Unhealthy Friendships

Column by Ritika Agarwal

Ritika - JaeEun Oh

Friendships are a super important part of life. But often, we find ourselves stuck in friendships that do us more harm than good. It’s important to recognize the signs of unhealthy friendships and get out as soon as you can, because the people we surround ourselves with contribute to our mental well-being. So without further ado, here are four types of unhealthy friendships that you should look out for.

Type 1: Manipulative Friendships

These kinds of friendships are arguably the worst kind. I’ve been on both ends of this kind of friendship, and it’s not fun either way. One was with someone I called my best friend. We’d have sleepovers, have lunch together at school, play together in the playground—everything that nine-year-old best friends are supposed to do. She had this remarkable ability to make me feel special, and as a consequence, she could also make me feel terrible about myself. I was lucky enough to have that friendship end naturally—I moved away and we just didn’t see each other anymore. But as you get older, manipulative friendships become more and more toxic. If you find yourself constantly trying to please someone, needing someone’s approval for everything you do, feeling terrible about yourself when you don’t meet their expectations, you know you’re in a manipulative friendship.

Type 2: Lack of Mutual Respect

Healthy friendships are built on a foundation of mutual respect, which means viewing your friend as an equal. I’ve been a part of a friendship where my friend didn’t respect me, which meant that she didn’t value my opinion, didn’t follow through with her commitments to me and just overall took me for granted. It feels awful to be part of a friendship like this because you feel constantly insecure about yourself and whether or not your friend truly values you.

Type 3: Dependence/Convenience

These kinds of friendships often happen at a point in your life when you’re in a new environment and you’re desperate to find people to support you through a tough transition. Case in point—coming to college. When I came to Grinnell, I made friends with the first people who were willing to be friends with me, without really making sure that the chemistry was right. That’s right—chemistry in friendships is important, too. These friendships inevitably become frustrating. The conversation is stilted, hangouts are never enjoyable, but you feel like you need the friendship to survive so you stick with it anyway. Honestly, it’s better to have no friends at all than be stuck in a friendship like this one.

Type 4: Passive-aggressive/

Jealous Friendships

I like to call this kind of friendship a clash of the egos. It is often characterized by a need to win, even if winning doesn’t make any sense in the context of your friendship. When your friend views you as competition, he/she/ze will downplay your successes and try to make you feel like you’re not good enough. And all this will be veiled in a cloud of passive-aggressive hostility so you can never quite call them out on their behavior. They’ll either pretend it was a joke or pretend as if they have no idea what you’re talking about, making you seem like the one with the problem. Real friends want the best for each other—they support each other in both success and failure.

We’ve all had relationships that were unhealthy in some way or another. Most of us have been on both ends. What you have to remember is that while you’re in it, it may seem like there’s no way out. You may feel trapped or obliged to stay in the relationship, especially if you’ve been in it a long time. You may feel like you need the friendship, regardless of how bad it makes you feel. The fact is, you need to get out. As soon as you see the signs, get out. It isn’t worth it. As you get older, it becomes both harder and more necessary to cut people out of your life. You need to be picky about friends and boyfriends and girlfriends. Quality over quantity—always.