I would graduate from high school and leave all the bad hair, fashion faux pas, and drama behind.
I was wrong. Adulthood is just the next level of complicated, and adult friendships are just the next level of challenging.
One of the most difficult aspects of adult friendships can be deciding when to end one. Sometimes, though, the decision you need to make can be pretty clear, especially if your friend is demonstrating any of the seven tell-tale signs that you’re stuck in a toxic friendship:
They ghost you.
If you’ve ever been ghosted by someone, you know how much it hurts. One minute you are a part of that person’s life and the next it’s as if you never existed. Phone calls, text messages, invitations, and even acknowledgments in public just come to a screeching halt. Even if there have been hurt feelings or mistakes in a friendship, resorting to completely ignoring someone is just plain childish and an insult.
They are talking about you.
If word is getting back to you that your friend is talking about you in a negative way to other people or is sharing private details about you with others without your permission, that behavior indicates a lack of respect for you. You deserve better. Gossip has no place in a healthy friendship. You should be able to trust your true friend to come to you directly with concerns and to be able to keep your confidential information private.
They hold grudges or keep score.
If your friend is someone who routinely brings up mistakes you made from weeks, months, or years ago to make excuses for their own poor behavior, they are telling you that your relationship is not one that is unconditional. They are keeping score, and if you mess up (which you will because you are a human), they could hold that over your head in the future. Who needs toxic friends who aren’t willing to forgive you for mistakes?
They don’t reach out unless they want something.
When you really take a step back and evaluate your relationship, who is initiating texts, phone calls, and invitations? Are you always the one checking in on them, following up with them, inviting them to spend time together, or sharing stories? Do they only initiate contact with you when they need support or a favor? You deserve a good friend who gives as much as they take.
They try to show off or make you feel jealous.
When you are together, either alone or in a group, does your friend often make it a point to share details, photos, videos, or stories from parties and events to which you were not invited? Are they sure to highlight how close they are with some of your other friends? Actions like that may be excusable from children but not from adult friends.
The relationship makes you cry more than it makes you laugh.
If you look back over the entirety of your relationship, do you have more memories of feeling hurt, angry, or ignored than you do of sharing joy with your friend? What is the point of a friendship if it brings you mostly pain and hurt? Consistently hurt feelings are a sign of toxic relationships.
People around you are telling you to walk away.
Are other people around you noticing some of the behaviors listed above, pointing out the red flags? Are they asking you what is going on with the two of you? Are they encouraging you to cut ties and walk away? Are they telling you that you deserve to be treated better? They are right, you know. And they have your well-being in mind.
If any of these signs resonate with you and sound like your friend, it may be time for you to make a decision about where to go next in your relationship. Be honest with yourself—do you ever display any of these behaviors yourself? What level of responsibility can you accept for the current state of your friendship? Do you want to attempt to repair the relationship, change the relationship, or walk away completely from the relationship?
It’s important to remember that life is too short to allow yourself to be mistreated, disrespected, belittled, or made to feel invisible.
Often, when we make the decision to walk away from a toxic friend and we turn our attention elsewhere, we find friendships that are much more deserving of our attention, trust, and time. It’s okay to give yourself permission to want more from the people in your life.
You deserve to be happy.
Previously published on Medium