Hi you lovely lot, I hope you’re keeping well. This weeks chat is all about red flags in a friendship. It was a topic requested via my instagram and I’ve found it such an interesting one to write. One factor I hate about getting older is change. It’s inevitable, i’m well aware of that, but learning to accept and love that fact is hard. I especially, over the last few years, have found it unbearable to see that change swept in and affected the friendships in my life. It’s heartbreaking to have people you thought would be bridesmaids at your wedding or be sat next to in a caring home one day walk out of your life, often without explanation. It’s also heartbreaking when you realise that somebody you used to hold dear has now become a negative part of your life. It’s a difficult conversation to have with yourself let alone the other person. I’ve tried to cover as best I can what I would define as toxic characteristics of a friendship. For the person that requested this, I hope this helps you in some way.
It breaks my heart to say it but, over the last two years i’ve lost more friends than I can count on my fingers. I do think that when you leave school and head off to university, losing friends is natural. Yet, it doesn’t stop it hurting horrifically. I find it really difficult to go from knowing everything about a person to them becoming a stranger seemingly overnight. I take it really personally and I find it hard to adjust to that new distance between myself and them. I would always rather stay friends and hold people close to me. That’s why, more often than not, I keep people around when they add nothing but toxicity to my life. I would much rather, sometimes, put up with people being shitty with me than having nothing to do with them at all. I’ve always been scared to lose people thus, letting people go is one of the hardest things for me to do. Over the last two years I’ve realised that if I’m to move on with my life and become the woman I want to be- now is the time to cut those ties. However, i’ve also been the friend that’s been cut off by another and my argument would be- if you’re going to severe that friendship, ensure there is definite reasons behind it. I see it as a complete last resort. There is a HUGE difference between cutting people off and, just becoming distant from friends. Distance is a natural thing as you get older, it’s the side effect of having much busier lives. University, work, families- they all become priorities. It doesn’t mean you love your friends less, it’s just a case of balancing everything right. Today I thought I would list my ‘red flags’ in a friendship and what it takes for me to cut somebody off. I also want to clearly define the difference between somebody deliberately shutting you our of their loves and, somebody just trying to balance everything that’s now taking up their time.
Knowing the difference between ghosting and, somebody’s struggle to reply.
I am the worst replier of all time. Often I see messages, reply mentally but forget to ever forge out a physical reply. Or, sometimes I just don’t feel up to replying. I know that sounds so crap. It’s not because I don’t care or that I don’t value my friends- often if I feel down in the dumps, no matter how much I want to talk to someone, my brain just says nah. When I left for university I became completely overwhelmed. It took me a long while to adjust to Durham University, I felt way out of my depth. I was really bloody homesick and, felt almost embarrassed that I just wasn’t settling into uni life. I didn’t want to admit to friends, who I watched through social media seemingly having the times of their lives, that I wasn’t enjoying university or felt inept compared to my peers- so I started to reply less and less. I take it on myself that distancing myself wasn’t the best thing to do but that was my natural instinct with how overloaded my brain was at the time. I didn’t stop caring, I just had to put myself first for a short while. I had friends also beginning at university in new cities who equally stopped talking in group chats and to my texts. Trying to balance a new city, your finances, your cooking, your studies, meeting new people, keeping in touch with home and perhaps a relationship is HARD and I think those of us who got it gave each other some slack. I never push people for a reply because I know full well how difficult it can be sometimes. If I notice someone is appearing quiet in messages or on their socials I tend to send a message just to check that everything is okay, or have a little chat with them in person. Every single of us gets to a point where we just need to be left alone- it’s normal and it’s okay. With every year I grow older I realise more and more the importance of empathy. It’s a harsh lesson for some to learn but the world really does not revolve around you. Everyone has shit in their lives and as you get older that becomes far clearer.
I mean, we’ve all pretty much been ghosted to some capacity in our lives. It’s bloody hard and you have to learn to shrug it off and accept they are likely better out of your lives than in. To me, ghosting in a friendship comes when the friendship is completely one sided effort wise. This is where the boundaries between the above and ghosting become slightly hard to navigate. My advice would be always give people a chance. As I said before, everyone has crap to deal with and sometimes a simple ‘look i’ve noticed you’ve been a little bit quiet recently I just want to check that everything is good with you at the moment. if you’re struggling with anything, i’m always here to help! take your time, talk soon’ is needed. I think if it comes to the point when you notice that person friendly with everybody else around you but not yourself- a rethink needs to happen. I came back for my first holiday from university and cried myself to sleep on two occasions because someone I classed as my best friend wouldn’t reply to any of my messages but publicly displayed herself out with everybody else, including the rest of a friendship group. That was when I realised that this was much more than being a simple ‘i just don’t feel that up to replying right now’. Purposely not replying, avoiding your contact whilst happily showing to you that they’re out with everyone else is an appalling move. A bright red flag should wave in your head and the scissors should be on your mind.
Equally, if you’re the one who is not being active in messaging or contact- you deserve to be checked on. Friends who call you out without any ounce of empathetic judgement on the situation or, who call upon you to explain yourself as if you’re standing in front of the high court are not your friends.
Rule one, friends should never make you feel like shit.
Being made to feel inept, stupid or not valued.
Our friendship group in sixth form was founded upon roasting each other. We were all sarcastic, all witty and used that to crack each other up in stitches every day. The thing was- we all knew that it was a joke. We knew that everyone there found it humorous and it was a group where if someone didn’t find something funny they’d speak up about it pretty damn quickly. I think that I was so used to that specific groups dynamics that when I went to university and heard people talk to me in a similar manner, I didn’t bat an eyelid. At university I made ‘friends’ with people who would completely shut down my ideas and beliefs (academically and just in day to day life), making me feel like complete shit. As you get older you’ll notice that you’ll begin to have completely different values, goals, beliefs- that’s all part of growing up. That change in attitude will naturally mean that you do clash with friends over specific topics.
