five warning signs of a toxic friendship
Clinical psychologist and professor of psychology, Dr. Ramani Durvasula, discusses on the “Frenemies” show five key warning signs that may determine if you are involved in a toxic friendship that can turn dangerous.
On The Ricki Lake Show airing Monday, January 7th, one woman recounts how her best friend’s controlling and manipulative behavior ultimately led to her to unwittingly participate in a drug smuggling ring, and a sibling tells Ricki of the horrifying tale of losing her sister at the hands of a childhood friend. Check local listings.
On the show, Dr. Ramani Durvasula reviews the five warning signs that should’ve been evident in those two toxic relationships. She lists five behaviors that should send anyone running from a so-called "BFF."
5 Warning Signs
1. Your friend isolates you from others
2. You’re encouraged to go against your morals and ethics
3. Your friend controls other elements of your life
4. Your friend issues insults – puts you down in any way.
5. You frequently catch your friend in lies, or things that don’t ring true
Dr. Durvasula expands on the above warning signs below.
• Abusive relationships are not very common – meaning that it is not the “norm” – and one thing that protects friendships from turning abusive as often as intimate relationships do is that we typically have multiple friendships – which often waters down the power of any one friendship.
• However like any human relationship – if you enter into a relationship with a narcissist or a sociopath – you can pretty much set your clock by the fact that there will be some abusive elements within the relationship.
• Friendships tend to be become unhealthy gradually- most of us are on better behavior at the beginning of a relationship. But as we sort of “relax” into our true selves – that is when it can sometimes get dark (depending on the players).
• It happens as people tolerate more and more bad treatment over time – when a few “slips” take place – many people tend to “excuse” their friend or come up with rationalizations for their behavior – and over time it drifts darker and darker.
• In a word, friendships become unhealthy because one person tolerates disrespectful or inappropriate behavior and doesn’t call the other person on it.
• People are quicker to forgive their friends over their spouses because friends often hold a special place. We are sort of “stuck” with our families and we did not choose them and the histories are deeper so the conflicts may run deeper.
• Intimate partners also carry rules (e.g. fidelity, commitment etc); we rarely accuse a friend of “cheating” on us because friendships are governed by less rules and different rules. We may be more likely to see forgiveness. In addition, the stakes may be lower. We are less likely to be shareholders in terms of money, kids, homes so forgiving may carry fewer ramifications.
• We tend to have multiple friends so the pressure of problems in one friendship may not be as trying as they would be with a sister or a spouse. Bottom line – folks tend to view friendships as a lower stakes game – even though they may be some of the most powerful relationships we have.
• It’s primitive to feel the need to be in a best friend relationship. We tend to like that “one” devoted relationship. It starts young with “mom” (or primary caregiver) and then as adults we tend to have “one” spouse (hopefully).
• A best friend can feel like a safety, a confidante, and for a person who is not in an intimate relationship, a best friend may feel like that intimate partner with whom one can share, count on, spend time with, and share life with.
• Not everyone feels the need for this. in fact some people are “best friend-ers” while others aren’t and there are lots of reasons for this. It tends to start young too.
• To turn a toxic relationship around you need to listen to yourself. Just like in an intimate relationship, if it doesn’t feel right question it. Communicate, share your feelings and take ownership (e.g. I don’t feel good when you speak to me like that. I feel angry when you criticize my abilities).
• Try not to put all your eggs in one basket and cultivate other relationships and interests. Moreover always nurture yourself and if that isn’t happening in a friendship, then communicate, assess, and walk if it isn’t working.
• I hate to say it but the degree to which a toxic friendship or relationship can really be turned around is pretty slight. People are in denial that ANYONE we care(d) about could hurt us, whether it is a friend or a loved one. It hurts us too much to admit that.
• We hate to lose the history, we hate to lose the future we assumed, the confidante and we hate the idea that we were played for a fool. All of that can lead us to rewrite the truth and the circumstances in a way that maintains the status quo.
• By and large, people hate when their boats are rocked (which is why so many crappy relationships last – people would rather stay in a bad one than make a change – change is scary). Denial lets us keep things the same and that feels comfortable.