How to Identify and Let Go of Toxic Friends

Updated on July 3, 2020
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok has a Master of Science degree. He enjoys researching topics related to health, relationships, and emotional well-being.

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You've heard the saying, "Show me your friends, and I'll tell you who you are." That is very true. A friend who exhibits negative behavior can reflect poorly on you. He or she can also be toxic to your well being.

Using some examples, I’m going to show you how to identify unhealthy behavior. I’ll also explain how to end the relationship, so you’re no longer affected by their misconduct.

Signs of a Toxic Friend

Do you have a friend who is not a positive influence in your life?

Successful people thrive on having intelligent friends to share knowledge and advance in life.

Friends help one another. They offer useful opinions or guidance when you need it, and you do the same for them.

Then there's that one type of friend who offers no value to you at all:

  1. They waste your time.
  2. You see them throwing their life away.
  3. You find them boring because they have no beneficial interests.
  4. You can't have intelligent conversations because they have no solid education.
  5. You can't count on them for anything because they never are reliable.
  6. Worst of all, they drag you into their shattered life.

A Lifelong Friend Can Become Toxic

What do you do if your friendship began a long time ago, or it's a lifelong friend?

If it was a friend from high school, you were young and didn't have a clear idea of the kind of friends you want in your life—those you can collaborate with on experience as you both grow older.

But then something changed. They went nowhere with their life, and you did. The time comes when you realize that they are interfering with your life, maybe even in a destructive way.

You've got to decide if it's worth keeping such a person in your life. Sometimes you may need to move on and be the mentally healthy person you are.

Toxic people are bad influences and waste your time.
Toxic people are bad influences and waste your time. | Source

What Makes Someone Toxic to Your Well-Being?

Keep an eye out for these problems:

  1. You find that they are becoming high maintenance as you try to guide them.
  2. They don't listen to what you have to say and would instead continue destructive traits.
  3. They feed on drama, lie, cheat, and even do hurtful things.
  4. You watch them get deeper and deeper into stressful situations.
  5. You observe their lies, and they suck you into the middle of them.

I once had a friend who asked me to lie to his wife about his bad behavior that was detrimental to his daughter. You don't want to be put between the lies of a husband and wife. That's not a good feeling. I ended that friendship for that reason.

As you grow older, you might see your friend do hurtful things to others, even to their spouses and children. That friend is clearly not a positive influence in your life. You realize you need a more balanced and healthy life. You find yourself with no desire to be with that person—not even for a social visit.

Pay close attention to how this so-called friend is treating you.

  1. Do they enhance your life? Are they on the same level as you intellectually?
  2. Is your friend stuck in their ways with zillions of emotional issues?
  3. Are they so self-absorbed that they can't even listen to reason?
  4. Do you feel you waste time with them because you don't get anything enlightening out of the friendship?
  5. Do you find that every time you are together, the discussion is always about their problems? Then when you try to help them, they disregard everything you say to help?
  6. Do they seem to be jealous of you, and try to hurt you or lie to your other friends?
  7. Is everything in their life a drama that they attempt to make you part of, or do they try to suck you into their lies?
  8. Do they request that you keep a secret about something terrible they did?

Why would you stay friends with such a person? Go with your gut feeling. You know what's best for your sanity and well-being.

Making a Decision to Part Ways

Now that you recognize you have a friend whose toxic behavior is affecting you, you need to decide what’s essential in your life. If you decide you’re better off having nothing further to do with this person, your next step is to figure out how to end the relationship.

If their attitude is pulling you down, if they put you in an awkward social position, or waste your precious time, then you need to take a second look at your relationship with this person.

Leaving a friend is not easy, especially if you have a long history. However, I realized that life is too precious to stay in touch with someone who blames the world for his self-inflicted problems and continues to make his life worse.

When you see that there is no hope for a healthy friendship, then it's time to say goodbye. Consider it done after you had communicated your feelings. Then don't look back.

Don't be afraid to sit down and write your friend a letter explaining why you can no longer continue the friendship.
Don't be afraid to sit down and write your friend a letter explaining why you can no longer continue the friendship. | Source

How To Get Away From a Toxic Person

This is how I ended it with a toxic friend, That will give you a good idea how to handle it too.

