Friends should help you weigh the options of certain situations and keep you level-headed with reality checks from time to time, but they should never make you feel unsupported. They can encourage you, inspire you and bring out the best parts of you. But what happens when hanging out with certain friends starts to feel like an obligation, or when you feel like you’re fighting more than hanging out? Here are some telltale signs of friendship trouble and how you can try to turn things around.

1. They make you feel insecure ADVERTISEMENT

It’s great if a friend can point out that your mascara’s running or if you’ve got food in your teeth after a meal at Hajjats place, but if these comments turn into criticism, something’s gone wrong. Take a step back and think if the criticism was either constructive or cruel. If it’s negative, try speaking up to your friend and telling them the way their comments have made you feel; sometimes, we’re simply unaware of the effects our words have on others. If they’re not open to listening to you and working to make you comfortable, it’s not worth it.

2. If you feel pressured to do things you don’t want to.

You might not want to watch soaps every time they want to. But if you make plans with someone and already know you don’t want to go, it’s a sign you’re probably not the healthiest of friends. Spending time with a friend should never feel like an obligation. Instead, it should be something you want to do. Consider if it’s the activities you’re planning that you don’t want to do, or if it’s the person you’re spending time with. Either way, a good friend should understand that you might not be on the same page all the time, and that it’s okay if you stay in on a Saturday night while she goes out for a boozage.

3. Your friendship seems like a one-way street

It’s hard to be friends with someone you care for who doesn’t seem to care for you back. If you feel like you’re putting much more time and energy into the relationship than your friend, it may be time to reevaluate where you stand. Of course, people show affection and appreciation in different ways – you might show a friend you love them by picking up their favorite candy at Shoprite on a sad day, while they prefer to write a heartfelt message on their Whatsapp status to let you know they’re thinking about you. But if you’re always there for your friend while they only interact with you when they need something, there’s justification for your frustration. If you feel like your friendship’s a one-way street, I recommend talking in person to communicate to your friend how you’d like to be treated differently. A friend who’s worth your time will be open to change and will work to put more effort into the relationship.

4. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells around them

Friends should never keep score on each other. If you feel like you have to dramatically alter your behavior for a friend, think about how much the friendship means to you. Does your potentially toxic friend want you to stop talking to your other friends because they don’t like them? Do they want you to give up an activity you love to spend more time with them? It’s okay to make sacrifices for your friends, but don’t give up the things you like just so you’re on their good side. A good friend ought to see it through with you no matter the situation.

5. If they get (a little) too jealous

It’s okay if a friend doesn’t throw party every time something good happens to you, but when they actively work against your success, there’s a problem. Jealousy often comes in waves and is dependent on your friend’s personal life, so analyze the situation before calling them out. This seems to happen a lot when one friend starts doing really well in life and another friend brings them down because they can’t keep up or just haven’t had as many opportunities yet. Your true friends will be happy for your accomplishments – in life, love and career – and make you feel loved rather than guilty. Plus of course it’s always important to think about your friend’s situation, but if their feelings continue to hurt your celebration, they may not be the supportive friend you need. Recognizing that a friend might not be the best for you is always hard. As usual, communication is key: talk to your friend about how you’re feeling and how what they’re doing is causing a problem. If they’re a good friend, they’ll understand and work to mend the friendship. If not, it’s okay to put yourself first and reassess if you want to still be friends.

But always remember, ending a friendship is a process. Ask yourself: have you tried to set boundaries? Do you want to be treated differently? Have they been open to that? Have you had some conversations and they’ve ignored it? If your friend refuses to change even after you’ve spoken to them, it’s okay to move on from the relationship. Nobody needs a toxic friend to hold them back from living their best life.

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