Friends are meant to make you feel good about yourself. But what if one is doing the opposite?
Many people reach a time in their life when they begin to question certain friendships.
If might be that you just don’t click with someone any more.
Or perhaps one particular friend dampens your spirits, or you’ve been upset to learn they’ve been making nasty comments behind your back.
Sometimes friendships can be worth fighting for. At other times it may be best to cut someone loose.
Clinical psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin says: ‘There are some friends who are important during a certain time period, for example having babies at the same age or working at the same place.
‘But, once that time period has passed, they are no longer so important as the shared experience has gone. We all change, so it is possible to outgrow friends.’
Dr Rudkin says that ‘toxic’ friendships are the ones you need to look out for. These are people who leave you feeling like you’re not good enough.
Dr Rudkin, explains how to spot a ‘toxic’ friend.
‘Monitor how you feel before and after seeing that friend,’ she says. ‘If there's a constant pattern of feeling worse after seeing someone, then you have to acknowledge this and spend less time with them.’
But what if that toxic friend is part of a wider group of friends?
This, says Dr Rudkin, can be a difficult situation.
‘The temptation is to criticise the person behind their back, while acting as if they’re part of the gang to their face,’ she says.
‘It may be that you find them hard to get on with, but others don’t — in which case you will have to work at maintaining contact with those you want to, while avoiding the one you find it difficult to be with.’
Dr Rudkin adds that, if you are unhappy around a friend, it may be they feel the same way and want to distance themselves too.
‘It may not come as a surprise to them and may well be cathartic for them too,’ she says.
Dr Rudkin further elaborates on the difference between a friendship you’ve outgrown and one that has become ‘toxic.’
She says: ‘The relationship is toxic if seeing them causes anxiety — for example, worrying what you’re going to say, how you’re going to cope — and if the person is critical of you it can cause a real erosion of your self-esteem.
‘This can affect other relationships, as the internal critical voice will be generalising from this one relationship to all others, saying: “No one wants to be my friend, really. I’m no good. I’m not funny or clever or interesting to be with.”’
So if you’ve decided to clear out a friend, how should you broach it?
Dr Rudkin says: ‘Have a chat and say you need some time away. It may be that you can avoid them by not texting or calling and turning down offers to meet up. Over time the person will get the message. But it is kinder to let them know you need space right now.
‘The most important thing is to not tell everyone else you are dumping them but not tell the person themselves.’
Dr Rudkin adds that the key is to choose the right time.
‘It’s important to do this from a position of satisfaction rather than at a time when you feel anxious, unloved or uncertain,’ she says.
Edited by Julie Cook
‘I dumped my toxic friend’
A few years ago, I made friends with a girl who I thought seemed nice at first.
But whenever she saw me, she’d make comments about my figure and clothes, saying: ‘That doesn’t suit your body shape.’
I was insecure, and ended up giving her my clothes as she made me feel they’d suit her better.
It took months to realise that being around her made me feel bad and insecure. Plus she ended up taking half my wardrobe!
In time I got the confidence to tell her that I didn’t want to see her any more.
Now I can spot a ‘toxic’ friend straightaway. I keep a select few friends who I can really trust and make me happy. Good friends shouldn’t make you feel bad.
From Yasmin Skaikay, 25, of East London