[ Skip Main Nav ]

Phoenix Forward

5 reasons to end a toxic friendship

Toxic friends aren’t friends at all

Do you have a friend who’s toxic, and really more of a frenemy? “If someone you’re friends with repeatedly crosses boundaries and makes you feel bad about yourself despite being asked to stop, that’s abusive behavior,” says Leslie Baker, a licensed marriage and family therapist and an area chair for the counseling program at the University of Phoenix Bay Area Campus.

Here, according to Baker, are five signs a friendship has run its course:

The friend is abusive.

Abusive behavior doesn’t have to be in your face: Common toxic friend tactics include hidden insults wrapped in compliments, over-competitiveness, or spreading lies and rumors at your expense.

“People who exhibit frenemy traits sometimes can be hard to detect at first,” Baker notes. “But trust your feelings — they’re usually your first and best clue something is wrong.”

You’re doing all the work.

“A healthy friendship shares things 50-50, but if you feel like you’re giving 80 percent and the other person only 20 percent, that’s a red flag,” Baker says.

Examples include the friend who never calls you, never initiates plans and isn’t there when you need her. “If you’re the only person putting any energy into the friendship, it’s time to let it go,” Baker stresses.

Unreliability becomes the norm.

Do you have a friend who constantly bails on plans at the last minute, “forgets” lunch dates and has become so unreliable it’s causing you stress? Then your friend is a flake, a toxic friend type.

“Sometimes flaky people have adult ADHD, but oftentimes they just don’t value you or your time,” Baker says. If someone’s flakiness can be attributed to a legitimate medical condition like ADHD, you have to make a decision whether or not you want to deal with its consequences, she advises.

You’re just not compatible anymore.

Sometimes the differences between people are too great to overcome. “If you’re friends with someone with a very different lifestyle, that can cause conflict,” Baker says.

For example, you might find it difficult to remain friends with your single buddies after you marry and have children, or you might find someone’s political or social views offensive. “It’s important to be friends with people who share your core values, and sometimes it can take a while to discover that values are at odds,” Baker notes.


You want to be done with this person.

Although it can be a tough decision to end a friendship, it’s always best to go with your gut, according to Baker. “If a friend makes you feel bad most of the time, listen to that feeling,” she says. “And be careful not to blame yourself for accepting someone else’s bad behavior for too long.”

If you want to end a friendship, you have options. In some cases, you can confront the friend and salvage the relationship, but many toxic relationships call for a clean break, Baker suggests. “Take care of yourself first.”