How to… Get Rid of Toxic Friends

getting rid of toxic friends


Now, it might sound a bit harsh to “get rid” of someone, but it’s my belief that life is just too short to spend it with people who are bad for you. In fact, these people are so common that they have a name: toxic friends.

Toxic friends are no fun. While I’ve spent way too much time “feeling bad” about certain friends and keep them in my life, I’ve learnt that at the end of the day, life is too short to be spending it with people who wear you out or don’t treat you right – there is simply no need for a toxic people in your life. So here’s an article that puts it bluntly: how to get rid of toxic friends.

Types of Toxic Friends

There are so many, but I think it’s safe to say that unfortunately, these are the most popular:

  • The Drama Queen: She thrives on gossip, scandal and drama. The antics on Gossip Girl and Revenge are child’s play to her!
  • The Wet Blanket: She only calls when there is something wrong in her life; which is like all the time. She practically invented the phrase “woe is me”. Basically, she thinks you’re her therapist… and you don’t get paid.
  • The Green Eyed Monster: This ‘friend’ is almost happy when something bad happens to you, and she makes these little quips; subtly criticizing you and/or making everything a competition.
  • The User: Self-explanatory. She is an opportunist on steroids! She sees something in you she wants, and she’s gonna get it. Unfortunately, users are everywhere.
  • The Fake Friend: The fake friend is usually all of the above, under the guise that they are a good friend, which is probably the most dangerous. The others are pretty obvious they are toxic friends, but the fake friend is deceitful, and their friendship with you has an ulterior motive.

fake friend that hugs you quote

Identifying the Toxic Friend

The best way to identify a toxic friend is to see how they make you feel. If you feel just one of the points below, it’s safe to say you have a toxic friend in your life:

  • You feel ‘down’ after spending time with this person. Whether it’s about what they talk about or whether they just a negative, depressing vibe about them.
  • You feel anxious and/or afraid when you see their name pop up on the screen, notifying you of a text message, or an email, a Tweet, etc.
  • You feel tired, emotionally drained, defeated, frustrated and stressed out after meeting with this person.
  • You don’t feel comfortable or just have a “bad feeling” about this person. Trust your instincts, they are there for a reason.

A quick toxic friends test

There is a quote I read many, many years ago and I use it to kinda “gauge” what I am willing to put up with in a friendship, which is to treat it like a romantic relationship. Ask yourself: If this were a partner, would you put up with their behavior? Sure, we all have our ups and downs, but if your toxic friend is behaving in a way that if a boyfriend did, would you still stay with him? If the answer is no, then you know what to do.

Ways to Deal with a Toxic Friend

1. Start setting boundaries. The first thing you can try is to set some boundaries. Some friends could just be having a tough time in life and don’t mean to be a toxic friend. However, when you are ‘helping’ a friend and they are just hurting you in the process, nothing productive is gonna happen. So you have to start saying no.

If your friend starts complaining about that some old thing again, hold up your hand and stop it: “Sorry, I don’t want to hear about that anymore.” Or stop picking up their 20 phone calls a day when they break up with that loser boyfriend… again and again and again.

The reality is that you can do everything to try to help someone, but if they don’t want to change their situation or change themselves, nothing will change. At the end of the day, it’s up to them, not you – you cannot help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. Be kind to others, yes, but also be kind to yourself.

2. Have “The Talk”. If setting up some boundaries doesn’t work, it’s time for a choice: you either need to end this friendship, or give it one last try.

If you want to give this friendship a chance, meet up with your friend, and share your feelings. Or write an email if that’s easier. Tell them politely what’s been going on. If they listen and take into consideration what you’re saying, then great! Perhaps you can still be friendly towards each other and just dial it back a bit.

However, if they become defensive, blame it on you, start a fight, etc… that’s when you need to end that friendship. Say what you need to say (“goodbye” usually gets the point across) and then mean it. Do not continue to answer their calls or entertain any other form of communication after you’ve made it clear you are walking out of the friendship.

