Friendship Red Flags You Really Shouldn’t Ignore

Noemi J. Mullins

You feel obligated to maintain the friendship.

Apple Think of your childhood friend or family member you have kept around just for old times’ sake, even though you no longer share anything.

It’s not the most enormous red flag but it does not indicate a toxic relationship. Kelaher says that if you feel more like you are obligated to become friends than genuinely want to, it is okay to reevaluate the person in your life. At the night’s end, time spent with friends should make you feel refreshed and satisfied, not exhausted or empty.

Secretly or not, they’re competing with you.

Imagine this: You tell your buddy (you know who you are) that you received a raise. They may not hug you or send a text to celebrate, but instead, they will say, “Well, I got a raise last week!”

Sounds familiar? Kelaher says it’s okay to have an occasional moment of envy, but that person who makes everything a competition of “who is better” probably doesn’t care about your interests. If they are not responsive, you can tell them what you think.

They are unable to apologize genuinely and sincerely.

It is bound to cause fights in even the most healthy of friendships. It could be a small argument over how you are always late or something more severe, like you both accidentally revealing something the other didn’t approve of. You both must communicate well and admit when you make mistakes.

Applebury: “It is okay to make mistakes with friends, and it will happen to someone you have known for a long time.” She explains that if a friend can’t apologize for their behavior or isn’t held accountable, it will be challenging to trust and depend on them in the future. It may be evident in someone’s apology when they begin with, “I am sorry you are offended,” or, “I am sorry, but I did not think it would hurt you.”

You can’t expect them to respect your boundaries.

Kelaher says, “In healthy friendships, people understand that they may be told no at times, and it’s okay.” You may not want to tell your friend what is bothering you now. They keep talking about your ex, even though you’ve asked them to stop a hundred times. They may try to tell you who you should or shouldn’t hang out with. She says that while we might bump up against boundaries now and then if yours is consistently ignored, it could indicate a toxic friendship.

It’s impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Most of us would spend every waking minute with our best friends if we could. We share our worst (and best) moments with them, and we sometimes unintentionally adopt their quirkiness. This is how influential your friends can be.

But it’s only fun until you’re unable to function independently. Kelaher says that if friends become too dependent on each other, it can lead to codependency. In romantic relationships, codependency can also occur. This is when one or both partners lose their identities, such as their opinions or the ability to think independently. Codependency can be defined as the need to get the other person’s approval before making any decisions or the inability to spend time with other people for fear of making them jealous.

Kelaher says that for a friendship to be healthy, both parties must maintain their sense of self and grow together. It is crucial to be able to have your hobbies and interests, as well as support your friend in their independence. A codependent relationship can be emotionally draining. In a small study conducted in the UK, participants reported more incredible frustration and dysfunction because they felt a lack of self-awareness. Applebury believes that ignoring one’s own needs is not a good thing. It also needs to be more fair to expect someone else to fulfill all your needs.

You may feel terrible about your friendship.

As with romantic relationships, friendships also ebb and flow. You will have moments where you cannot get enough of your friends and other times when everything they do makes you angry. Applebury says there is a big difference between an unstable relationship with extremes of highs and lows. This can lead to a lot of emotional distress. The study from 2023 suggests that people in turbulent relationships are more likely to dwell upon negative experiences, such as conflict and arguments than on positive ones, like supportive moments.

Kelaher says that if you feel on edge or the friendship is too unpredictable, it’s probably not suitable for you both. A friend should not make you feel anxious or stressed out. They should be someone who makes you want to do your best.

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