Don't you know that you're toxic......?!

25 March 2017

I've started and stopped writing this post so many times now. Every time I've had to close my laptop, mellow out and consider: is it really worth posting? Is it, though? Well, now I feel I must, because I've had so many conversations with others lately that make me think that maybe, just isn't just me.

I'll stop beating around whatever dirty, vague shrubbery is growing here now – in this post I am going to address the issue of one-sided friendships. Also known as those very dramatically named toxic friendships. Yeah, I'm opening this can. Watch out. The worms will fly everywhere. 

So in case you didn't know, a one-sided friendship, a toxic friendship, is when one of your closer acquaintances (I'm really aware I'm going to use the word 'friend' a lot in this post, brb getting a thesaurus up online) seems to get more out of your little union than you do. They take take take, and rarely, if ever, give. 

They may be fully aware that they are doing it – they may not. And to be quite honest, as evil as the former friend would be, it's the latter that scares me the most. The friends who don't think, they just...take. They suck you dry and leave you hanging. 

You always text first, you make the calls, you send the emails – and share links they might like on social media, tagging them with a happy emoji or two, hoping they'll respond in kind (spoiler alert: they don't. The best you can hope for is a 'yeah seen this' or a very flat and half-arsed 'haha'). 
You pick them up and do the driving, as they direct you from the passenger seat (at times pointedly flicking your indicators rather than saying 'turn here', and switching radio stations or CDs because they don't approve of your music choices). 

When you tell them your problems, you must accept that they will then unload all of theirs with twice as much force and taking three times as much time, and they won't have given you any condolences or advice beforehand. Your problems will hang unaddressed in the air between you. And that's if you feel you can bring them up in the first place... 

Time for a *pop culture reference*, aww yeah! 
A classic example of a one-sided friendship is Rebecca and Paula. Y'know, in 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend'? Rebecca is all about the drama and she is totally wrapped up in herself and her personal life - and she drags Paula right along with her. Paula was all for it at first, she wanted to be dragged along because she didn't fancy facing the issues in her own life, e.g. her marriage and career. In series 2 though, Paula finally takes charge of her life - she starts sleeping with her hubby again, and pursuing her dream job in law - and it's at long last dawning on her just how unimportant her problems and pursuits are made to seem next to her diva of a friend. And how wrong that is. 
-- it got so far as Paula having a freaking abortion and not feeling she could tell her toxic bestie. C'mon, Paula. Enough's enough. It's time to take back your spotlight. 

(Source: The Daily Beast and their fantastic article about why Paula & Rebecca are a love story...!?)

I know I recently posted about my social anxiety of sorts, my fear I'll never be accepted and always simply be tolerated. So I should really be keeping my mouth shut about this issue, right? You'd think I'd be grateful that I even have anything resembling a friendship, toxic or otherwise, in my fragile and unhappy – and lonely – state. But no. I've done it for so long, let these things slip by and these people continue take take taking, and now despite my constant need for validation and buddies, I am putting my foot down where these friendships are concerned. 

The thing is with these friendships, you can't see it for so long. Seriously. One friendship I had like this had gone on for the best part of a decade before I realised that I'd only been happy in the partnership for maybe the first year or so. And the moment I realised? Well, that was when I told this friend about my impending brain surgery. 

Bear in mind I was on a tight schedule at that time, with appointments and consultations and scans, so I couldn't tell many people face to face, but I prioritised this friend, and god knows why. Because when I finished my little monologue full of dropped bombs, ending on a casual but not 'anyway, I go into hospital next week', the response I got was [paraphrased but in no way exaggerated, I promise you]...'mmm. That's not good. Yeah, so my boyfriend's been such a dick this past week...' 
I shit you not. That was all I got. And y'know what? That friendship still continued for another year. Stupid me. 

Anyway, lesson learned right? Wrong. Because it seems I am still being taken advantage of, by every other person I know. I am seen as an easy flakee, someone you can cancel on giving only a day's notice, if that. I am stupidly desperate for people to see that I am not a doormat. I'm not. I was, but not any more. 

This post may have seemed a little like a personal vendetta or a mindless rant, but I really do think it's a serious issue facing us socially these days. 
Nobody should have to be the victim of a one-sided friendship. It sucks, and it hurts more than you realise. So if you are reading this and identify with any of it, DM me or comment. I can help. I hope. I have enough experience. 

Also, check out 
'We're All Mad Here'; I read it recently as part of my non-fic February and found it so helpful in identifying social stresses and finding solutions to them. 

My biggest tip in this case, though, would be to...not 'cut them out' as such, but definitely pull back. Make them see how big a role you play in the relationship. 
Maybe it'll make them miss you. 
Maybe, and this happened to me, they will lash out at you for 'ignoring' them, for expending your energy on other things – probably more pleasant pursuits. 
Now, that reaction may be because you're holding up a mirror; because finally they can see how they really are as a friend - and how lucky they are to have you - and it makes them hurt or feel guilty...or it may just be them needing the level of attention they can always count on from you. 
Either way, make them see it. And go from there. 

I'm not a relationship/friendship guru. I've made mistakes, my gosh you have no idea. But I like to think I know what I'm talking about with this issue. 
My friends, please value yourselves. Don't be their better half. Don't be their leaning post. Don't be their chauffeur and counsellor. And stop buying them birthday and Christmas presents, then letting them tell you yours is 'on the way, after next payday'. See the bullshit for what it is, and call it. 
You're all awesome, and you deserve friends who know that. 

Other helpful posts about this kinda shit... - The Huff Post; '23 Warning Signs of a Toxic Friend'- Betty Collective; 'The 8 types of toxic friend we've all known'.- The Pretty Books; 'Friendship Breakups'- Real Simple; '7 Signs You're in a Toxic Friendship'- Reader's Digest 'Breaking up isn't just for lovers'


  1. I'd like to offer a different perspective on this, one that I've gained from being on both sides of a toxic friendship. Sometimes in life you meet someone who you really look up to and you think they're great. So you lavish them with attention and go to great efforts to be friends with them. If they don't reciprocate it sucks and it's easy to see them as being all take take take. However, sometimes you need to take a step back and ask yourself "Are they just taking? Or is it actually that you're giving to someone who never asked for it in the first place?" On the flip side, receiving the attention of a new friend may seem nice but what if they have more time and energy to invest than you? What if you want to be friends but you're not able to cope with such a high maintenance friendship? In these cases you can try to drop hints by ignoring the odd message or being dismissive of the 10th meme they've sent you that day. But you can't really say to someone "Sorry but I'm not able to commit to such an intense friendship right now" can you? So in these cases, the same advice applies - back off and see what happens. If the other person doesn't make any extra effort as a result then maybe the friendship just isn't as well matched as you first thought. Don't feel bad, it's not necessarily a reflection on you.

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  3. I have been here many times. I have come to learn that I am quite an intense person, and not everyone is open or willing to be involved with that.

    Having said that, I know there are also a lot of selfish people out there who need to work on their friendship skills. It is a give and take, whether certain peoe like it or not. I have definitely been shut out by people but I have also cut ties with toxic ones. Sometimes it's not as easy, say if they are in a group of mutual friends, but it's easy enough to be civil when you see them, i just don't give them my love and effort outside of that.

    As always, love the post and am right there with you xxx

  4. Hi Grace,

    This is a topic that has interested me for a long time and one I’ve always wanted to write about in some way or another. (I’ve actually channelled it into a novel’s subplot that I’m trying to find an agent for.)

    These friendships are what I’ve always faced. Like you mention in your linked post on social anxiety, I am pretty adept at entering a social situation and being able to mingle – people oddly enough always say I seem so popular because of that ability – yet I never make actual friends. My friendships are always superficial and I seemingly always want more from them than the other party does, so much so that even going to a gallery/museum together once a month with them can be considered too much. I’ve recently found this extends further than I ever realised. After losing my job last year I’ve had countless interviews only to be told, also countless times, that “you’re really impressive and we like you, but we don’t want you here because you don’t drink tea and we only like tea drinkers here”. (The last bit may be slightly exaggerated… I think.)

    For me, London is a paradox for this sort of friendship. There are so many people pottering around that you think it’d be really hard to NOT find likeminded friends who’d like to spend time with you and maybe do something you’d like to do (seriously, where are all the people that want to learn the Single Ladies dance at Drink, Shop & Do?); unfortunately, the reality is often very different. It’s such a big place that it can make you shrink, feel insignificant and even more alone… which is a shame as there’s probably someone sat two doors down feeling the exact same (possibly not about the Single Ladies dance, though). I certainly know how hard it is to keep putting yourself out there to only end up back at square one but – cliche alert – no-one should give up doing so in the hope of finding those true and reciprocal friendships. I certainly won’t.

    Anyway, I hope you and others reading the post have supportive friendships. Also, you’re a very competent writer so good luck with that aspiring author adventure!

    Carl (That Publishing Blog – apparently this keeps telling me my WordPress credentials don’t exist… which given the subject matter is rather apt! Haha)

  5. This is a very interesting topic, and one that I have such a hard time with because my mental struggles tend to overshadow my ability to see friendships clearly. I think I have come off as a "taker" in the past but only because my depression at times has made me so inwardly focused. I appreciate that that's not an excuse for such behavior and that friends may still pull away as a result, but I think in those moments I would prefer honesty as the solution. If a friend could just help pull me aside and say "Hey, I appreciate what you're going through right now but it still hurts if you cancel on our plans in the last minute" (for example), that would help me take a step back and pay more attention to my actions.

    That all being said, I've actually been spending 2017 so far focusing on my mental health and as a result I feel like my relationships are a lot healthier. I'm checking in with people, agreeing to hang out even on days I rather stay in bed, and feel like I'm finding that right balance of friendship. I mean, who knows if I actually am because I am totally clueless in the friendship department and have struggled with it for years, but I'm really trying and feel like I'm in a positive place right now so that has to count for something, right?

    Asti ||


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