Studies have shown that the key to a happy and healthy life lies not in fitness classes or new age wellness supplements, but in friends.
A 2005 Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging found that participants with a strong group of friends were 22% more likely to live longer. On the other hand, a bad friend has the opposite effect, making way for health ailments like higher blood pressure, depression and anxiety.
It’s not always easy to identify the signs of a fake (and toxic) friendship. If you’ve been friends for a long time, it gets even more difficult to address friction in the friendship. The match probably started off on a great note. But if you’ve started to find yourself compromising in too many ways, you may have to take a step back and assess the relationship.
We’ve rounded up 8 scenarios that indicate your friendship may not be as healthy as it should be, and tell you how you can work things out – or in some cases, ditch the friendship.
1. They never makes plans to see you – but always call you up at the last minute to hang out
Are they constantly calling you up at the last minute to go and get a drink or be their plus one for an event? It’s very likely that you’re just an afterthought to them.
Frequent last-minute invitations are a sign that your presence is not really of any consequence.
If this bothers you, decline politely and make it known that you would have gone if you were asked earlier. You don’t need to be anyone’s fall-back plan.
2. There is always huge drama involved when they cancel plans
It’s never a case of, “I’m so tired from work, can we take a rain check?”, but rather, some complicated story involving different people and multiple situations, that you can easily tell their excuse is a wild story. “You’ve been put in a place where not only can’t you be disappointed that your plans have been cancelled, you’re also forced to comfort the friend,” notes Julie Klam in her book Friendkeeping.
If you feel bogged down by a friendship, it is important for you to talk about it and be able to tell the difference between a friend who is really having issues and another who is just draining the life out of you.
3. They talk about themselves all the time – and feign interest in you
When you try to share a little about what’s going on with your life, they may say “great” – and then move on to something else that concerns them, dominating the rest of the time with their struggles and problems.
Classify them under friends you meet for fun times. They’re not the friends you rely on for solid advice when you’re facing a crisis.
4. Just about any connection with them is a competition
In her book, You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships, Deborah Tannen notes that subtle competition can shadow conversations with friends and be a drain.
For instance, you may be having trouble juggling it all – career and motherhood – but instead of lending a listening ear, your friend casually mentions how she does it all.
She leaves you walking away feeling “diminished”, as if your problem is “unusually unfortunate rather than the universal human condition”, writes Tannen.
You could try commiserating with another friend, who might be in a similar situation, as a form of support.
5. They only ever need favours from you and vanish otherwise
They’ll ask to see you when they need an introduction to someone you know or for you to help them buy something with your discount card, but you won’t hear from them at any other time.
It’s a one-sided friendship if you’re the only one giving and they’re always taking.
Help them if you can because that’s what a good person would do, but you don’t have to go out of your way or make them a priority.
6. They always show up to your party empty-handed
Sure, you’d want your friends to make themselves feel at home, but in return, they should not abuse your hospitality.
Even if you’ve told them not to bring anything, a true friend shows up with a gift or something for the party as a sign of respect.
That said, it’s tough to expect everyone to know what to bring.
You could try assigning each guest to an item and if you have people who still show up empty-handed, then you’ll know for sure that these “friends” are taking you for a ride.
7. They ignore you without explaining why
It’s called ghosting, and it’s really a form of betrayal when a friend pulls away, leaving you struggling to figure out what went wrong.
If you feel strongly that the friendship is worth salvaging, try reaching out again in a few weeks or months.
If you still don’t get a response, don’t hang in there – the person has implied that you’re not worth working things out with.
8. They simply gossip way too much
If so much of her time is spent gossiping about others, imagine what she could be saying about you to someone else.
Ask yourself if this negative energy is really what you want to surround yourself with.