Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Warning: This friendship may be dangerous to your health!

After years of working with these types of relationships and being challenged by them in my own life, I have learned that there are some friendships that are more exacting than others. And then there are those that are downright unhealthy.

So how do we work with these types of friendships? The ones that throw you off balance. The ones that from the outside seem to be supportive and encouraging but can so quickly pull the rug out from under you, reducing you to apprehension or even tears.toxic-friend

How do we identify these types of friendships and determine that they may be “bad for our health,” both mental and physical?

Browse through the list below and identify any descriptions that apply to the difficult friends in your life.

  • Your friend is self-absorbed and acts like everything is about him or her
  • She/he is entitled (makes the rules and breaks the rules)
  • She/he is demeaning (puts you down and is a bully)
  • Demanding (whatever he or she wants)
  • Distrustful (is suspicious of your motives when you’re being nice)
  • Always seeks approval (craves constant praise and recognition)
  • Lack of empathy (is uninterested in understanding your inner experience or unable to do so)
  • Lack of remorse (cannot offer a genuine apology)
  • Compulsive (gets overly consumed with details and minutiae)
  • Emotionally detached (steers clear of feelings)
  • Snobbish (believes he or she is superior to you and others)
  • Perfectionist (has rigidly high standards, things must be done his or her way or no way)

If at least ten of these apply, then it is most likely that this friend in your life is causing you distress and may be emotionally unhealthy. But don’t despair, it is possible that these friendships can be dealt with and challenged from a different perspective. All need not be lost.

Here are some helpful hints and ways to approach these unhealthy friendships. Some suggestions may be more helpful than others, depending on the nature of your friendship and your comfort level.

A few ways to emphatically confront the challenging friend in your life:

  • Differentiating between fault and responsibility – This is the act of identifying and calling attention to the validity of your needs in the friendship. Example: “I am not blaming you for the things that were outside of your control and I understand you are upset. But it is your responsibility to figure out how to express your feelings without blaming me or putting me down.”
  • Setting Limits – This is the act of holding your friend accountable for his or her actions in the here and now. Example: “I appreciate how important it is for you to have your own standards and admire what you have done in your own home. However, I would appreciate if you didn’t try to impose those standards on my home.”\
  • Establishing rules of reciprocity – You are making a suggestion of fairness and taking turns. Example: “Thank you, I would be happy to consider what you want, and I would like to receive the same consideration from you."

These can be helpful ways to guide your responses when interacting with a friend who may be less than healthy and even upsetting. These suggestions may assist you in feeling you are drawing some healthy boundaries in your friendship and may even help in making the friendship and interactions feel enjoyable. You can again enjoy time with your friend.

If these interactions continue to occur and you feel they may be “bad for your health,” remember to take care of yourself and consider whether a more drastic change is needed. Please see the resources below for further information.

(Refer to the full checklist of items located at Another great resource is "Disarming the Narcissist" by Wendy T. Behary, LCSW.)

[By Jessica O. Hunter, Psy.D./PsychCentral blogs]

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