However, there is a MASSIVE difference between having an open conversation about differences in opinion and, completely shutting someone down. One conversation that really sticks in my mind, as an example, was about our plans for the future. Personally when I envision my future, it’s having my own little family. I want to be a mum more than anything else in the world. I want to create a family and have that little hub of love, that’s all I ever have and ever will want. However, I’m more than aware that my ‘ideal future’ is not ideal for everybody. Others just want that complete freedom sought through travelling or no commitments, others are career driven and are striving hard for that top career goal. If we were all the same, life would be boring. As a grown adult I think it’s only right that you distinctly understand that. Everyone will have a different vision of life to you, everyone has differing values, opinions, thoughts, understandings- do not make someone feel less because they just differ to you. If a friend is making you feel invaluable, incapable, inept, silly or, unnecessary- they are not your friends. Learn to know the difference between a friendly difference in opinion and, somebody completely dismissing your points as inept- obviously context plays a huge part in this but within the majority of situations I would label this as completely toxic.
Being there for your friends with no sense of relief.
There is nothing wrong with being there for your friend/ going to your friend for advice, help or comfort. Yet, when you’re being constantly ladened with another’s issues a red flag starts to crop up. You may have friends with severe mental health illnesses or a friend with a huge change in circumstance who needs heightened support- i’m not saying it’s not okay to comfort I want to be so clear on this! However, if you’re constantly being asked to bear the brunt of every single problem with no return or no compassion for any problems you may have- there’s an issue my lovely. Friendships, like any relationship, require two people’s energy. No relationship stands a chance if there’s no balance. You are as entitled as they are to receive support in your worst of times and, in your best of times. You’re meant to be a little team. No team is going to win if only one of the members is putting in all the effort.
Competition holds no place within a friendship.
This is a bold bright red flag that has haunted me for a long while. If you’re friends, you support each other through thick and thin. Your friend is not somebody to compete against- unless you love a good tennis match together. Jealousy is natural, we all feel it from time to time. If green eyes are the foundation of your friendship, it needs to swiftly exit your life. Competition within academia, with relationships, with money, with jobs, with anything- it’s not healthy and does not belong within a friendship. It holds no place at all. A friend who sees you as a competition is thriving off of seeing you fail. Friends exist to support you. Without friends we would all be very bloody lonely. Friends are there to kiss your bruises, set you on your feet again and genuinely shine with happiness when they see you succeed in any aspect of your lives.
As in any relationship, without trust it’s nothing. I’m completely settled knowing that my friendship group may have narrowed down to a number I could count on my fingers yet, they’re people I would trust with anything. They’re people I can depend on. For years I had people in my life, people I classed as my best friends who knew nothing about who I was- because I could never trust them. I didn’t trust them not to disclose things I told them. I didn’t trust them to not laugh at me if I was truly myself. I pretended to be something I was not in order to keep people in my life who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Know you’re worth. Trust deeply and if that trust is truly reflected back, you have a friend for life.
You are not to be depended upon.
I hate money. I hate how it can destroy relationships. At the end of the day, people do take advantage of others and often in friendships money is apart of that. It’s okay to support your friends and help them out. If it becomes a regular occurrence with no gratitude returned- cut it. One thing I promised myself when I entered my twenties- I would not let anyone walk over me again. Enough is enough. Have value for yourself. You will know when people cross over that fine line. Do not let them take advantage.
Apologising is not a sign of weakness.
Saying sorry can quite often be the hardest thing to do. We all know that. Yet, if someone can not admit that their actions were wrong and take accountability for them- red flags all round. We all make mistakes. Everyone’s said something they may have not meant, everyone’s upset a friend before. It’s crap, we don’t mean to. Oh gosh, do not let stubbornness destroy a good thing and, don’t let it destroy you. Friends who refuse to ever apologise for their actions should not be allowed to use ‘oh i’m just stubborn’ as an excuse. If you hurt someone- you apologise. A friendship rarely exists without a few arguments here and there. Yet, in my books anyway, I find it unforgivable if a friend cannot hold their hands up to me and say sorry when it’s genuinely needed.
I could type for days listing countless of ‘red flags’ to look out for but, they’ll always be something I would miss. At the end of the day, my best advice would be for you to trust your instincts. You will know when something no longer feels right. You will know when that delight at seeing somebody’s name pop up on your phone turns into that tummy flipping moment of dread. You know better than anyone else the friendship that you are in. Trust your instincts and go with what you believe. It’s okay for me to say on here that these are all the things that are toxic but, at the end of the day these are just what I would class as toxic characteristics. You need to trust your own judgement and, you need to trust in your own worth.
Learning to value who you are will do wonders for you life. Once you can clearly see your worth and find true value in yourself you’ll be able to quite clearly see who aligns perfectly into your life and who sits on that outer edge. I’m not encouraging you to suddenly wipe everyone in your life out of the picture. I am telling you that it does not make you a bad person to cut people out of your life if they are not adding any form of value to it. We need to get rid of that sense of guilt. What is the point of having people who cause you angst, upset, anger, stress, who take advantage of you or make you feel inept in your life???? Answer- there is no point at all.
See this post as your reminder to value who you are and who you have in your life. Your twenties aren’t spent on a school playing ground. This is not the decade in which you need to have people in your life just for the sake of it. Accept that change is natural and, it is more than natural to see friends come and go. It is sad. It is is beyond heartbreaking when people you thought would be in your life forever leave. But, lovely, it’ll be better without them. Focus on creating a happy life, a life where the people in it are the best bloody people in the world. Don’t settle for anything less.
Lot’s of love,