I told him about all the things that were troubling me about his attitude. I was clearly explaining how I felt, but he continued with his unacceptable behavior.

I began distancing myself from him. Our routine social dinners to chat and stay in touch had dwindled since I found no interest in him any longer. However, he wasn’t picking up on the clues.

I decided that the best thing was to write a letter. I put it in writing so he can review it as much as he wants.

I reminded him of all the issues I had with him. I referred to all the things I already had told him face-to-face.

I let him know the reasons for my decision to part ways. I didn't think that he'd understand what I was writing, but I needed to put it in print anyway so he'd have a permanent record of the issues.

There was nothing further to do. I communicated my feelings. My job was done—time to move on.

Do you have a friend like this?

See results

Questions & Answers

  • When someone lies to you constantly, how do you accept it?

    I wouldn’t ever accept it. In my opinion, being untruthful is not acceptable. It’s a sign that he or she does not respect you. I consider that toxic behavior, especially if they are always lying.

    You have to ask yourself, what are they up to? What do they expect to achieve? Are they trying to manipulate you? Do they have a dark past that they don't want to share?

    A compulsive liar is definitely a toxic person, but you have to appreciate when someone simply feels threatened or intimidated. If you're not in a close relationship and ask personal questions, one has the right to not answer. If they are provoked, they may have no choice but to give a "white lie."

    However, truthfulness is crucial in an intimate relationship. People need to be open and honest with their spouse or lover.

© 2012 Glenn Stok

Do You Have A Toxic Friend? If you've ever had a similar situation, feel free to share your experience.

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    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      22 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Chelsea - Sure sounds like someone you would want to stay away from. Why would you want to have someone like that in your life’s? Just ignore her. Don’t give her any ability to have things to say about you to others. Just let her go. If she continues to spread negative rumors about you, your friends will soon recognize the truth.

    • profile image

      Chelsea 

      22 months ago

      Mr/Mrs Glenn, I think I have a toxic friend. Can I ask u a question or 2 wether my friend is a toxic friend. She takes advantage of me and she is always jealous of me and she always talk trash about me to my best friend until they won't be friends with me. Is that a sign that she is fake ?

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      23 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Lauren, Of course I don’t know the full story of the relationship you have, but it sounds to me that he is being loyal to his girlfriend. Sometimes we need to appreciate the other side.

    • profile image

      Lauren 

      23 months ago

      Well Glenn, I think I had a toxic friend.

      I wasn't happy towards the end of the friendship. For a year and a half he wasn't really there for me. He was spending every second with his girlfriend.

      Sure, he supported me, but he wasn't there when I needed him. When I had anxiety he left town. He texted me a lot, but he wasn't there for me in person.

      When I was sick with Pneumonia, the one red flag that bothered me was he never made time for me and he lives on the same street as I do.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Rebecca - Yes indeed. Thanks for stopping by. Good to see you around.

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 

      7 years ago from Canada

      well done, and a good cautionary tale. I admire the ex-wife, smart planning on her part, and it really shows that children learn from what they see and not from what you say!

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      tlpoague,

      This is why we need to consider who we want in our lives. Thanks for your comment and your praise.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Larry,

      As you explained in your comment, there are some people who we really just need to avoid entirely. Thanks for vote and for sharing.

    • tlpoague profile image

      Tammy 

      7 years ago from USA

      It is sad to say, but I know many people like this. I try to keep my distance with them now a days. Great job!

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      Hi Glenn,

      You've written a truly outstanding hub! Without going into the depressing details, I can say that much of what you've written applies to two people I know. For both people, I expressed how I felt--in writing for the first, and by email for the second. It's not possible to avoid the first person entirely, but I've been minimizing contact.

      For the second person, I've decided to screen all of my calls, and to not answer his emails. It was not an easy decision, because he's not as sociopathic as the first person.

      Voted up, awesome, and shared.

    • profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 

      7 years ago from Germany

      It's extremely painful to be in toxic friendships such as you have described, and worse when your family is toxic as DoItForHer mentioned. Distancing or cutting ties from toxic family members is extremely hard, and the psychological impact long-lasting. I still haven't managed to distance myself completely from my toxic family, and my health is still being eroded.

