Some friendships are healthy, others are toxic. Sometimes we hang out with someone out of habit or simply because we fail to see their true face. That’s why you need to be aware of friendship red flags to make sure you don’t waste your time on the wrong people.
There are countless articles about toxic relationships, being married to a manipulator, and dating a narcissist. However, being friends with a toxic person is no less dangerous than being in a romantic union with them.
Some people can fool you for years until you realize they haven’t been your true friend all this time. So, how to avoid falling victim to toxic friendships? Read through the list below.
12 Friendship Red Flags to Pay Attention to
Some people think that the very fact that they are friends with you gives them the right to belittle you or make humiliating jokes. They often pass off such behaviors as ‘having fun’. If you call them out, they say something like,
Come on, it’s just a joke!
Don’t get fooled–the truth is that your friend doesn’t respect you.
Some people love having someone around just to make fun of them–this helps them feel better about themselves. It’s understandable when a troubled teen behaves this way, but it’s totally unacceptable for an adult.
Whether your friend is disrespectful only toward you or everyone else, they are not the right person to hang out with.
2. Emotional invalidation
Invalidating your feelings is another major red flag in a friendship. Every time you tell your friend about your worries and problems, they don’t take it seriously or even laugh at you. They may get a patronizing look and give you a lecture on how insignificant your problem is.
Time after time, you feel stupid and small after talking to your friend, so most likely, you end up not telling them anything at all. This is not a healthy situation.
Okay, even if you exaggerate your anxieties a little bit, a genuine friend will listen and try to understand how you feel. If someone always disregards your feelings and gives you zero emotional support, you should seriously reconsider this friendship.
3. Lack of interest
In our narcissistic digital age, some people seem to forget that real life is not social media. Such people need followers, not friends. They are totally uninterested in those around them–they just need someone to share their own news and concerns with.
If you have such a friend, then they probably want to see you only when they need something, be it a particular favor or just emotional support. They talk about themselves most of the time and barely listen when you speak.
This is a key red flag when it comes to friendships. You don’t need a friend who only sees you as their loyal fan, a listening ear, or someone who is always there for help. Such friends simply don’t care about you.
4. Always in need
There are people who chronically get in trouble. One day they lose their job, the other day their car is broken, then they start a relationship with a toxic person who messes up their whole life.
They are always the victim of circumstances/other people and they always need your help. Yes, it’s understandable if you feel sorry for your friend and obliged to be there for them.
But is this friendship balanced? Do they do the same for you when you face hardships? If they don’t, then this friendship is more like being a parent of a troubled teen and sorting out their mess. It’s not healthy, and it doesn’t do you any good.
5. Competitiveness and jealousy
Real friends are supposed to be supportive and accepting. Sadly, it’s not always the case.
What if your friend gets competitive when you achieve something or just talk about your past accomplishments? Do they immediately shift the focus of the conversation onto themselves and tell you how much they’ve achieved, too?
Being around jealous people can be dangerous. They drain your energy and kill your self-esteem, making you feel like your achievements are worthless.
Unhealthy competitiveness and envy are among those friendship red flags that you should never ignore. The only thing such people do is poison you with self-doubt.
As we said above, some people just don’t care about those around them. They may use them for their own advantage or just hang out with someone out of habit. In either case, there is no genuine interest.
Are you the only one who gets in touch? Your friend barely ever calls you or sends you a message. And of course, they never suggest doing something together. If you don’t contact them first or invite them, then they may disappear from your life for months.
This is not a real friendship–it’s one-sided, and it’s probably dying. Remember that any kind of connection with another person should be based on reciprocated feelings. If you are the only one who shows any interest at all, then you are wasting your time.
7. Friendship of convenience
Being exploited is probably among the most telling red flags in friendships. Realizing that you are just a friend of convenience to someone can be painful. But the sooner you see the truth, the faster you will end this toxic connection, which is not a friendship at all.
Does your friend pop up only when they need a favor? Do they often borrow money from you or come for help? Are they non-existent when you are in trouble?
All these are signs that your friend is simply using you. Your presence in their life is based on convenience, not genuine interest. You’d better stay away from people who seek to exploit you.
8. Speaking ill about everyone else in your life
Okay, some people happen to be negative and bitter. Some may not like other people, so they have nothing nice to say about anyone.
But you should really start worrying when your friend is trying to turn you against everyone else in your life. This may be a sneaky manipulation tactic that aims to isolate you from your support system.
Does your friend always speak ill about everyone, from your spouse to your parents? Does s/he always criticize everything they do, trying to convince you that there are shady motives behind their actions?
The truth may be quite the opposite: it’s your friend who has shady motives. The best way to deal with manipulative people is to stay away from them.
9. Not being happy for you
We expect our friends to share both our happiness and unhappiness with us. Isn’t it what friendships are supposed to be for? So, what happens when your friend is never happy for you?
Whether you fell in love or got a promotion at work, they get bitter. They may try to put a fly in the ointment and spoil your happiness. That guy you are dating seems suspicious, so don’t be overly enthusiastic. That promotion is just a way for your boss to get closer to you.
Whenever you share your joy with your friend, you go from feeling happy to feeling down and doubting yourself. Such people have a remarkable ability to ruin everyone’s happiness. The truth is that it’s their own unhappiness that leaves them unable to share others’ joy.
10. Violating your boundaries
As described above, some people believe that being someone’s friend gives them the right to get disrespectful. Violating one’s boundaries is a form of disrespect too, especially when someone does it on a regular basis.
Do you have a friend who thinks it’s okay to show up at your door unannounced late at night? Or bring random people to your birthday party? Or meddle in your relationship with your partner?
All these are examples of overstepping boundaries, and you should never tolerate this behavior. This is a huge red flag for any type of relationship, be it a romantic, family, or friendly one.
If you catch your friend acting fake around someone else, it’s a good reason to question whether they are being honest with you.
There is a simple and universal rule many of us neglect: the way someone treats others is most likely the way they treat you, too. Be it gossiping, not saying what they mean, faking their feelings, or taking advantage of others, this is their way of handling those around them, and you are no exception.
Therefore, if you have a friend who gives someone a wide smile just to tell you later how much they hate this person, beware.
Fake people have an amazing ability to make you feel like you are their most valuable friend. That you are the only person they can share their secrets with, and that’s why they often gossip and criticize others.
The truth is that when you are not around, they gossip about you, too. Don’t fool yourself–you can’t trust fake people, so you’d better stay away from them.
12. Not considering your opinion
Finally, another friendship red flag is when someone repeatedly dismisses your opinion as unimportant. We all want to feel heard and seen, especially within our friend circle.
So, if you have a friend who doesn’t consider your words at all, you should think hard whether this person is indeed your friend.
They may believe that they know better what’s best for you, so they impose their opinions on you. They act like a controlling parent and get patronizing, telling you what to wear and who to date.
Such people leave you feeling worthless and invisible, so do you really need such ‘friends’?
If some of the above friendship red flags ring the bell, it’s a good idea to reconsider your circle. After all, the point is to be surrounded by supportive and loyal friends and cultivate healthy connections with other people.
If you ever find yourself hanging out with the wrong person, you’d better distance yourself from them before you end up feeling used and disappointed in people.