Are you having doubts about whether a friend is treating you right? Shannon Winterbone looks at how to determine when a friendship’s become toxic and how you can make it better
Starting at university is obviously a brilliant chance to make a lot of new friends, some of whom might even become friends for life! However, not all the people we meet are going to add positively to our lives, and friendships are not always necessarily going to remain healthy. Therefore, it’s important to know how to recognise friends who are toxic, and causing more damage than good.
Firstly, I want to talk about that friend who is the one to always let you down and cancel plans at the last minute. We’ve all been guilty of cancelling on a night out once or twice because we’d rather have sat in bed with some snacks, but when you can predict that someone is going to cancel on you or just not show up without an explanation (yet again), then that person is being a bad friend. If you said you were going to meet for a drink at a certain time and they don’t show up, don’t let yourself be the one waiting by the phone for them to not call; you can’t allow yourself to be continually disappointed by the same toxic person.
The next friend that I want to talk about is the friend who will never let you feel good about yourself. When “I got 64% in my essay!” is answered by “Oh, I got 70%” or “Yeah, but your course is so much easier than mine,” then it’s safe to say that that friend isn’t contributing positively to your feelings. Real friends will let you have that moment to be proud of yourself and celebrate with you.
By responding negatively to your good news, a friend can bring your confidence down and thereby make you feel pressured or trapped into situations. If a friend is always forcing you to do something that you don’t want to do, then you shouldn’t do it. Don’t just go on a night out to a place you don’t even like every week if you don’t enjoy it; tell that friend the truth, and maybe they’ll ask you where you’d like to go instead, you never know! Do what you want to do sometimes, not what your friend always insists you must do.
In addition to pressuring you into uncomfortable situations, some friends could try and force their opinions onto you and make you feel bad for making your own choices. Yes, we need someone to truthfully judge our outfits in the changing rooms but not to judge our personal choices; if your friend doesn’t like your boyfriend/girlfriend, why does it matter? If you’re happy with your choices, then a good friend would be happy too and know when it’s important to raise any concerns they might have. Disliking your partner without good reason, for example, isn’t helping anyone.
Friendship is a two-way thing; no one can let themselves be continually hurt by someone on purpose and still carry on being their ‘friend’. Think about whether someone you’re having problems with is substantially adding to your life; if they’re not, then does that mean they’re taking away from it? Hopefully this will help anyone to spot a toxic relationship and work on making it healthier and happier!