Toxic Friends – Is it you or me?
Good friends validate you for being gay, valuable and important. Our value, our self-esteem, and our mental health can all be improved in the company of good friends. This makes toxic friendships all the more devastating. Imagine someone in your inner circle of trust, abusing you and actually making your existence less brilliant, more exhausting?
A regular friendship should make you feel good about yourself. A real friend can tell you the truth, even if it’s not good news, but they can also hold your hand and listen to anything you have to say. Being listened to, and heard are vital to having an intimate connection with your friends, and it’s a two-way street. If you can both listen to each other and hear each other, then you have a reciprocal and equal relationship, that’s a healthy one.
If the gossip, storytelling, dramas, emergencies, and so on, are all coming from one friend, but that very same ‘chatty gay,’ is unlikely to ever listen to you, well that’s not healthy.
In fact, it could even be a toxic friend. Sure, gossip can be fun from time to time. If someone wants to tell you their news every time they see you, that can be flattering and insightful. But if they just don’t care about your stories and experiences, then how is this a friendship? You are more like their fan or groupie, and that takes a lot of your energy. You friendship leaves them feeling lighter, but you feeling drained and worn out.
Signs to indicate you may be in a toxic situation:
1. They always seem to be focusing on the downside of things.
Friends share the ups and downs of their lives with each other. However, friends who are toxic tend to only look at the bad side and ignore the positive. They tend to ignore all the good, which makes you ignore it too, bringing your mood and motivation down. It’s important to help them out with their problems, but also make sure it doesn’t affect you negatively.
2. They never listen to any of your problems.
They always call you when something is wrong with them, but never seem to have time for you when you have a problem. They expect you to be there for them when something goes wrong, but are nowhere to be found when you need help. Friends who do this leave you feeling more lonely than you realize.
3. They are quick to point out your flaws.
Honesty is important in any relationship, and friendships are no exception. However, it’s when the honesty becomes relentless criticism of everything you do that the relationship becomes toxic. You find yourself unable to talk to your friend because you’re afraid that they will point out everything you did wrong, instead of offering you their support.
Save the friendship, or save yourself?
Friendships are so important, and good ones help us to be better people. If you’re in a toxic situation, there are a few things to work out. Are you both toxic for each other? Is he taking advantage of you? Are you the toxic one? Are you taking advantage of him? And when these testing questions have been answered, it’s time to examine the big one: Is this worth saving?
If you and your best friend have been too lenient with each other, and allowed the bonds of friendship to justify breaking certain boundaries, then you could both be toxic. Maybe you allow your friend to only talk about himself and never try to share your own story, or you actually invite your buddy to constantly harshly critique you, because you’re into self-harm. Then you may both have a role to play in this and just pointing it out could be the remedy. Like saying, ‘Hey, I feel we’re moving into a toxic space and I don’t want that to happen to us. I need to share more with you, and let’s avoid the crazy honest critiques for a while?’ If these open observations are warmly welcomed, you could be in a good position to re-establish a healthy link with your friend
If however, the relationship has always been problematic, and it really is the other guy and not down to your behavior, then maybe you’ll have to consider distancing yourself from the toxic friend. Of course, you could try to fix this too. As gay friendships can be like surrogate family, we must always at least try to fix things before taking the huge step to end things.
Good friendships are essential to your happiness. When your friends don’t make you happy, you will need to figure out the cause. Deciding whether you want to fix it or escape it, is ultimately up to you. The important thing is to always act with respect for yourself, and for the feelings and fragility of others. People deserve to be handled with care, and so do you.
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