4 Signs You're Stuck In A Toxic Friendship (& How To Deal With It)

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Have you ever had a friend for a year, ten years or even more, and then, out of nowhere, she turned on you? In one instant you go from confidants, almost sisters, to stuck in the mess of a toxic friendship and you don't know what to do next. 

You had her back, supported her and cared about her. You were there for her in her down times and always available when she needed to talk. Maybe you told her your dreams and desires or perhaps she was more of a "surface" friend where your conversations didn't necessarily reach deep levels but there was a true camaraderie there — or so it seemed.

Is it possible for all of that trust to be eroded? Yes, and it happens all the time in toxic friendships. That's what we're going to explore below. 

What is a toxic friendship?

According to Healthline, a toxic friend never offers you support or compassion when you need it. 

"You feel minimized when they brush off your problems or ignored outright if they never respond to your messages or requests for help. In short, they aren’t there for you when you need a friend most."

Healthline also explains that toxic friendships will damage your self-esteem and confidence due to using, manipulating, and even trying to control you. 

This is the truth!

A toxic friend, when she no longer "needs" you, will throw you under the bus, make up lies about you, accuse you of things you didn't do, tell you people said nasty things about you when they didn't.

In a moment, you've gone from friends to frenemies, a healthy relationship to a toxic relationship, and you're left feeling floored, confused, defensive and hurt.

Maybe you never even realized you were in a toxic friendship until you were betrayed. 

Your friend just turned into a frenemy. It doesn't make any sense... or does it?

RELATED: Breaking Up With My Toxic Best Friend Was Harder Than My Divorce

Maybe she was showing you signs that she was a toxic friend all along and you missed them. That's not a judgment on you, maybe you are the type to see the best in people and try to stay positive. That's a great thing, but we also need to protect ourselves. 

Before you get burned, look for the signs of toxic friendships in your relationship:

Ask yourself the following questions, based on the following examples:

1. Do I look forward to the time we spend together?

Yes, she's your friend, so you probably have fun together sometimes. But do you feel anxious or worried when getting ready to hang out? Do you ever consider just ditching your plans because it's just too much stress?

In general, true friend won't make you anxious. Even if you are an introvert and may prefer to stay home or be alone, thinking about your friend and doing something you enjoy together should make you smile. 

Example of a toxic friendship: You've recently gotten a new haircut or color and people seem to like it. When you realize that this particular friend is going to see it for the first time, you feel your stomach tighten. You're worried she's not going to like it or that she'll find some sneaky way to make you feel bad about it. 

In a healthy friendship, even if your friend isn't the biggest fan of your hair, she either won't mention it, or find a way to be kind if you ask her for the truth.

2. How do I feel about myself when I'm with her?

Do you feel like your best self with her, or do you constantly think about what you're going to say, how you'll look, or worry about whether she's going to judge you? These are not good feelings!

A real friend wants you to feel good, and doesn't need to squash your joy in order to be happy.

She doesn't need to step on you to shine. 

3. Example of a toxic friendship: This particular friend has a wonderful side that pulls you in, but when you're together, she finds a way to say negative things (even framed as a "joke") that hurt your feelings or make you question important and authentic aspects of yourself.

How do I feel about myself after your conversations or get-togethers?

Maybe when you're with her you have fun, you laugh a lot, or you feel like you're part of something. But when you walk away, that sort of friendship might trigger feelings of guilt or inauthenticity.

Trust your gut! If something someone says or does hurts, that's real and deserves attention and compassion. 

Example of a toxic friendship: Toxic friends are great at sharing secrets and intimacies that will pull you in and make you feel special or inspiring wild nights and bad choices. Maybe some of the things she said — about you or someone else — really sink in the next day and fill you with regret. 

4. Do I feel empowered or drained by this friendship?

How has your life improved since you became friends? Have you been making good choices, guided by good advice or has she made suggestions that seemed a little problematic to you? 

Do you feel like you could take on the world when talking through your plans, hopes and dreams with her? 

Example of a toxic friendship: When you need advice about your romantic relationships, she tends to be negative to a degree that you feel more resentment toward your partner than before you vented to her, rather than helping you actually solve the problem. Same thing happens with challenges you face with other friends or family members. 

She always seems to put a damper on things or offers low-key unkind "reality checks" that make you feel like maybe your dreams are too big for your ability.

That's not real friendship. 

RELATED: This Just In: Your Frenemies Are Awful For Your Health

How did your friendship score? Is this relationship clearly a benefit in your life? If so, congratulations! If not, each and every negative or uncomfortable answer is a sign that something needs to change.

The negative effects of toxic friendships: 

When her low self-esteem finally gets the best of her, she may see you as a clear threat to her job, her man, another friend, whatever.

These explosions from her ego will leave you reeling. Or, maybe there won't be an explosion, it may be more subtle — you may hear she was talking behind your back or see her doing something you never imagined a friend doing. Maybe she will simply stop acknowledging your existence, ignoring you completely.

She may double-cross you, use you to get revenge on someone else, or simply keep you "on hand" when she needs distraction or someone to be her wing-woman. But that's not a true friend.

