“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”
~ Wayne Dyer
A woman I’ve known since school rang me in tears yesterday, totally confused about who she is, and what she is capable of. She’s depressed, lost and about to give up on a dream that once upon a time was the brightest star on her horizon. Something she’s really good at. Something she used to be passionate about. Why the change? A ‘friend’ has been in her ear, and in the ear of others, talking this wonderful soul down, and instilling these deep doubts.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen this happen. Other close friends have also battled with the pain they feel, and their sense of loyalty to the concept of friendship, when they’ve been in a relationship with a person who treats them badly.
One girlfriend, who helped another woman in their career, has had her ideas pinched and her relationship discarded when it no longer served the person she was ‘friends’ with. This person has become successful and precious, and the way she treats my friend is appalling.
Another had his tools trashed, and a substantive amount of money lost to a mate he’d been friends with since kindergarten.Not only that, the ‘friend’ did irreparable damage to this man’s business reputation with gossip and slander.
What kind of friend behaves like that?
A toxic friend. And toxic friends aren’t really friends at all!
We’ve all had our share of unequal or downright damaging relationships, but I find that sensitive souls are at highest risk of exploitation in relationships. Sensitive souls are naturally trusting, they place a high value on loyalty and on the well-being of others, and they enjoy helping people. But they can be so busy being a friend, and a helpful friend at that, that they don’t take a moment to see if their friendship is truly reciprocated…
So what does a healthy friendship look like?
In a good friendship you may have shared interests or nothing in common, but you are interested in each other’s lives. There will be respect, trust, kindness, genuine enjoyment of each other’s company, a balance of giving and receiving, care and love, support, non-judgement, respected boundaries, laughter, tears and exchanges of wisdoms, worries, trivia and the deepest secrets of your heart. A friend is there for you, and when there are problems you can communicate and work them through. Friends lift each other up. Friends get us through the darkest hours.
There’s a chemistry to friendships, but then again so much of any healthy and happy relationship comes down to good manners and sound values. Treating people well, having consideration for their feelings and welfare, putting in effort to maintain and build on what you already have.
All friendships require work, and they take time and energy to maintain. A friend is someone to talk to, to share life with, and to be with without words too.
Toxic relationships are not something anyone would willingly sign up for, so how do we end up in them?
- we change and they don’t, or vice versa
- their mask drops over time, and they reveal an aspect of themselves that wasn’t evident at the beginning
- in a place of low self-worth we accept them in, grateful for their company and attention
- we might have loyalty to them based on a shared time on our lives – ending up as friends due to circumstance; room mates, best friends at primary school, etc and it’s not actually enough to base a friendship on as we mature
- in a dark or low place in our own lives, we attract people that mirror these unhealthy and unhappy aspects of ourselves
- sometimes we feel like we don’t have a lot of choice – they are family members, or partners of friends and family
- they can also be co-workers, where our relationship is based on daily connection and proximity
Here are some signs of a toxic friendship:
- their needs are always more important than yours
- they don’t respect significant people in your life such as your partner, children, family or other friendships
- they steal your ideas, friends, time and money
- they ingratiate themselves with friends and family and then erode your position with those people
- you feel drained rather than supported
- they lie to you, or play games
- you begin to think that maybe it is you, and you spend a lot of time working on the relationship or ‘fixing’ things about yourself
- they sabotage or derail your successes and otherwise stunt your growth
- they manipulate and guilt-trip you
- they are full of promises but never deliver, back out at the last minute, or change the rules without asking eg you organise a lunch together and they bring three friends you don’t know
- oversteps boundaries and engages in inappropriate behaviour with yourself or others associated with you
- borrow things and never return them, or treat your possessions with little respect eg car comes back dirty and empty after they use it, lose your stuff or loan it out to others without your permission
- they are hot and cold with you and you never know where you stand
- they can’t keep your confidences
- they’re never there for you, but expect you to be there for them, day or night, 24/7
- they speak badly about you to others
- they use you to get something that they want, and when they have it they’re done with you
- they put you down, or make compliments that actually are sweetly disguised insults, and if you call them on it somehow it’s actually your fault or your problem
Let’s face it, in a toxic relationship, it’s all about THEM!
It’s often harder for sensitive people in toxic relationships to end the friendship because they don’t have such clear-cut boundaries, and from a place of spiritual beliefs, empathy, love and compassion they’ll keep trying to help, keep trying to heal, and keep trying to make it better.
If you find yourself hurting and confused in a relationship where being with a person makes you feel worse rather than better, if the signs of a toxic friendship are there, then walk away. The energy you give to an unhealthy and unsatisfying friendship would be better spent on having a good relationship with yourself. Staying in toxic relationships does immense damage over time. Sensitive people can lose themselves entirely.
If the person is a family member, or other complicated relationship where it’s harder to walk away, minimise your time with them, stop sharing and do all you can to shield yourself from their energies. Sometimes you even need to just sever the ties there too.
The world is full of wonderful people, and somewhere out there is a person who’ll be able to give back what you share with them – which is what true friendship is all about.
Above all, value yourself. We live in a reciprocal Universe, and the Universe gets its prompts from us about how we should be treated. If we let it be okay for others to treat us badly, the Universe will just keep delivering more of that energy to us.
If it’s time to make some changes you’ll find these posts helpful: