An illustration of two women, one green, for an article on toxic best friends.

How To Know When It’s Time To Dump Your Toxic Best Friend

It's hard to know when to let go of a friendship that isn't working out. These questions will help you know if it's time to say goodbye.
December 6, 2020
9 mins read

During one of the most uncertain, chaotic years most of us will ever experience, it is crucial to have a reliable support system. Confiding in trustworthy companions is important for stress relief and regulating mental health. Most of us have been dealing with unexpected problems over the past few months — adjusting to life during a pandemic, switching to online classes and trying to survive financially. Suffering through the mental and emotional abuse that accompanies a toxic best friend is the last thing anyone needs when trying to make it through a difficult year.

Though a lot of friendships start out with laughter and fun adventures, the relationship can fall apart slowly over time or take a turn for the worse after an argument. No matter the situation, identifying a toxic best friend is the first step toward ending the relationship and restoring your peace of mind. If you’re wondering if it’s time to ditch your toxic best friend, here are five questions you can ask yourself.

1. How do I feel when I am around them?

If you dread hanging out with them, or it starts to feel more like an obligatory chore, this could be a sign that the friendship has reached its end. If it’s hard to establish boundaries, or they make you feel guilty for “abandoning” them, this is an indication that their fear of loneliness is more important to them than your time.

Further, examine how they treat you. Toxic best friends might make you the target of a mean-spirited joke disguised as humor and write you off as being too sensitive or overdramatic if you’re offended. Friendships can have their ups and downs, but abusive behavior that becomes a pattern is a toxic environment that can be detrimental to your mental health. If you often feel inferior, upset or angry when you’re with them, this could be a sign that the friendship has turned into a negative relationship.

2. Do they share the same values as me?

Think about the things you and your friend have in common. While not everyone will share the same political beliefs, musical taste or sense of humor, having these things in common usually makes friendships run smoother.

Certain preferences (like favorite foods or movies) can be overlooked, or a compromise can be made, but differing views on issues like racism or human rights are hard to move beyond. If you find yourself pretending to like an activity or laughing along with offensive jokes just to maintain the friendship, this could be a signal that the chemistry is off.

Being able to discuss controversial viewpoints in a courteous manner is key to a healthy friendship. If your friend gets annoyed or behaves rudely while exchanging opinions, especially if those opinions are important to you, it’s probably an indication that the friendship is ready to be dumped.

3. Can I be honest with them?

Open communication and honesty are imperative for a good friendship. In any relationship, both parties should feel comfortable letting the other know if they feel hurt or neglected without fear of retaliation. If you shy away from bringing any abusive behavior to their attention, you should reconsider whether they’re really a friend worth keeping.

It is equally important in an honest friendship that both individuals can share stories without being judged or wondering if their confession will be told to others. After all, if you can’t trust your best friend, who can you trust?

If you find out your friend has talked about you behind your back, even if you don’t want to believe it, take it as a sign that you need to reexamine your friendship. Decide if this, among other things, would make it a toxic relationship.

4. Is our friendship reciprocal?

If your friendship is one-sided and you find yourself giving them more than what you’re getting out, it might be time to go your separate ways. This disparity takes many forms. One example of an inequitable friendship is if they monopolize the conversation but never stick around to listen to the problems that you want to talk about.

Another example of this is if you find yourself always doing the things they want to do without your preferences being taken into consideration. This type of relationship can be emotionally, financially and physically draining. Settling for a one-sided friendship simply isn’t worth the investment.

To see if this is really the case, try changing the narrative. Let them know how you feel, or suggest an activity that you’d like to do instead. If doing this changes the way they act toward you, it might be a good indication of whether they are a true friend or not.

5. Do they support and encourage me?

If you find that your friend acts enviously toward you or makes snide remarks meant to bring you down when you’re happy, it might be time to end the friendship. Toxic people like to feel superior to others by ensuring that they always have the nicer things and better opportunities. If your friend isn’t happy for you when you get a promotion or secure your dream car, it’s time to find someone who eagerly wants to celebrate with you.

Being excited about your friends and their accomplishments is one of the best parts of having these connections in your life. A toxic best friend who feels insecure about their own status or possessions might unknowingly take their resentment out on you. If your friendship ever feels like a competition, I would suggest reevaluating why you are friends in the first place.

After asking yourself these questions, it should be pretty clear whether you’re putting up with a person that isn’t worthy of another second of your time. Now the better question is, how do you go about “breaking up” with your toxic best friend?

Moving on from a friendship you’ve had for months or years can be a dramatic and awkward change to initiate. Limiting the interaction with your toxic friend is one possible solution. Suggest taking time apart or hanging out virtually instead of in-person. If these boundaries are too difficult for your friend to accept, it might be best to cut off the friendship completely. This doesn’t have to be a knock-down-drag-out fight; instead, it can be an amicable parting of ways, if the other person is willing.

You should never feel obligated to stay friends with someone. A part of growing up is taking the good memories you have with a person and moving on to something better. Toxic best friends might make you feel guilty for leaving them high and dry, but doing what’s best for your mental health should always take priority. Wasting more time in a dead-end friendship takes away from other opportunities to meet people, catch up on schoolwork and plan for the future. Do yourself a favor and get out sooner rather than later.

Personally, I wish I had a guide like this to look over during my last toxic friendship. Despite the obvious red flags, I found myself constantly defending my friend to others who were concerned about me. It finally took one small yet significant push for me to tell her that we could no longer be friends. Since then, I’ve learned that prioritizing my time and self-worth is better than staying friends with a toxic person out of sheer loyalty.

Ending friendships can be just as emotionally traumatizing as getting out of a bad relationship. Therapy could be a viable option for those who are having a hard time leaving a toxic best friend.

Journaling my feelings has been a helpful outlet for those days when I miss the intimate memories and jokes we shared, or for the times when I get angry over the ways I was manipulated. Finding a productive channel for releasing these emotions is an essential step for moving on.

Being subjected to the mistreatment of a toxic best friend might have been acceptable in high school when popularity meant everything, but those days are long gone. As you enter adulthood and learn to establish healthy relationships, cutting off old friendships that stress you out or no longer add value to your life is a necessary part of growing up. Despite starting the new year with as many troubles as we ended with, one thing is for sure: Toxic friendships should be left in 2020.

Danielle Kuzel, Florida State University

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Danielle Kuzel

Florida State University

Psychology major at Florida State University who loves writing, thrift shopping, family and her cat. Hoping to make a difference through writing, advocating and standing up for issues that are important.

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