Female friendship is a beautiful thing. It is a primary bond which runs deep and plays an important role in womenâ€™s emotional wellbeing and even physical health.
Good women friends can be our soul mates, companions in crisis, loyal defenders, listening ears and shoulders to cry on. Probably because of the fact that we relate to each otherâ€™s experiences and understand each other so well, most of us often have an even stronger and more fulfilling relationships with â€œsistersâ€ than we do with our spouses.
Unfortunately, every so often, women come across friends who bring nothing positive to the table. Letâ€™s call them toxic.
According to Florence Isaacs, author of Toxic Friends/True Friends, a toxic friend is someone who makes you feel bad about yourself, tends to be critical and drains you emotionally, financially, or mentally.
So how do you identify a toxic friend?
Negative talk is something most toxic friends do. Their sentences in conversations with you often include words such as â€œIf I were you I would…â€, â€œare you sure you want to…â€ and so on. They will cast doubt on your decisions and choices, point out your physical flaws and professional shortcomings and discourage you from taking steps to develop personally. This is not always done or said directly but can be quite subtle.
Another quality of a toxic friend is possessiveness. They want you to account for who else you spend time with and to discuss what you do with other people. This is a subtle form of control that they try to exert on you. If you spend more time with or make efforts to assist others, the toxic friends sulk or badmouth the other people.
Persistent negativity is also a dead give-away of toxicity. If sheâ€™ll badmouth and gossip about other people who consider themselves her good friends, chances are she will do the same to you.
Toxic friends are usually overly competitive. They will try to outdo you at everything and copy your style, which can be quite frustrating for you.
Psychologist Sandra Mapemba, who is Country Coordinator for Population Reference Bureau and provide Counselling Services in Lilongwe and on demand at Body and Soul Life Couching Centre says if you are unhappy with your friendship, it is best that you evaluate it as soon as you can because a toxic friendship is unsupportive, draining, unrewarding, stifling, unsatisfying, and not healthy for the long haul.
â€œTo establish whether the relationship is hurting you, ask yourself how you feel after spending time with your friend. Are you drained, depressed, angry or are you happy?â€
â€œIt is also important that you ask yourself what you are getting from the relationship and whether your friend treats you with respect or takes you for granted. If most of the answers are negative, then a discussion is in order,â€ says Mapemba.
Because your friend might be toxic without actually intending to or even realising it, it is best that you tell her what she is doing wrong and discuss what changes need to be implemented to make the relationship work.
â€œIf there are no changes, slowly withdraw from the relationship by turning down invitations, keeping telephone conversations short and telling her outright that you are too busy to meet her. Eventually the friendship should die down,â€ Mapemba explains.
She adds that if the damage done is deep and things end on a very bad note, then cut off all ties, give her your reasons for doing so and do not take any of her explanations and apologies because she probably will never change.
How do you step aside to objectively evaluate whether you yourself are not toxic?
â€œLook at your own self esteem,â€ says Mapemba. â€œIf you have a low sense of self worth, you are most likely to either consciously or subconsciously pull other people down in a bid to feel better about yourself.
Ask yourself how your friends benefit from being in a relationship with you. Do you make them happy and improve their self worth or do you constantly criticise them? Depending on your (honest) answers, ask your friend to honestly evaluate you.
â€œIf she thinks you do have problem areas, sit down together and map out how best to make the relationship work,â€ says Mapemba.
In every relationship, you need balance. Each person needs to be happy and feel good about the other. Ultimately, you want to feel good about your friends, not dread their ridicule. If your relationship with someone brings more hurt than good, then ditch them and move on.