How to Break Up With a Toxic Friendship

toxic friend

Why do we find it so easy to make big life changes like cutting out that third glass of wine on a Monday night, but removing yourself from a toxic friendship feels so damn hard? Think of a toxic friendship like that extra glass of wine that tips you ever the edge — completely unnecessary. 

If a relationship with a pal is causing more stress than it’s worth, then letting them go may be the only answer. And it’s in your own best interest to do so, because the more we associate with the toxic behaviours of others, the more we become like them. It’s said we’re the sum of the five people we spend most of our time with. 

How to recognise and weed out a toxic friend

It’s important to understand that a toxic person is not motivated by what’s good for them or anyone else they’re motivated by their own complex issues and needs. 

In addition, they may be projecting onto others the parts of themselves they don’t want to acknowledge or accept, as well as creating drama in an attempt to meet a need for either control or something to do. So how do you deal with them?

First of all, don’t expect them to change. All you can do is establish boundaries and decide what you will and won’t tolerate from work colleagues, friends, family or partners. Remind yourself that you’re enough, and that you don’t need to put up with this treatment. Begin with clear, honest and calm communication, and say how you feel, express your needs and how you want to be treated. Take ownership by replacing the word ‘you’ for ‘I’. For example, “I feel this way when being spoken to like that.”

Can you stay chummy with a toxic friend?

It can be painful removing yourself from a toxic relationship, especially when you deeply care about the other person, regardless of how difficult it is to have them in your life. This is why it’s important to have emotional, mental and physical balance in order to maintain the boundaries you set within that relationship. 

The person involved may resist in the beginning, as they may feel like they’re being ignored or no longer have control. Don’t give in when their behaviour escalates; instead, remind yourself you’re teaching this person that their old ways are no longer acceptable to you. Be discerning in your response and learn to walk away, as this shows them that you’re serious about being true to your values. 

You have the power to manage your own emotions and choose your thoughts and words to influence the outcomes you want. Surround yourself with healthy relationships that are in alignment with your inner truth and your ultimate self. Let go of toxic relationships by setting your sails in a new direction. 

This story originally appeared in Fernwood magazine.