Mend or end? How to deal with a toxic friend

Chinie Diaz
Resentment, which is the natural offshoot of toxic friendships, is like poison

I recently wrote a blog about the 10 Traits of a Toxic Friend and since then I’ve had a lot of people come up to me (online and offline) and tell me about their experiences of toxic friendship.

What was interesting about all of them was that although everyone I spoke to seemed to harbor all these negative feelings – ranging from resentment to outright rage – not one was willing to make a clean break.

That’s understandable. I really do think that it’s harder to break up with a friend than with a love interest. We tend to think of friendships as forever, in a way we don’t always do with romantic relationships. So when friendships come to a sudden end, it can often be much more devastating.

I’ve never had to deliberately break up with a friend myself, but I have had one former BFF break up with my group of friends. I suppose she felt that as a whole, we were just too toxic.

At first I was angry…

 And then I was hurt…

But eventually I got over it. Now that some time has passed, I find that rather than being resentful or hurt, I actually kind of admire her courage to do what most people can’t. And I really do wish her well and hope that she’s happy.

Sad as it may be, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are some friendships we are just better off without.  When a friendship becomes toxic, it has effects on our happiness and self-esteem that can really be destructive.

How do you know if a friendship you have is toxic? You probably already do, deep inside, but here’s a helpful description from Jenn Berman, PhD:

It’s someone who, after spending time with them, makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good; someone who tends to be critical of you — sometimes in a subtle way and sometimes not so subtle; a friend who drains you emotionally, financially, or mentally. – WebMD

Does that sound familiar?  If you’re still not 100% sure, go check the 10 traits I mentioned in my blog.

If you know for a fact that you do have a friendship that brings you down and makes you feel exhausted and resentful, then you need to act on that now, before things get worse.

Resentment, which is the natural offshoot of toxic friendships, is like poison. I read an article the other day on Tiny Buddha that really opened my eyes to its nature:

Mind-blowing. In most cases, when you’re resentful of a toxic friend, you’re really angry at yourself, for allowing yourself to be victimized and not doing anything about it. SO DO SOMETHING.

But what do you do? Mend or end? That is the question.

I like to think that for the most part, toxic friendships can be salvaged, so my first recourse is always to try and mend. As I mentioned in my blog, I’ve always believed that “bad people” are never bad simply for the sake of being bad, or to make others miserable. It’s not like it’s something they plan from childhood or anything.

So when friends are being difficult and bordering on toxic, I try to think about where they’re coming from, and then just TELL them when they’re crossing the line. That usually works. Because when people are being bad friends, a lot of the time it’s because they’re just clueless, and you allow them to get away with it. So speak up. Be honest. Call them out on their unacceptable behavior. suggests a simple 3-step approach to the toxic friend confrontation:

If your friend’s response is negative, or for some reason you can’t even picture yourself going through with this process, then you really need to question whether you’re friends at all.

If you truly feel, even after all efforts to mend a bad friendship, that your life would be a happier and more peaceful place without a particular person in it, then just END. You’re not doing yourself any favors by being a martyr, and you’re not doing your friend any favors by enabling his/her toxic tendencies. Wish them well, but make a clean break and move on. Life’s too short.

Toparaphrase a quote from Karen Salmansohn, “If you can’t change the people around you, then change the people you choose to be around.”

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