Tasneem Abdur-Rashid explores the impact of toxic friendships, and why it might be time to let them go.
I lost a friend recently. There was no spectacular showdown; it was more like a culmination of events, actions, comments and aggressions that built up over the past few years until one day, the proverbial straw came along and broke the camel’s back. I’ve decided to go on a detox from that person, and as I emerge from the toxic mist, I find myself asking how things got to this stage.
Why did I try so hard to keep the friendship going when I knew it wasn’t healthy, for either of us?
Why did I allow myself to be taken for granted? Why did I think it was normal to tiptoe around them? When did our friendship change from comforting to exhausting?
When the duties of family, motherhood and work feel like they’re drowning us, friends are our lifebuoys. Or they’re supposed to be, at least. When a friendship starts becoming more stressful than supportive, it’s important to reassess it and either resolve your issues or move on. Because holding on is exhausting and it can seep into other parts of your life, affecting not just your other relationships, but your mental health as well.
If any of this sounds familiar, here are 10 things you should look out for. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it can help you work out if you’re in a toxic relationship, and once you do that, you can decide whether or not to stay in it.
- You’re being put down
There’s a difference between friendly banter and chronic put-downs. If the jokes in your friendship are hurtful, or you feel like you’re always being criticised, then it’s time to reassess.
- You’re being peer-pressured
We’re too old for all of that, right? Not really. Does your friend invite you out for things she knows you’re not comfortable with? When you say it’s not your thing, does she make you feel bad about it? Does she try and pressure you into doing things she enjoys, but you don’t want to do? If so, you could be being manipulated.
- Your boundaries are being broken
Boundaries are important for all relationships, and you need to figure out what yours are with your friend. A good friend learns and respects your limits, but a toxic one ignores them or just doesn’t care enough about you and your feelings to learn what they are. Does she pop over uninvited when she knows you have a lot on? Does she come and spend hours at your house when you have work the next morning? If she’s consistently ignoring your needs for the sake of hers, you need to work out if her company is worth the additional headache.
- Your secrets are being revealed
Have you ever told your friend something in confidence, and then she’s announced it on your group chat? Or has a mutual friend told you that they’ve heard about your secret? Trust is easily one of the most important factors in any relationship, and if you can’t trust your friend – then they’re not your friend. It’s that simple.
- You’re giving more than you’re getting
Relationships are never completely equal, but you shouldn’t feel as though you’re giving more than you’re getting. As Muslims, we often do things for the sake of Allah and without expecting anything in return, but if you’re constantly giving, it can become exhausting. There needs to be a balance, else you might end up feeling resentful.
- You have to hide your true self
We should be able to be ourselves around our people; quirky habits, interesting opinions and all. Does your friend get irritated by you? Do they misunderstand you? Do they get annoyed when you disagree with them? Do you feel like you have to be a different person around them? You should be able to be your true self around a true friend. If you can’t, then your friendship is superficial and you need to treat it as such. Investing too much energy in it could be detrimental in the long run.
- You feel obligated to be their friend
The wonderful thing about friends is that we choose them. They’re not our family or kids or spouse; we’re not bound by anything but a mutual desire to be in each other’s lives. Once it starts feeling like an obligation though, it can become stressful. You should want them around, and if you don’t, you need to ask yourself why.
- You feel like they resent your achievements
Do they act strange when good things are happening in your life? Do they ignore your achievements, give backhanded compliments, or play them down? Are you beginning to feel like you need to hide the good things in your life from them? These are all major warning signs of jealousy, competition and a toxic friendship.
- They disappear when you’re down
There are some friends who only seem to be around when the chips are up; when you’re at your finest, having fun, going out. But when things turn serious and you’re feeling down and need emotional support, they withdraw. A true friend is there through the storms, not just fair weather. Ask yourself if you need a friend who ignores your pain.
- You’re emotionally exhausted
All relationships are hard work, and take effort to nurture. Misunderstandings can happen, it’s all normal, but whether or not you can work through them is the true indication of a lasting friendship. If your friend refuses to reflect on the role they’ve played in ruining your relationship, how are you supposed to move on?
As mums, wives, daughters; we have so many responsibilities as it is. The friends in our lives should lift us, inspire us, bring us closer to Allah and make us better people. In fact, the importance of good company has been emphasised in the Qur’an and the Hadith.
If the people around you aren’t bringing out your best self, as painful and difficult as it can be, you might have to let them go.
Not every friendship is meant for every point in your life. You may have been good for each other at one point, but maybe you’ve evolved and outgrown each other. And that’s okay.
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