      The most important thing we have is our health, both physical and mental. I have the utmost respect for anyone who has stepped away from toxic relationships.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Denise, yes it was a painfully situation. Especially when the decision has been made to end a friendship with a lifetime friend. But staying away from toxic people is so much more important for our own mental health, no matter how long we know them. Thanks for your comment and thanks for sharing and rating up.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Excellent advice and decisive ways to handle a painful situation. Great work-shared and rated up/U/I

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 

      7 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Useful hub, Glenn for reminding me about such people … I did have a friend like this years ago. I remember feeling utterly drained and washed out after spending a weekend with her.

      Eventually I realised she was draining my energy big time and managed to scale down the contact until it ceased. It helped that I moved house though as I am really not good at ‘telling people like it is’ … I tend to seethe inside instead. Unhealthy, I know.

      Fortunately I am now free of toxic friends … now I just have to make sure I’m not one to my friends :)

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Lifes 2nd Chances, If your daughter is on the right medication, the Bipolar may be able to be controlled. I once dated a Bipolar woman and she never had any toxic tendencies. She actually was a great person. I'm sure your daughter is too. I plan to look for your hub about her. Thanks for the votes.

    • Lifes 2nd Chances profile image

      Colleen Lyon 

      7 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

      Voted up and Interesting. I have a daughter who is Bipolar, and she is also toxic. I love her dearly, but she can be very toxic. I did a hub a while ago about living with a bipolar child, it was good therapy for me. I have been fortunate in my life to have crossed paths with few toxic people. The ones I have, I have not kept in my life for long. I read the book "Toxic People" by Lillian Glass in college and learned a lot from it. I enjoyed your frank first hand account of the topic. Personal hubs always makes me want to read more. Thanks for sharing, Take care, C.

    • securityproducts3 profile image

      securityproducts3 

      7 years ago

      Glenn, you know I never really realized that some of my friends ever were, "toxic" until reading this Hub. I just don't know if I have it inside to completely let go to our friendship just yet, but I will do my best to distance myself.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Jim, Being promiscuous and spending money carelessly may sometimes be symptoms of bipolar, but there are many phases to the bipolar spectrum. I once dated a bipolar woman and she did not have those issues that you mentioned. She was one of the best people I've ever known. Thanks for the vote up.

    • Jlbowden profile image

      James Bowden 

      7 years ago from Long Island, New York

      HI Glenn:

      I figured I'd just bring this up because I knew my friend for less than 5 yr.s and he had anger problems, and was promisicous and spent money carelessly, going on endless spending sprees. These are sometimes classic symptoms of an individual displaying Manic, or Bipolar episodes. If you read the DSM Manual on Mental Health disorders, it lists some of these things. Not trying to play Psychiatrist or anything like that, but when I suggested to my friend to see a specialist of this type, he finally took my advice and the doctor had initially diagnosed him with bipolar disorder. Sometimes problems like that are hard to differentiate from other issues. Never the less I really enjoyed your article and voted up!

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      lovedoctor926,

      You made a good point about abusing your kindness for weakness. That’s why I feel it’s important to start off informing the toxic friend about how his or her actions are affecting you. Then there comes a time when you pull the plug and end it. At least they know why at that point, or should know. There is nothing one can do about the friend being in denial or becoming defensive. My friend didn’t like to hear the truth either.

      Thanks for your enlightening comment, which added well as an example of this type of toxic behavior.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 

      7 years ago

      This is awesome information! Thank you for sharing your story. I agree with your points here.

      I've had some toxic so-called friends as well. They start off very nice until they get to know you and start abusing your kindness for weakness. I can relate to the points you've made in your article. Toxic people are emotional vampires and they can sure drain you if you let them. I am not a confrontational person, but like you, if I don't like the way a person is treating me, I will address it directly. The problem with most of the controlling people that I have encountered is that they become very defensive, upset because they don't like to hear the truth, but there is no way on earth that I am going to sit there and put up with someone constantly putting me down and not even apologizing. A good friendship involves communication and mutual trust and communication is a two-way street. If you can not be honest with one another, then that person is really not your friend. People will use you and abuse you for the sake of themselves. It has happened to me a number of times, but you live and learn.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      7 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      This is great information. I have had some toxic friends but not to the extent of your friend. It seems that they just naturally disappeared out of my life as time went home.

      Thanks for sharing. This will be helpful to a lot of people.

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