According to Florence Isaacs, author of True Friends/Toxic Friends:
“a toxic friendship is unsupportive, draining, unrewarding, stifling, unsatisfying, and often unequal.”
Isaacs goes on to say that:
“toxic friends stress you out, use you, are unreliable, are overly demanding, and don’t give anything back.”
We’ve all had these kind of friends even though it’s natural not to be aware of it at first. In her book, Isaacs outlines five types of toxic friend.
Firstly, a toxic friend can be unhealthily competitive. An overly competitive friend is toxic because they cannot congratulate their friends on their accomplishments in life, rather they see every situation as a chance for one-upmanship.
Secondly, what she calls “The Debbie-Downer”, the kind of friend who always calls you up in times of crisis and conversations with them feel more like ongoing therapy sessions. If they never ever share any positive news nor offer the same kind of support in return, they’re a toxic friend.
Next up is “The Promise Breaker”, who, as the name suggests, makes promises but doesn’t keep them yet they expect a higher standard of behaviour from you in return and don’t hesitate to call you on it if you slip up. This self-centred behaviour has no place in your life.
Then we have the critical friend. Whilst a little constructive criticism can be helpful, who needs a friend that picks holes at everything you do? This just causes you to be on the defensive whenever you’re around them.
Finally, there’s “The Gossip”. No, not the band, the so-called friend who betrays your confidence in them by telling anyone who’ll listen your innermost feelings. Here’s a tip for spotting this kind of toxic friend: if they relish in gossiping about other friends’ intimate secrets, imagine what they say about you behind your back.
Personally, I have become ruthless in my old age! I remember reading that the average person has most friends at the age of twenty-two. I was twenty-one at the time and I remember thinking, “I hope not”.
It turns out that the news report was spot on. I partly think this is due to life getting in the way. Our circumstances change in our twenties; we finish our studies and join the rat race, we try to get on the property ladder, we settle down, we travel or move away, not necessarily in that order.
However, it’s also due to us wising up and being cleverer about who we spend our time with as well as having a better idea about who we are.
To my younger self I know I would seem like a Billy No Mates, but the truth is I’m much more selective when it comes to considering someone a friend or not.
Through betrayals and let-downs I’ve realised I can trust very few people in life and I can trust no-one like I trust myself. Sad but true, isn’t it?
Nonetheless, I’ve never been happier because I don’t spread myself too thinly, wasting time on people who are not real friends while neglecting myself.
I used to be a bit of a doormat and I take full responsibility for putting myself in the position to be used and abused. As a former friend used to tell me,
“The first time someone hurts you, shame on them. The second time, shame on you”.
I’ve got some amazingly great friends who have stood the test of time and have been there for me through thick and thin. To friendship!