Everyone has their own idea of the qualities of a true friend. He or she is loyal, honest, supportive, and cares about our well being. A true friend also respects us as people. Not all friends have these and other good qualities. Some friends are toxic.
Vivian and Ridley met when they were both in college. Both were non-traditional students, each entering college to finish her education and prepare to reenter the workforce. They had many things in common. They had shared some of the same experiences, and had a lot of the same ideas and attitudes. They became close friends, and over the next six years, they did things together, listened to each other’s problems and triumphs, and supported each other.
It sounds like the perfect friendship, but as time moves forward, there are many things that Ridley has found about Vivian that she can’t stand. Vivian makes Ridley feel bad about herself because she doesn’t have as much income as Vivian does; she can’t afford to get professional personal care or travel as often as Vivian can. She can’t do or doesn’t want to do many of the things that Vivian does. Vivian’s actions and words make Ridley feel inferior.
“Vivian is always complaining, and nothing is good enough for her,” says Ridley. “She talks non-stop. She either copies or tries to copy almost everything I have or do. My words, ideas, mannerisms, even my medical conditions. She changes the facts in her life to match my experiences. She is interested in talking only about herself, and if I change the subject, she changes it right back to her. She always has to outdo me in everything, and she openly competes with me. She makes little things and problems so much bigger than they actually are, and she embarrasses me in front of other people. She treats me like a child and tells me what to do. She is always so negative.”
Ridley found herself starting to make sarcastic comments back to Vivian, and that made her feel worse. It was at that point that she realized that she must take control of her part in the friendship, and that she needs to stop being so passive. Ridley now sees that being friends with Vivian is harmful to her health, and to her emotional and spiritual well-being. “Talking to Vivian about how she treats me and how it makes me feel hasn’t helped,” says Ridley. “I plan to move back to Virginia where my family is to get away from her.”
Friendships like Vivian and Ridley’s are considered toxic friendships. The toxic friend in the friendship is the person that is eroding the self-esteem and undermining the confidence of the other person by being a bully, a copycat, a one-upper, self-absorbed, negative, or by exercising any of the other toxic friend behaviors.
In his article “Toxic Friends” Tim Shipman identifies several types of toxic friends:
Passive-Aggressive Underminer – uses personal knowledge to subtly undermine the other person
The Naysayer – dismisses the other persons hopes and dreams as unrealistic
The Peer Pressurer – imposes her need for fun over the other person’s best interest
The Plan Breaker – unreliable and ditches plans at the last minute
The SOB Sister – whines all the time zapping the energy of the other person
The Constant Talker – hogs the conversation and demands to be the center of attention
The Drama Queen – elevates every minor setback into a major crisis
In the Vivian-Ridley friendship, Vivian fits several of the toxic-friend types.
In another example of a toxic friendship, Loretta and Pam met when they both worked as registered nurses at the same hospital. At first the friendship was good. Four years into the friendship, Pam started asking Loretta for advice more often than usual. Loretta willingly gave it, but regretted it after she found out that Pam was following her advice but only after soliciting the same advice from other people and then giving the other people the credit for providing it. “It really hurt me that she didn’t think enough of me to follow the advice when I gave it to her, but when someone else gave her the same advice, she followed it and proudly announced that she followed the advice that Jane Doe gave her,” says Loretta. “She never mentioned that I had given her the same advice or that I gave it to her first.” Pam has since moved to another state, and Loretta rarely speaks to her.
A toxic friend isn’t always a bad person. Unless she is told otherwise, she might not even know that her actions are affecting other people negatively. She might think that her actions are acceptable. It is difficult to talk to a toxic friend about the issues that are causing the friendship to sour, but it needs to be done if there is any chance that the friendship can be saved. Most toxic friendships do break up, and the termination of the friendship is better than staying in a friendship that isn’t healthy. If a friendship makes a person feel bad, he or she should put distance in the friendship or get out of it completely. Friendship should be mutual trust, loyalty, caring, support and concern for the other person. If those components are missing, it isn’t a healthy or true friendship.
? Copyright 2007 Patti McMann. All rights reserved.