Having good friends is an important piece of the lifestyle puzzle. For some of us, our friends are closer to us than our family members, and we share much of our life’s up and downs with them.
Not all “friends” are the same, however. Every once in a while you come across an individual who seems benign in the beginning but eventually reveals himself to be a devil in disguise. (Or just, you know, isn’t a great fit for you.) Here are some of the signs that you’re keeping bunk company.
1. They’re Talking Smack Behind Your Back
Gutter-dwelling gossip was par for the course in high school, but now that you’re a real-life adult it shouldn’t have any place in your life. “Frenemies” might sound fun in theory — the people on TV are having a great time stabbing each other in the back between air kisses, after all — but it’s an immature status to put on your relationships. If you suspect that a friend is tarnishing your good name, confront them. Maybe it’s a misunderstanding you both can get past. If it’s not a case of miscommunication but rather one of Mean Girl/Boy-itis, accept the situation for what it is and kick Regina George to the curb.
2. They Don’t Invite You to Do Anything
I’m speaking from experience on this one, and it became such a chronic situation with several people when I’d invite them to parties, events, and on dates with no reciprocation that I had to do major friend housekeeping (and a bit of soul-searching) a few years ago to remedy it.
My “Aha!” moment stemmed from an annual holiday party I used to host at my home in Manhattan. I’d invite everyone — friends, colleagues, acquaintances — and we’d have a blast drinking, eating, and laughing all night long. While I didn’t mind not hearing much from colleagues and acquaintances frequently (we weren’t “friends,” so I couldn’t expect much), I did expect some level of return friendship from those who I thought were, well, my friends.
Outside of the holiday party, I’d invite them over for game and movie nights, we’d go out to brunch or a movie, and I’d lend a hand when needed. Yet, I was rarely-to-never invited to the things they were doing that they proudly posted all over social media. Of course my feelings were hurt, and the pain evolved into anger. They didn’t mind drinking my booze and eating my food and using my free movie coupons, but I wasn’t good enough to think about otherwise. Thus, I had to make a conscious decision to cut those people out of my life if only to stop feeling sorry for myself. Yeah, it sucked, but I’m much more content with the quality of people I have in my life now opposed to the quantity I had back then.
3. They’re Not There for You When You Need Them
Friends not inviting you to do things is a red flag for sure, but friends not being there for you when you need them most is a three-alarm fire that needs to be extinguished immediately.
“Having close friends is not just about having fun together but also supporting each other when times are tough,” says John Boese, founder of friend-making social media site GoFindFriends. “Great relationships involve both friends supporting each other in times of need. If the relationship feels one-sided, look for someone who wants to build a real relationship that will last through good times and bad.”
The rough times are the ones where you’ll find out who your true friends are, as they say. If you wanted a particular presence and that person purposefully wasn’t around, bury that broken friendship with whatever tragedy you just went through. Time to move on.
4. They Don’t Respect Agreements or Boundaries
It may seem like an innocent oversight when a friend borrows something of yours and “forgets” to return it, but if it’s a consistent problem, the issue should be addressed. Same goes for crossed boundaries. Did your friend push too far without so much as an apology? Nip that problem in the bud, too.
“During any kind of relationship, boundaries become established by both parties communicating what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior,” says Ilianna Luna, licensed marriage and family therapist. “A friend will know your likes and dislikes, and if he or she hurts you by doing something you don’t like — and does nothing to make amends — it’s time to speak up and let him or her know you don’t want that kind of friendship.”
5. They’re Emotionally Draining
Ever had a friend that you started to avoid because every time you’re with that person the conversation is so emotionally draining that you wish God would invent a whiskey swimming pool?
Rest assured, we all have one of those. Dr. Ben Michaelis, a clinical psychologist and author of the book Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy, offers advice.
“None of us wants to see friends and family as having a negative influence on our lives, but if they are holding us back from being truly happy and fulfilled, we need to take a hard look at the role they play,” he says. “Be honest with yourself and take a look at the relationships that may not be right for you, or which you may have outgrown. You can’t force or expect your friends and family to change, but you can make choices about who you choose to let into your life.”
6. They’re Overly Critical of You
There’s an old saying that implies that we’re our own worst critics (I know I am) — so why the heck would we want somebody else judging us? Nerp. Turn that harsh bus around, anti-friend.
“An occasional constructive comment is fine, but friends who constantly make you feel bad about yourself are not worth your time,” Boese says. “If they often criticize you for how you act, look, or how you choose to live your life, then it’s probably best to find someone who is more supportive.”
7. They’re Jealous of Your Life
You think you’ve made a great new friend, but before you know it she’s living in your house, breastfeeding your newborn baby, putting the moves on your husband, framing your handyman, and plotting the murder of your bestie in the greenhouse. Okay, so that’s the plot of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, but if you’re not careful the same scenario could totally happen to you.
If you suspect that there’s an unhealthy jealousy between you and a friend, it’s time to back away from that friendship. There’s very little you can do to make that person not jealous (notwithstanding the fact that it’s totally creeper to be jealous of a friend in the first place, of course), and it could get ugly down the line. You don’t want to have to push the weirdo off the roof, do you? Back away from the friendship slowly and say so long.
8. They Have a “Me-Me-Me” Attitude
“Some people seem to make everything about themselves,” Boese says. “Your conversations always end up focusing on them and you may even struggle to get a word in while they’re speaking. This can lead to an unequal relationship where you’re getting out of it much less than you’re putting in. It’s best to find someone who understands the give-and-take of building a strong, lasting relationship.”
Alas, Luna offers a more congenial way of handling people with SPD or Selfish Personality Disorder (not a realdisorder, but it is).
“When one friend constantly takes from the relationship but gives nothing back, it becomes a breeding ground for resentment and backstabbing,” she says. “In all fairness, you should let the person know they have hijacked the friendship and give them a chance to change. They may not know they are doing it. If you bring it up in a non-threatening way and the friend continues disregarding your thoughts and feelings, it’s time to end it.”
9. They’re a Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
One the best things about being a self-sufficient adult in my 30s is that I don’t have to lie to any of my friends (or anyone else, for that matter). I’m not responsible for anyone, I’m not accountable to anyone, and I generally live my life as a grown-up dude who doesn’t care what anybody thinks about what I say or do — because I alone pay my bills. In summary, I won’t blow smoke up your bum, because it’s absolutely unnecessary.
It’s also unnecessary for you to accept lies from your friends. It’s a juvenile practice common among kids (hopefully that will put things into perspective), or those who have something to hide. While I don’t expect that you’re hanging out with nine-year-olds, if you happen to have somebody in your life who’s lying to you, I suggest getting to the root of the problem right away. Perhaps there’s a good reason (embarrassment is an acceptable reason for someone to lie in my book; I can at least understand that point of view) for which you can forgive them. Just don’t let your guard down completely and forgive willy-nilly.
10. They Use You for What You Can Give Them
There are two reasons I’ve identified that compel people to hang out with me other than just being friends. The first is that I work in media, so I’m often invited to cool events and receive neat products to try; people like that. I also have a house on the Jersey Shore, very close to the beach, and people like that, too. I don’t mind sharing these perks of my life with them — I like seeing my friends smile — but I also don’t let either of those reasons define our friendship.
If I get even an inkling that I’m being used, that person is shown the door, sometimes quite literally.
Are there other signs that we need to a dump a friend that you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments below.