Read this expert advice and take a quiz to determine if your friendship is healthy or toxic.

Morgan Noll
Jul 13, 2021 @ 4:29 pm
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friend or frenemy
Credit: Getty Images

Friendships, like any relationship, can be hard work. When you're close to someone, you experience life's many highs and lows alongside them, which inevitably will include heightened emotions, arguments, and some rough patches in the relationship along the way. However, at the end of the day, a good friendship should still feel, well, good. Even though every friendship will have some moments of difficulty, it's important to notice the difference between some bumps in the road and a friendship that is more toxic than it is healthy.

As Lisa Siclari, a licensed mental health counselor at Humantold tells HelloGiggles, healthy friendships aren't just good to have, they're necessary. "Healthy friendships are critical to our development as individuals as well as our survival as human beings," Siclari says, adding that "it is vital to surround ourselves with supportive people to share life's ups and downs." A toxic friendship, on the other hand, can hold us back and keep us from accessing the emotional support we need and deserve.

Though the differences between a healthy friendship and a toxic one are like night and day, Siclari says it's common to miss the signs when you're inside the relationship. So, keep reading for signs that your friend is actually your frenemy and take the quiz to find out if your friendship is solid and healthy, or if you might need to move on.

Signs of a toxic friendship:

1. You're constantly fighting or running into conflict.

This may seem like an obvious signifier of a toxic friendship, but there's a difference between healthy and unhealthy arguments. "When we are in a healthy friendship, we can have disagreements, differences of opinions, and opposing views and values and not feel attacked or judged or stupid," Siclari says. In a toxic friendship, arguments will feel much more personal, malicious, and unproductive.

2. You don't feel excited to see them.

Alyssa Mairanz, a licensed mental health counselor at Empower your Mind Therapy, says another sign that you're in a toxic friendship is if you feel dread when you get a message from them or have plans to see them. This could indicate that the friendship is stifling you more than it is serving you.

3. They tell your secrets to others.

Trust is an important part of a healthy friendship, and a friend who tells others things that you've told them in confidence is violating that trust. Mairanz also says to look out for friends who are "constantly telling you 'secrets' about other people," as this can be a sign that they are doing the same with the personal things you've shared with them. In a healthy friendship, you should feel comfortable sharing vulnerable information and knowing that your friend will meet you with compassion and respect for the sensitivity of whatever you shared.

"Do you feel like judgment is being placed upon you when you open up about your feelings or something going on in your life?" Siclari says. "If you can't rely on a friend to keep something between you and not criticize you, then these are examples of an unhealthy relationship that lacks essential trust."

4. They don't celebrate your successes.

As Siclari explains, "an unhealthy friendship consists of someone who doesn't want to see you do better than them." This might look like them failing to celebrate you for your successes or acting dismissive of your achievements. "[In a toxic friendship], you constantly feel like there is a lot of envy surrounding your relationship and that you can't share your achievements, successes, or other aspects of your life," Siclari says.

5. They don't reciprocate emotional support.

A healthy relationship consists of a "good give-and-take balance," Siclari says. You should feel like your friend can come to you when they need emotional support and that you can go to them when you need it just the same. In a toxic friendship, you will feel like you're giving much more than you're getting in return.

6. There's an imbalanced power dynamic.

The give-and-take balance doesn't only apply to emotional needs, but various aspects of how your friendship operates and the roles you play. Ask yourself this, Siclari says: "Are you friends with someone who constantly speaks over you or always makes decisions without asking you? Does the person constantly ask you to do favors but they do not offer or show up when you need them?" If yes, then the friendship lacks equality.

7. They don't make time for you.

For many of us, busy lives are the norm, and it can be hard to fit in time to see friends amidst everything else. However, as Siclari explains, friendships are about quality over quantity. "We may not be able to see our friends every day like we used to, but a healthy friendship is one where both parties try to make an effort for one another," she says. "Whether it be for a quick phone call or text to check in weekly or something as simple as an afternoon walk or errands together, healthy friends make the time for one another in their busy lives."

8. They always try to one-up you.

In addition to being dismissive of your accomplishments, toxic friends will often try to compete with your success. Instead of showing support for you, they will try to bring attention back to themselves and one-up you. "Jealousy and low self-esteem play a large part in a person's competitiveness and are unhealthy characteristics in a friendship," Siclari explains, adding that "it is crucial to maintain friendships with those who want to see you do well and hold you up with pride."

9. They don't respect your boundaries.

Boundaries are an important part of a healthy friendship and they should be treated with respect. If your friend constantly pushes boundaries that you've set or pressures you into doing things you don't want to do—such as pushing you to drink when you don't want to—"these are all signs that a friendship is lacking a basic level of respect," Siclari says.

10. They get jealous of other people in your life.

In healthy relationships, you should be able to have several friends in your life without it posing a threat to your other friendships. In a toxic friendship, however, that friend might make negative comments about other people in your life and act like they don't want you to spend time with anyone but them. These examples of jealous and possessive behavior are a characteristic of a toxic relationship, Siclari says.

11. You feel bad about yourself after seeing them.

As Mairanz explains, "a healthy friendship should make you feel confident, loved, overall good about yourself, grateful for the friendship, and appreciated by the other person." Conversely, after spending time with a toxic friend, "you'll leave them feeling exhausted, bad about yourself, or angry more times than not," Siclari says. "If you know that you were a happier person before you were around them, then you are in an unhealthy friendship."

How to know if you should repair or abandon the friendship:

Friendship breakups can be extremely painful and it can be hard to know when to call it quits even when things get bad. Mairanz asserts how important it is to just listen to your gut. "As adults, we get to decide who we want to give our energy to, and often, if we tap into what we are feeling, we know what we want to do," she says. "A good way to determine whether or not it's best to move on is to: evaluate what you can do more effectively in the friendship to make it a healthier and supportive relationship, communicate your needs, and then see how they react." If the friend is open to hearing your feedback and respond well, then it may be worth working to repair the relationship. However, "if they respond defensively and don't acknowledge their part in things, it is likely better to move on as they are not capable of giving you what you need and deserve," Mairanz says.

If you're interested in trying to mend the relationship but aren't quite sure how to do it on your own, it might be worth considering friendship therapy. No matter what you decide, just remember that you deserve to surround yourself with people who love and support you.