These manipulations and attempts at gaslighting can make you mistrustful of friendship and you may be tempted to withdraw from people in your life who are actually good for you. 

A toxic' friend's low self-esteem can impact your whole world, but you don't have to let it.

Our self-esteem isn't dictated by other people, but until we learn how to manage difficult situations like this with a healthy level of self-confidence, other people's behavior can throw us for one heck of a loop and leave us upside down rather than on our feet.

Although the initial shock of the situation may rock your world, instead, look at it as if it were a science experiment. Find a new perspective by looking down on the matter from up high in the stands. This makes the painful part look small (and even unimportant) compared to the huge field of your life, great memories and more time for new, healthier friends.

She turned into a toxic friend, but that just means it's time to learn how move on, and it doesn't have to taint the whole relationship. "Does this mean I have to constantly be on-guard in my friendships?” you ask. No. Allowing yourself to feel what's happening along the way and how you're being impacted by the friendship as it evolves is what your intuition (gut feeling) is for.

It's too valuable of a tool to ignore. Trusting it also brings bigger and better connections and adventures to your life.

Regarding your friend who became a frenemy, there’s no excuse for treating someone badly, but there are reasons why it happens. In a frenemy situation, there is a feeling of not being good enough to have what you have and a fear of it being taken away.

If you don’t feel good enough to begin with (99.9 percent of us have been there) and you see that someone as a possible threat to what you currently have, the attacker mindset kicks in and you lash out. It makes sense but is still completely unacceptable, even more unacceptable between friends as they are supposed to protect each other.

As crazy as it sounds, people don't do things to us. They do things for themselves to get their needs met.

If someone helps you, they did so because it makes them feel good to help. If they attack you, it makes them feel big and strong for the moment.

If we take everything personally, we won't have any self-confidence at all, which results in low self-esteem, which creates a lack of healthy boundaries to protect us mentally, emotionally and physically. That leaves us where most of us are today — feeling uncomfortably vulnerable with our emotions flapping in the breeze of other peoples' words and actions.

RELATED: 5 Signs You Have A Toxic Friend In Your Life (And How To Break Up With Them)

How to handle toxic friends: 

Before you write this person off as a toxic friend, ask yourself this: Is there a way to adjust it to be more positive, fun, empowering or healthy? Perhaps you two need to have an honest talk, new healthy boundaries can be set, less or more time can be spent together, or perhaps ban certain negative topics of discussion.

This isn't going to be easy to face, but you may also bring something to the friendship that's causing it to be toxic without realizing it. Talking it through honestly, kindly, and openly can help you both learn about yourselves.

Just beware of the fact that truly toxic people will find a way to make everything your fault. 

If you decide the friendship needs to end, here's how to let the relationship go while still supporting your self-confidence and protecting your self-esteem.

Step 1. Recognize what you learned from the friendship.

Did you stay in integrity, having your friend’s back even though she turned on you in the end? Were you there to comfort her when she needed to talk or was having a melt-down? This means you know how to be a good friend.

Maybe you weren't as good of friend as you could be and now you know what to do differently in your next friendship. Also recall great times you had together. Those memories don't need to be tainted just because you won't be friends forever. Most friendships have a shelf life and very few last forever.

Step 2. Learn to let go.

Determine if you want to keep your schedule full so you can honestly have a good reason to be unavailable or would you prefer to simply walk away and not communicate anymore? You can also have a grownup conversation letting her know that the friendship isn't a good fit anymore (of course, frenemies aren't exactly in their most mature state to be receptive and this could get ugly).

Trust your gut feelings and intuition; they will always guide you in the right direction.

Step 3. Grieve your loss.

Understand that even when a toxic relationship like a frenemy is eliminated from your life, there may still be a grieving period. Allow yourself to feel it rather than stuffing your emotions. (Stuffed feelings cause physical disease either now or later.)

The reason you're moving on is to stay healthy mentally and emotionally, so if you feel hurt, anger or betrayal write it down. Journaling is clarifying. Note your feelings, reasons for them, lessons learned, what you can do (if anything) to soothe them, what you did right, what you will do differently with a new friend and, finally, what characteristics your future friends should have — being sure you possess those same traits first.

Step 4. Focus on future friendships.

Each time you find yourself thinking about how you were betrayed by your toxic friend, switch your focus to what you want in future friendships. Imagine fun activities, meaningful conversations and the comfort of good friends.

Keep this positive vision because if you continue thinking about that toxic friendship, your energy is going to attract more just like her.

It's the Universal Law Of Vibration, not unlike The Law of Attraction, and is proven by science. We get what we focus on. Practice switching your focus to positive things you want to create more of in your life.

You are now on your way. Enjoy your time to yourself and be open to new, healthy friendships. Become best friends with your intuition. It's there to guide you in the right direction, always.

RELATED: 9 Signs You're In A Soul-Sucking Toxic Relationship

Kelly Rudolph, founder of Positive Women Rock, takes women from stuck and stressed to clear and confident by showing them how to tap into their inner power.