Marissa A. Ross
May 31, 2011 10:56 am

Do you have a pal who reminds you more of a possessive boyfriend than a friend? Maybe Snow White’s stepmother or a huge butthead of a boss? I’ve had more than enough experience with these energy-suckers over the last twenty-odd years and if any of those examples are making your heart pump, there is a good chance you are dealing with the BP oil spill of your social life.

Take the friend you have in question, and ask yourself this: “How do they make me feel?”

If it’s anything that strays far from “UH-MAZING”, then your friendship needs some evaluating. Friends should leave you feeling inspired and happy. These are the people who are supposed to put you at ease, help you have fun and deal with the challenges of life. If a friend stresses you out, makes you feel like less of a person or exhausts you, then chances are the relationship is not a healthy one.

It’s sometimes hard to see it when you’re in it, so let me lay out these huge red flags:

Poisonous pals ARE NOT PALS AT ALL, and they often bear these traits:

Consistently Negative

There is always something wrong in this person’s life and there is always something to complain about. When it’s not their car/job/ex boyfriend ruining their life, then they make an effort to point out what they think is wrong in your life. Toxic friends will go out of their way to either boo-hoo or bring down, whether it’s how they’ll never find a job in this economy or reminding you of all the taxes that come with your new raise.

Have No Respect

These “friends” don’t give a hoot about your boundaries, your needs, or anything, for that matter. All they know is what they need from you and that they expect to get it. No is never an acceptable answer, even if you’re only blowing off your day at the beach together to go spend time with your father who has to undergo surgery for cancer. Seems logical to any normal empathetic person, but poisonous pals are not empathetic, they are selfish. If you ever feel that you can’t say no to them, even for a completely valid and fair reason, then it’s time to start planning your escape route.

Your Worst Critic

We’re hard enough on ourselves, we don’t need help from anyone else! Toxic friends get off on that sort of thing. They love scoffing at every out of place hair, putting down your significant other or attacking your latest attempt at a Blue Period. You see, real friends don’t care if your hair is messy. They respect your relationships and– get this– they support your ambitions. Staying in a “friendship” with someone who is constantly making you feel bad about yourself is destructive to every part of your life, even if it’s just having the confidence to get out on the dance floor. But when you have to take that big career risk, don’t you want a friend who’s there saying, “You can do it”?

Have A Tragedy Every Day

Poisonous people turn normal, every day problems into national disasters. There is always a pending crisis in these people’s lives, even if it’s just a roommate forgetting to put their sheets in dryer. Things like hitting red lights all the way home, which is just a part of five o’clock traffic to most of us, can ruin their entire evening. Their negativity spawns from the smallest thing and then spreads from there.

Always A Victim

In your friendship, does everything seem to be your fault, even if it defies all basic logic? Well, toxic friends have a way of never being guilty and never admit to even the smallest of infractions. There is nothing they can do wrong and any problems that they face were obviously caused by someone else. Poisonous people can’t take responsibility for their own actions and manipulate situations and people to pawn the blame on someone else.

If any of these remind you of one of your “friends,” chances are you are suffering from an unhealthy friendship. But on the inside, you probably already knew that. You know when you are being treated badly, it’s just about recognizing these people’s habits that hurt you and having the conviction to stand up for yourself. That’s the hard part, finally finding your voice and putting your foot down. Most of these toxic friends find ways to be controlling, manipulative and downright scary to challenge even when you know you’re in the right.

So, you realize you have to get out of the friendship, but how?

Here are some tips on safely getting out:

Don’t Cut Them Off All Of A Sudden.

This will probably just enrage them which will end up in a huge blow out that will also probably involve them trash talking you from here to Taiwan and making your life a general hell. It will only exacerbate the situation.

Don’t Try To Fix Them.

This is a lost cause that will just leave you exhausted from going in circles. As we already discussed, poisonous people are never at fault. They will find a way to be the victim again and manipulate their way back into control of the relationship. These people will never change until they want to change themselves.

Stick Up For Your Yourself.

This is easy once you start setting boundaries and being honest, which are not easy to put in place if you’ve been Drama Queen’s door mat for years, but it must be done. If your toxic friend invites you out and you want to stay in tonight and read, tell them that. Tell them you’ve set aside this time for your new book, a trip to the gym, a nice relaxing soak in the tub after a hard week and stick to it! You’re allowed to live your life on your accord and any friend will totally remember you had a terrible time dealing with lay offs at the office the past couple days and say “Enjoy yourself!”

Also, let these people know when you are not comfortable with the way they are acting. The more you speak up about how it bothers you that they are saying terrible things about your mutual friend, the derogatory things they say about your family or whatever other negative ways they impact you, the more strength you give yourself.

Spend Less Time With Them

Get busy. Focus more on school, work or making plans with some of your friends that are fun– anything that makes you happy! The more time you spend doing things you enjoy or hanging out with people that make you laugh your butt off, the easier it will be to say no to your toxic friend because you now know how easy it is to be happy and have a good time. The less time you spend with them, the less control they have on you.

Detach Emotionally

Now that you are more than aware of how this person is and you are becoming stronger everyday, the easier it will be to detach yourself from the situation and their negative energy. If you realize these are just unhappy people, the way they put you down or make you feel will not have the power it did before. You will be brave enough to walk away and let go, which is exactly what you need to do.

From there on out, only seek out people that make you feel loved and inspired and all the happiness in the world will be yours! Surround yourself with positivity and life will be positively fabulous!

Marissa A. Ross is a writer, actor, music connoisseur, blogger and an all out enthusiast for leisurely activities. She enjoys wine, gawking at midcentury architecture, and sunbathing. You can catch her all over the internet, but mostly with her main squeeze, Tangents & The Times, and on Twitter.

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