Written by Riley’s Way Council member Annika Gottfrid in partnership with the One Love Foundation
This summer, the One Love Foundation and Riley’s Way Foundation teamed up to highlight the roles empathy, kindness, and respect play in healthy friendships. Together, One Love and Riley’s Way trained a dedicated team of interns to write inspiring advice articles for the next generation of kind leaders! Each week their work focused on fostering authentic connections that build bridges (not barriers) in friendships rooted in empathy and compassion. Visit Joinonelove.org/learn and RileysWay.org to support our dedicated team of summer interns as they spread awareness about the importance of empathy, kindness, and healthy friendships with a new post each week on our blog.
Have you ever had a best friend that was on one minute and off the next? Like one second they are making you laugh so hard your sides hurt and other times they are making you feel terrible about yourself. You think to yourself, you’ve always been friends so why would you let something so trivial come in the way of your relationship? Are the good times worth the bad? I had similar thoughts when my ex-bff of seven years, Miranda, started making me feel bad about myself. Though I didn’t know it at the time, her unhealthy behaviors were becoming increasingly controlling and manipulative and when she began guilting me for hanging out with my other friends, I knew something had to change.
What were the unhealthy behaviors that eventually led to the end of our friendship? Read below to learn more about the signs of an unhealthy friendship and what you can do if you find yourself in a similar situation.
1. They Dislike Your Other Friends
While jealousy is completely normal, it becomes unhealthy when someone lashes out or becomes angry with you because of it. For example, my ex-bff Miranda became jealous when I spent time with anyone other than her. Somehow, she would find reasons to hate every person I ever liked and she acted as if I were betraying her by spending time with anyone other than her.
Why was this behavior unhealthy? Miranda constantly put down the people I cared about for her own benefit and purposefully made me feel bad about spending time with other friends. One of the signs of a healthy relationship is respect. If Miranda really respected me, she would have respected the people I cared about.
How could you remedy the situation? Talk to your friend about how you feel. Try and organize an event that includes them and all of your other friends so that they can get to know each other. Most importantly, speak to your friend and ask for the respect you deserve. If your friend is constantly putting down your other friends one way to step up is to say, “I don’t think that’s a nice thing to say about someone.” This may not inspire them to change their behavior immediately but at least they will become more aware of when they are acting unhealthily.
2. They Put You Down In Front of People
Miranda would constantly belittle me by her use of passive aggressive comments that made me feel terrible about myself. She would make fun of me in group settings but was totally different when we were alone.
Why was this behavior unhealthy? Miranda always made me feel bad about myself when we were in front of others which is not ok. A healthy friend would never make you feel bad for being who you are.
How could you remedy the situation? Sometimes people bully others to get a rise out of them. If you approach your friend one-on-one and speak in a calm manner about how their comments made you feel they may lose interest and stop putting you down since you’ve shown them that they cannot get a rise out of you. Confronting your friend might look something like this, “Hey Miranda, I know you said my perfume smelled bad to make everyone laugh but it made me feel uncomfortable. I’m willing to move past this but I won’t accept you belittling me in the future.” You deserve a friend that makes you feel good about who you are and who will support you 100% of the time.
3. They Guilt You To Gain the Upper-hand
Whenever Miranda and I got into arguments, she would guilt me into taking responsibility for everything that went down. She would even bring up arguments from five years ago just to make me feel bad.
Why was this behavior unhealthy? Miranda made me feel like I was responsible for anything that ever went wrong between us. She never took responsibility for her part because she was guilting me into feeling responsible for our friendship going off the rails.
How could you remedy the situation? When you find yourself in an argument with your friend, try modeling how to take responsibility for your behavior by being honest about what you could have done differently and ask your friend to do the same. This way the conversation isn’t about any one person being the bad guy but focused on how you both can do better moving forward. And don’t be shy in asking for an apology when your friend does something that hurts you. Which brings me to my next point.
4. They Will Not Own Up To What They Did Wrong
Whenever she behaved badly, Miranda would often deflect responsibility onto me. For example, when she insulted friends that I invited to a party, she told me, “Well, you invited those people to your birthday party. I hate them, so I had every right to say what I did” to guilt me into taking responsibility for her behavior.
How was this behavior unhealthy? Miranda would make me feel bad because in her mind I was always wrong but in a healthy friendship, you are both responsible for your own actions and words.
How could you remedy the situation? Even if I did something to make Miranda angry, she is 100% responsible for her own behavior. Remember, even if your friend is kind some of the time, it doesn’t give them the right to guilt you into taking responsibility for their unhealthy behavior. If you’ve spoken to your friend about your boundaries or what behaviors you are and are not ok with and they continue to treat you bad then you may want to talk to an adult about it. Furthermore, in friendship, both people should feel equal and if our friendship was healthy, Miranda would have taken equal responsibility for her actions and I would have for mine.
5. You Cannot Hang Out With Your Other Friends Without Feeling Guilty
Miranda would isolate me by not allowing me to spend time with anyone other than her. I couldn’t have any other friends besides her because I didn’t have the opportunity to spend time with them. At birthday parties, I always had to sit next to her and couldn’t sit with others because she had saved me a seat. Before a field trip, she would call me three days in advance to make sure we were going to be bus partners.
How was this behavior unhealthy? Miranda was holding me back from making friends with anyone but her which is definitely not ok.
How could you remedy the situation? If your friend is making you feel isolated from other people in your life, say something. Show your bestie compassion and kindness by letting them know they are equally important to you as your other friends, but always emphasize that you are allowed to have a life outside of your friendship—this includes hanging out with other people or taking a break from hanging out altogether.
Your best friend is the one who is there for you at all times. They may not be perfect, but they shouldn’t make you feel bad about who you are, who you like, and what you do. Miranda was so much fun at times and so terrible during others, but despite my best efforts to model kindness, empathy, and respect our friendship became too unhealthy for us to remain friends and that’s ok. I am glad that I stayed true to myself because I am so much happier now.