5 Signs You Are In a Toxic Relationship

Jun 9, 2021

American Historian Tara Westover said, “At some point, you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.”  It might sound harsh, but you do not have to hold onto a toxic relationship or friendship that you have outgrown.

Humans are social by nature and we need friendship and support as we venture through life. While it is normal to want to form long-term friendships, the reality is that you are under no obligation to remain friends with someone who is toxic, holds you back from personal growth, or that you simply do not have common interests with you any longer.

People remain loyal to outgrown relationships for a variety of reasons. Maybe you fear that you might not make new friends or you feel guilty about ending a long-standing friendship. However, sometimes the best thing to do is reevaluate your relationships, and possibly even end a friendship, in order to make room for the right people in your life who will support you on your journey.

This article is an excerpt from an episode I did on the Passion Struck™ podcast in June 2021.

5 Signs Of a Toxic Relationship

There are many signs that you are growing away from a friend, or that your friendship doesn’t make sense the way it used to. These signs are all subjective, and it really depends on the situation to determine where you personally draw the line.

1. You’re Both Always Too Busy

Every time one of you tries to make plans it seems like you are both too busy. Consider these two factors: temporary vs permanent and scheduling vs lack of interest. If one of you is going through a big life change and creating a temporary inability to stay in touch or has a dramatic change in schedules, such as a new position with long hours and a crazy commute, you may need to ease up on your expectations for a bit. However, if these changes are going to permanently keep you from connecting or you just cannot muster up enough interest in the friendship to make time for one another, it might be best to move on.

2. You Criticize Them

Maybe you find that you judge or criticize this person a lot, even if it is only in your head. Maybe you don’t agree with their lifestyle or political views or lack of maturity on social media or some other trait or behavior. Whatever the reason may be, you don’t respect this person as a true friend anymore

3. You Never Have Anything of Value to Talk About

You had a lot in common when you were kids/in college/working together, but you don’t have anything in common anymore. Your friendship made sense back then, but now you get together and you just don’t have anything interesting to talk about.

4. You Cannot Recover from a Disagreement

The two of you have had a fight and you can’t move past it. Ironically, if you can have a disagreement, work through it and move on, you may actually end up building a deeper understanding of one another and strengthen your relationship. However, if you have had a severe disagreement that you cannot move past, it is likely a sign that you have outgrown the friendship.

5. You Wish You Had New Friends

Maybe you have been feeling lacking in socialization in general or you just want to have someone new to exchange ideas with. If you are wishing that you had new friends, you may have outgrown some of your current relationships.

Picture of a Girl in a toxic relationship

What to Do When Your Friendship Isn’t Working

Oftentimes, simply adjusting some of the parameters of the relationship can salvage – and even improve – your friendship.

Change Your Level of Commitment

Have you ever had a friend who is fun to be around but leaves you feeling drained after you meet up? It is possible to enjoy someone’s company but still want to limit the amount of time you spend together. Not everyone has to be your best friend, and there is nothing wrong with being more selective about who you maintain as your closest friends and who you take a step back from and keep more distance.

Recategorize Friendships

We usually don’t stop to contemplate or put labels on the different types of friendships we have, but most people do categorize their friends to some level. Although you might not currently be close with all these people, most people have maintained a connection with people from grade school, college, past jobs and internships, sports or social groups, and more.

If you feel like you are outgrowing a relationship, it might be time to move that friendship into another category. It can be very beneficial to have different groups of friends for different parts of your life. You may love to go golf or grab a cup of coffee with a friend from work to discuss your entrepreneurial goals and ideas, but you cannot imagine taking a vacation together. Conversely, you and your childhood best friend join in on an annual family camping trip, but you are on very different career paths and don’t discuss work at all.

If you don’t feel supported or understood, it might be time to recategorize some of your friendships.

Make Room for Someone New If You Believe They Cause a Toxic Relationship

Sometimes it takes more than just spending less time together or recategorizing your friendship. It might be time to end a friendship and make room for new relationships to form. It can sound harsh, but some people just are not meant to stay in your life.

If a friend is toxic to be around, if they bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself, or if the person is constantly negative or gossips about others, you can let them know that you are not interested in those kinds of conversations. If the relationship continues to feel toxic, then it might be time to end the friendship altogether and start making room for new friends to come into your life.

Think about it this way, if you are caught up in negativity and drama and surrounded by toxic people, you will continue to make friends with these same traits. Positive, optimistic people will not be drawn into your social circle and may outright avoid you if those are the types of friends you surround yourself with. When friendships become toxic, you may be forced to cut ties in order to make room to build friendships with the type of people you want to be around. Just because a relationship was once successful does not mean that you need to stay in that place to stay in that friendship forever.

Focus on Yourself

When a tough relationship is stressing you out, or when a conversation turned sour and left you feeling hurt, you might consider setting some time aside to work on yourself and shift your focus back to you. Dr. Rosemary Sword is a Hawaiian native psychologist who specializes in PTSD. She incorporates a traditional Hawaiian practice of forgiveness, called ho’oponopono (literal translation “to make right”) into her psychological work.

She recommends finding alternative sources of inner peace and wholeness when you are moving away from a toxic relationship, especially if the toxic person was a close friend, spouse, or family member. She recommends revisiting a project or passion, learning yoga or meditation, or finding a new fun activity to do with another friend.

The Toxic Relationship That Doesn’t Value You is Blocking You From the One Who Will

It is normal to outgrow friendships as we journey through life. If you feel that a relationship is no longer productive in your life, you may be able to adjust the framework of your friendship to work it work for you.

You might reconsider the amount of time you devote to the relationship or change the way you spend time together. If that doesn’t work, it might be time to let the relationship go in order to make room for more productive or positive relationships to form.

There is no winning in a toxic relationship!

You need to ask yourself how much you are willing to lose for the change you are hoping for?

Unfortunately for many, that day may never come!!

For more inspiring podcast content like this, visit Passion Struck.

References

  1. Toxic Friendship: 24 Signs, Effects, and Tips (healthline.com)
  2. Toxic Friendships | Psychology Today
  3. Toxic Relationships | Psychology Today

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