3 Signs Your Toxic Friendships Are The Real Cause Of Your Relationship Problems

Photo: getty
friends meeting significant other

The biggest problem in your relationship might not be your boyfriend. It might be the toxic friends and toxic people you're sharing all of your woes with.

Relationship problems are normal, and venting when you're upset can be cathartic. But if your friendships are actually toxic relationships in disguise, you might be doing more harm than good.

When you're angry or upset, you're not looking for signs your friend is a toxic person. You just want to hear how to feel better again.

RELATED: 4 Seriously Petty Things That Slowly Destroy Relationships

Your heart hurts. Your new boyfriend didn't text you back for hours because he was "busy".

Before you Facetime a friend, scroll Netflix for a chick flick, or post on social media to lament, do a quick self-check and ask yourself:

  • Are you hoping for comfort?
  • For others to agree that all men stink and there is no hope?
  • For others to tell you that you are a great catch but he is obviously not into you so run away?
  • For someone to listen, talk through what happened, consider the whole picture, and come up with a constructive way to approach your boyfriend about communicating in ways that work for both of you?

Depending on who you ask, you'll get different feedback and different relationship advice.

Some friends will help rile us up so we take quick action to leave, which can be a great thing if your partner really is treating you like a doormat and you need a pep talk to get out of it. But, this feedback is not so great if your partner just didn't understand how not texting back made you feel and why, and is open to improving communication with you and building the relationship back up.

So just how much does it matter who we call for support and relationship advice?

After reviewing the literature on the influence our social networks have on romantic relationships, Professor Sprechor noted in the Personal Relationships 2011 journal, "past research indicates that social network support is linked to relationship development and continuation."

So, who you call may impact how your relationship grows — or if it even continues at all.

3 Signs Your Toxic Friendships Are The Real Cause Of Your Relationship Problems

1. They thrive on your relationship drama.

We all have had friends who thrive on relationship drama. My roommate in college was a loving friend and I adore her. While we are both in a grounded space now, looking back to that time, I can see how relationship-drama-centered her world was.

During the hours and hours of conversation we shared, the vast majority centered around what her boyfriend did or didn't do, what he said or didn't say, and how she feels about him or no longer feels about him.

Her hands would wave, her eyes stare off in the distance, her mouth form words so fast I could hardly keep up. When we talked about my relationships, I felt my own sense of drama escalate too. I spent more time thinking about relationship pros and cons (hers and mine) and less time doing things I enjoyed and writing good college essays.

RELATED: If These 4 Behaviors Are Present In Your Relationship, It's Doomed

You can imagine all this mulling over every detail of the relationship did nothing to help how I felt about my boyfriend or made me very fun to spend time with, for that matter. Can you relate?

I distanced myself from these types of friendships and found a balance between my work, family, volunteering, and time for myself. A great person came into my life and our relationship blossomed into a sweet love story. I focused on the good parts, we talked through challenges, and I made sure to keep the other parts of myself active.

Then, shortly after we got married, we hit a bump and I needed some outside perspective. I thought a lot about who to call, knowing I wanted clarity, not drama.

I called the most grounded member of my wedding party who coached me through the issue with compassion, while also helping me see what felt like a huge deal was just a misunderstanding. Wow, that's what I call a bridesmaid!

But dating is not the only aspect of your life where drama can impact the lens through which you see your partner.

As a new mom, I joined a playgroup with a dozen others. Our babies would drool on blocks while we chatted about life. As the weeks passed, our focus shifted from conversations about how to raise kids, our careers, and our interests, and more about complaining about our husbands.

I found myself joining in, and found myself growing in irritation at everything my husband did or didn't do. One day I was sitting apart (my baby had bitten another child the week before so I was keeping a close eye!) and started to really hear the conversation.

Many of these smart, funny, loving, giving, compassionate, creative, joyful women were immersed in talking about all the ways our partners were failing us.

"This is not who we are," I thought. "But this is the group mindset and who I am morphing into."

I stopped going, started focusing on all the ways my husband is awesome (he really is!), engaged with more positive friends, joined a book club, and reinvested in spiritual growth and fitness. My relationship with my sweet husband improved.

