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Why it’s time to clear out toxic friendships
The L Word

Why it’s time to clear out toxic friendships

by Sarita RAO 4 min. 01.05.2021 From our online archive
Columnist Sarita Rao thinks the pandemic has reinforced our true friendships, and exposed those we need to clear out
Good friends can be life savers, toxic ones can seriously affect your mental state
Good friends can be life savers, toxic ones can seriously affect your mental state
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Friendships, like the garage or your wardrobe, need a bit of a clear out from time to time. There’s the dress that doesn’t fit (and probably never did), the DVD player that hasn’t worked for a decade, and that pile of books you should read, but never will.

Just like the junk you need to jettison, some friendships simply don’t fit, have broken, or make you feel bad. The latter can be toxic to your mental state (and let's face it, few of us are firing on all cyclinders these days). 

So why prune your friendships now? Well, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that life is short, might change beyond recognition with no warning, and that spending precious moments with good friends is something we sorely missed when our world became restricted.

Good friends will lift share your outlook on life, love and the universe.
Good friends will lift share your outlook on life, love and the universe.

A friend in need is a friend indeed, so I don’t propose you abandon anyone going through a rough patch. We’re all on an emotional corona-coaster right now. We have good days and bad ones, when we want to murder everyone living in the same home. Intuitive, caring friends can be a life saver (literally) at these times.

Then there are those friends we’ve subconsciously avoided for the past year. Now restrictions are loosening, we’re dreading that call to meet up. 

What constitutes a toxic friend?

  • To start, there are the obvious frenemies. The ones who put you down, criticise, or weave underhand jibes into the conversation.
  • Then there’s the friend who completely ignores anything you have to say, and talks non-stop about themselves.
  • Let’s not forget the self-congratulators who seem to post endlessly on social media (well my feed anyway), and are always adored by an army of mutual admirers.  
  • What about those friends who give you advice without being asked?
  • And finally, those acquaintances who don’t share your outlook on life. You’ve never agreed with much that comes out of their mouths. They might not be toxic, but conversations are pretty limited and often leave you exasperated. 

You can use the Marie Kondo technique and ask if this friend “sparks joy”. If the answer is “none whatsoever”, then it’s time to relegate them to the friendship graveyard, also known as the Christmas card list.

Do those friends who post self-promoting posts spark any joy?
Do those friends who post self-promoting posts spark any joy?

If you’re not 100% sure, the litmus test is how you feel before and after you’ve seen that friend. If you dread going, have to mentally prepare yourself for the “my wonderful life” monologue, then come away feeling a tad worthless as a person or parent, you need to ditch this friendship.

Ways to deal with toxic friends

Luxembourg is a small country and everyone is connected. That makes it hard to avoid people. But you can do one or more of the following:

  • On social media, just ignore them. The less you like or love posts, the less that self-aggrandising person features in your feed. Grit your teeth and resist the temptation to post “you look amazing” or “that is wonderful news”, or even “you smug b1tch”, and keep scrolling.
  • Try the silent treatment. This requires nerves of steel, but if you don’t respond to WhatsApp calls or messages from a toxic friend, they will eventually give up. Better still, uninstall WhatsApp.
  • If you accidentally bump into a toxic friend who suggests a meet up, tell them that your free time has been seriously curtailed since your vaccinated mother-in-law came to stay for the rest of 2021. 
  • Somewhat extreme, change phone numbers, social media names, and email addresses. Change everything to the name Kylie Jenner, she’ll know how to handle your toxic friend.
  • More extreme – move house and leave no forwarding address. You’ll need a few million Euros for this plan to work in Luxembourg.
  • Really extreme – claim you're in a witness protection programme and cannot see any friends until your plastic surgery is complete.

But seriously, it’s hard to be honest with someone whom you don’t have a great relationship with in the first place. Whilst honesty is the best policy, it’s probably best to avoid it with toxic friends who might turn nasty on you.

Just don’t give in and let that soul-sucking friendship back into your life. Not even for lunch on a sunny terrace. 

Remember that your time is worth something. If Covid has taught us anything, it is that life is precious and could be over in the blink of an eye.

If someone’s company leaves you feeling stressed, inadequate, or downright miserable, don’t waste a minute more on them. You’ll be lighter and happier for it, and you’ll have more time for the friends you value. 

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