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How to Identify and Let Go of Toxic Friends

I study emotional responses in relationships and write about them to help others improve their well-being and self-awareness.


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.

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.
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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 find yourself with no desire to be with that person—not even for a social visit. You realize you need a more balanced and healthy life.1

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 request that you keep a secret about something terrible they did?
  7. Do they seem to be jealous of you, and try to hurt you or lie to your other friends?
  8. 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?

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.

How Do You Judge a Friend Who Lies Constantly?

In my opinion, being untruthful is not acceptable. It's a sign that they don't respect your integrity. I consider a compulsive liar a toxic person with that behavior.

You have to wonder what they are up to with those lies. What do they expect to achieve? Are they trying to manipulate you?

On the other hand, you have to appreciate when someone merely feels threatened or intimidated by questions.

For example, if you're not in a close relationship and ask personal questions, one has the right not to answer. And if they are provoked, they may have no choice but to give a "white lie." So that needs to be considered and does not imply toxic behavior by itself.

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

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.2

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.

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.


  1. Z. Hereford. (Retrieved October 15, 2021). “5 Tips For Living a Well-Balanced Life” -
  2. Cyrus Wahome. (August 25, 2021). “How to Break Up With a Toxic Friend” - WebMD

© 2012 Glenn Stok

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