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How to Spot Toxic Family and Friends
(And Why It Took Me So Long to Spot Mine)
Is this person interested in and supportive of the things you do?
This red flag can be tricky because not all friends and family share the same interests or beliefs that you will. Does the person in your life criticize, berate, or change the subject when talking about something important to you? If you share your or your child, spouse’s achievements, do they always “one up” you? An example would be
YOU: “My husband was promoted yesterday. We are so excited”
TOXIC PERSON: “My husband’s already been promoted two times this year AND did I tell you that he was offered a job in France making three times his current salary?”
Has this person made excuses (aside from physical distance) to avoid helping in times of crises?
Times of crisis could be a death, a house fire, a car wreck, the illness of a child, et cetera. Friends and family should and will call, visit or find some way to check on you. Depending on the severity of the crisis, a true friend will ask how to help and mean it. They will not place blame or give you “you should have done this instead” speeches. Blame and grief do not go well together.
Does this person diminish your feelings or any descriptions of events?
If you are feeling low, does this person help raise you up? Does this person show genuine care and concern for you? Or do they play off any traumatic events or feelings as you “being a drama queen.” If you are having a serious rough spot in your life, a therapist or counselor is a good place to dump some of that emotion, but a friend or family member should know what is going on, be concerned, and help you, not attribute what you are going through as “your fault.”
Is this person intentionally mean?
This one is blatantly obvious. Do they say things that they know cut deep about your spouse or child in situations of anger? To me, if a person says things about me in anger and apologizes for it, I will give them a second chance. Unfortunately I have given second, third, fourth, and fifth chances to people that have said things about my spouse or child as well after an apology.
Does this person keep track of any non-monetary favors or perceived favors (tit for tat/quid pro quo)?
“Remember that time I watched your child for 30 minutes? I need (fill in the blank).” This is a typical tactic used by toxic friends and family members. Favors should be done and given willingly and freely with no expectation of “owing” someone for them. Toxic people feel that any favors they have ever done entitle them to favors that are often difficult or expensive.
These five indicators on paper are glaringly obvious, but I am a “YES” person. I go out of my way to do things for people I hold dear to me, and I forgive easily. Now that I’m older and wiser, I have realized that being a “YES” person attracts toxic people. They have no boundaries, and will keep coming back into your life, guilting you into continuing to say yes. The thing is, for your own mental sanity, you need to be able to say no. “No”, defines boundaries. “No”, sets limits. Without “no”, toxic behavior continues. I have found myself going out of my way to seek approval and good favor from toxic people, and they are never satisfied.
Another important lesson I have learned is that forgiveness does not have to mean allowing someone back into your life or even an apology from the toxic person. Forgiveness is letting go of the hurt, and moving on, focusing on people in your life that add value to it.
Author: Kim Campbell
I am a 30-something mommy to one beautiful toddler named Charlotte. I always knew my little girl was special and in January 2016, she was diagnosed with autism. Between therapy sessions and being a grizzly mama bear, I enjoy wine (lots of wine), sewing, DIY projects, and experimenting in the kitchen.