3. Slowly Drift Away. This is the coward approach on your part, but probably the “kindest” for your toxic friend. During your lifetime you’ll have many friendships come and go; and some just drift away and run its course. That’s OK. Not everyone is meant to be BFFs. These usually happen naturally, but if you want to get rid of a friend this is also an option – all you need to do is slowly “drift away”. It’s very easy: just start getting busy… VERY busy. Focus on your true friendships and keep busy with those friends, and you’ll have no time for the toxic ones! If they ask, just keep telling them you’re busy and can’t meet up, etc. If they’re smart, they’ll get the message and leave you alone.

better to be alone than in bad company

4. Pull A Houdini. This is for the really toxic friends – abusers, users, or friends that you’ve found out are involved in illegal or other wrong activities, or people you just get that “bad feeling” about. Or of course, anyone you don’t want to be friends with anymore, especially if there are many of them.

I’ll admit that there was a time I played a huge Houdini act. Many years ago, I got into a crowd that wasn’t the best for me, emotionally. It got very destructive and I wanted out… so I pulled a Houdini. I felt really bad, especially initially; but if a relationship is at the point where it’s damaging, you need to get out. So I just disappeared. If it’s an institution you always see those friends in (school, part time job, sports groups, etc); stop going and go to a new one. And then change your cell phone number and social media accounts. Poof, gone! Just like Houdini.

At the end of the day, there’s really no nice way to end a friendship. It’s always sad when something ends. If the person/people you are having a problem with are truly your friend(s), it’s best to talk to them. They deserve that. If it’s just an acquaintance who’s annoying you, simply try to slowly drift away and everyone will move on. If it’s really, really bad, then get up and leave, no excuses. Protecting yourself is the utmost important.

toxic friends books

1. Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman 2. Toxic People: 10 Ways of Dealing with people who make your life miserable by Lilian Glass PhD 3. When Friendship Hurts: How to deal with Friends Who Betray, Abandon or Wound You by Jan Yager PhD 4. What Did I Do Wrong?: What to Do When You Don’t Know Why the Friendship Is Over by Liz Pryor 5. Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend by Irene S. Levine 6. The Art of Friendship: 70 Simple Rules for Making Meaningful Connections by Roger Horchow & Sally Horchow 7. Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships by Susan Shapiro Barash

A word of warning…

… Don’t be a toxic friend yourself!

We all do it sometimes. I know I was definitely a “wet blanket” toxic friend at one point in my life – I was going through a tough time at the end of high school and I definitely got a little too much. Life is a learning process though, and friendship is a two-way street, so try your best to be a good friend yourself, and have friendships with people who you feel are honest, right, and who you’re happy knowing. When you do meet these special people, cherish them and make sure to work on being a great friend as well.

Are you dealing with a toxic friend, or do you know someone who is dealing with a toxic friend or relationship and wants out? Send them this article, and let me know how it goes on Twitter.

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  • Michael

    I have a toxic friend in my life. Every time I talk to her I just feel drained and depressed. She just repeats a cycle of the same emotionally draining things over and over. I try to stay positive and help her but there is only so much I can take. I do not want to dread talking to someone who is supposed to be my best friend. I want to end this toxic relationship but I am honestly still concerned for her. She thinks that everyone hates her and that I am the only person that can tolerate her. I am worried that if I try to end this friendship she will become very depressed and may even hurt herself. I still care about her but I can not take the drama and depressing phone calls anymore. I do not know what to do!

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  • Bratista

    I got rid of my toxic friend today, but I feel depressed about it. It just got to the point where we have been friends for years and really close, but she is too much. I have tried to help her and be there for her as much as possible, but she is self destructive and has a tendency to lie…a lot.
    To top it off, she called me untrustworthy which really hurt after all I have done for her (and no, I didn’t blab her secrets like she accused me of).
    So I decided enough is enough, but I’m sad about it. Is this normal? I know she will just get worse, but we’ve been through a lot. :(