If two people move through life’s twists and turns together for long enough, they will ride through all kinds of seasons. The climate and scenery will shift and change. There will be cliffhangers and stretches of boredom. There will be colorful periods of celebration and expansion and duller periods of contraction and withdrawal. Sometimes turbulence will find them. Such is the nature and rhythm of life. But what a friendship should never, ever be? Defeating.
Below are seven indications that you have an unworthy companion riding alongside you: a friendship that is hindering your happiness.
1. A storm is always in the forecast.
You have come to expect that storm clouds will loom over almost all of your conversations and time together. Things aren’t allowed to be light and sunny, calm and serene — not for long. There is always something to be angry and ranting about, always something in need of being washed away.
2. You withhold your truth because you fear their reactions.
Your encounters with them have taught you that being open and truthful will render you punished in some way. Your words are always distilled through a negative and offensive filter. When they ask for advice and you are honest, you have somehow condemned them or insulted them. When you express an insecurity or regret of your own, they take it personally: You made them feel bad. You said the wrong thing or didn’t say enough of the right things.
They are allowed to voice their complaints, disappointments, and most passionate opinions about everyone and everything, but you aren’t. Not ever. Not unless you want to choke on the fumes of their judgment and anger.
3. Each time you confide in them, you worry they are sharing your secrets with others.
You just feel it in your bones. This isn’t mere paranoia (as everyone experiences from time to time); this is your instinct. Something in their energy field makes you feel as though they are using your misfortunes, most shameful skeletons, and personal battles as a tool to bond with others. They may be taking some comfort in unpacking them, even. At least that’s what your gut says.
If you can’t feel secure in knowing your most private struggles are locked up inside of them for safekeeping, they are not worthy of being privy to them . . . which is also to say they are not worthy of your friendship.
4. They cause you anxiety.
When you see their name light up on your phone, your stomach drops at the thought of answering the call or text. Your heart races. It’s difficult to explain why, but you often have to force the energy to engage with them. Sometimes our bodies know what our conscious minds don’t want to believe.
5. They make everything about them.
That meme you posted on Instagram? It was a cryptic message served up for their eyes to see — even though it wasn’t. That praise of your awesome new friend — you know, the one comment that meant absolutely nothing more than saying something nice about another? Well, it was a passive-aggressive dig at them, and they have been stewing on it for weeks. That Facebook post about your most recent career victory? That was your way of placing yourself “above” them. Everything you say can and will be held against you. And it often is.
6. You feel guilt-tripped and manipulated — even bullied — into staying in contact with them.
When the friendship feels so draining and suffocating that your emotional state cries out to breathe fresh air, you are immediately met with complaints about not showing up for them. Guilt-tripped for being too absent, too quiet, and not enough of whatever they expected you to be until the end of time — bullied back into the stressful loop of communication. You then find yourself betraying yourself in the name of satisfying their demands — pulled, tugged, and lured back into a confrontation.
7. You feel like their emotional punching bag.
The friendship has become a labor of love, with far more emphasis on the labor than the love. You feel trapped in the drudgery of their troubles — so much so that you are neglecting the proper care of your own. It has somehow become your responsibility to fix them, pacify them, coddle them. How did you get yourself into this position? You’re not sure, really.
All you ever wanted was to toss the ball of friendship back and forth in harmony. To share the good and the bad, the hilarious and the frustrating, with balance. But the pendulum always swings into a darker way. You didn’t know it would look like this. Be like this. Feel like this. Day after day after day. You feel like that ball of friendship won’t ever be tossed back and forth in loving harmony; it just gives you a shiny black eye. Worst of all? They aren’t at all sorry; you brought it upon yourself, according to them.
If any of the above resonates with you, you need to excuse yourself from the game. It will likely never be played fair. We often toss around the phrase “life is too short” when referring to something that isn’t worthy of our time or energy. While this is true, life is also too full of wonderful things to allow one person’s presence to shadow over moments that could potentially be our happiest. There is too much in this world to marvel at — too many beautiful places to wander, books to read, stimulating conversations to be had and harmonious relationships to cultivate. Happiness is your right to create and experience; don’t dare let anyone feast away on what is yours.