While I use my personal examples, this translates to all genders in all relationships.

So take stock of what your friends talk about. Is it primarily relationship drama? Can you help shift the conversation to talking about romantic partners in a kinder, more helpful way? Can you encourage conversation that isn't just about relationships?

Or, perhaps, is it time to look for other/additional friends to not just shift the conversation in the group, but also in your own head?

RELATED: 1 In 100 People Are Psychopaths — The 3 Personality Traits That Give Them Away

2. You're too deep in social media.

Did you see the movie, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle? One of the characters thinks it's over with her boyfriend because he didn't respond with a "like" to her #morning Instagram photo.

If your friends all think that this is how a person proves they are into you, you may believe it, too.

But think about it: Is this the only way you notice if your partner is into you? Do you need your partner to show it through social media to feel loved? Do you need all your friends to see the proof? Why?

What if your partner is showing in you in lots of other ways, like asking you to go to a movie they think you'll like, introducing you as their girlfriend to their parents, or smiling at you with a big goofy grin when you walk in the room?

We spend a lot of time with our friendly apps. Take a few moments to do a mental self-check and see if social media is helping or hurting how you feel about your relationship.

Going a step further, pause every so often to consider who is on your social media and how they affect our views about relationships. Ask questions like: "Do I really care what they think about my relationship? Why or why not? What content do they share and how does this reflect what I'm seeing about relationships?"

I remember seeing a post from a high school friend I had not seen in years. She was lamenting that her husband crashed her girl's night out. I chose not to engage in what was becoming a rapidly escalating online conversation.

Instead, it made me sit back and consider how easy it is to tell the world about our relationship troubles, but how challenging it is to sit face to face with our partner and express our needs and wants, listen to their needs and wants, and create common ground.

But if we really want love and connection, not drama and separation, which is the better path?

After taking stock of how social media affects your relationship and your views about relationships, consider the relationship values and images you put online as well. As cheesy as it sounds, we can be the social media friend for others that we want for ourselves.

3. You compare your relationship to what you see in movies.

Who hasn't turned on a sappy movie when feeling down about their relationship? But is this really helpful to surround yourself with? Are these characters good company for your current woes?

Did you pick one with characters you would like as your friends? Did you pick one with a romantic partner that is reasonable to expect in the real world? Do any of the characters actually go to their jobs or is the whole plot them just trying to meet the needs of their partner?

For example, have you noticed that most movies show that women have nothing else to talk about but guys? They talk about if they are into them, wonder if they are going to call, wonder if their outfit is cute enough for them to go out and meet these guys?

In fact, American artist Alison Bechdel poked fun at this in her cartoon, spawning the real-life "Bechdel Test." According to the Bechdel Test website, there are 3 simple rules for a movie to pass:

  • It has to have at least two (named) women in it.
  • The women have to talk to each other.
  • They talk about something besides a man.

Think about your favorite go-to movies. Do they pass the Bechdel test?

While many popular female-focused movies tend to show women mostly talking about guys, do these films really affect how we view relationships?

According to University of Michigan professor Julia Lippman's research, the answer is "yes". In fact, her research presented in Psychology of Media Culture showed that depending on whether you watch romantic comedies, reality tv relationships, or situation comedies, you will have different views on relationships.

So when you are feeling down about a relationship or feeling down, in general, ask yourself, "Are these characters I am watching the company I want to keep? Will watching this help how I think about my relationship?"

The company you keep through friends, social media, and even movie characters, can ruin or enhance your relationships.

So do an inventory and ask yourself:

  • What are these influencers around me are saying about relationships?
  • How is this working for me?
  • How is this going to fix a relationship?
  • Does this reflect how I want my romantic relationship to go?

You can change the company you keep to improve your relationship!

RELATED: My Friend Tried To Make A Move On My Husband — Until I Caught Her

Heather Needham is a soulful life/career coach and intuitive. Follow her blog on her website.

This article was originally published at Heather Needham. Reprinted with permission from the author.