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It wasn’t until I became a parent that I realized the old saying that goes, “Show me your company and I’ll tell you who are you” had some serious truth behind it. Throughout my 25 years, I’ve had friends of all kinds. I’ve had happy friends, miserable friends, ratchet friends, educated friends, stoner friends, religious friends, materialistic friends and too many other kinds of friendships to mention. Out of all of those types of friendships that I formed with women I deemed in some ways like myself, the worst kind of friend I’ve had the disadvantage of knowing has been the parasitic friend.

It’s easy to recognize and categorize your religious friend as religious because she makes no mistake about professing her love of the Lord. You’ll quickly notice who your super educated friends are, because their vocabulary consists of words that require a dictionary app. But how do you know when you are involved in a toxic friendship?

In most cases, we hold on to old friendships for the sake of old friendships. With “day one” friends, it’s easier to chalk up terrible behavior to, “that’s just how she is.” Unfortunately, toxic friendships never let up and only get worse. Making excuses for a friend who is wreaking havoc on your life can get old and too heavy to hold up against, a “day one” allegiance.

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to determining the symptoms of a toxic friendship, but the feeling is unmistakable. Like a sickness or the flu, you can feel it coming. When she calls, you sometimes get that, “…oh God, what now?” thought. When she’s in your presence, you find yourself struggling with your emotions and making bad choices when you know better. After conversations with your toxic BFF, you’ve immediately taken on her problems and have started seeking solutions more diligently than she might even be. You begin to notice that her life choices are incompatible with who you are or who you’re trying to become, but you can’t stomach the thought of leaving her behind, so you go above and beyond to motivate her to strive for better.

In a way, keeping ties to a toxic friend is relatable to the parasite and host relationship. The longer the host holds on to the parasite, the sicker the host becomes. Occasionally, the host continues to nurture the parasite because the parasite serves as company, and for some, any company is better than no company–but this is counterproductive. Toxic friends can keep us stagnant, and they have the tendency to subliminally encourage behavior that goes against what we are trying to achieve in life.

Toxic friends will be indifferent to your distress, they never notice or understand when they hurt your feelings, and they will continue to demand more of you. They carry a negative energy with them and will leave you drained after each encounter. They can be overly critical of your decisions, and when they ask for your advice, they misinterpret or disregard your message, leaving you feeling like a “bad” friend.

Have you ever gotten the feeling that your friend isn’t really interested in receiving your advice on every single problem in her life, but is simply craving attention? She might be toxic. If you’ve ever abandoned your responsibilities to tend to your toxic friend and she knows the consequences of doing that, but doesn’t try to stop you, she’s probably a toxic friend. Do any of your friends act entitled to your possessions, your time, and your money, and if you cannot comply with what they want for any reason, they automatically discredit all you’ve done to accommodate them in the past? Yep, probably toxic.

It’s best to sever ties to a friend that doesn’t add value to your life. If any of your friends are becoming a source of constant angst, it might be time to re-evaluate that friendship. If your friendships are getting in the way of your goals, you might want move on without that so-called “friend.” If you’ve been spending more time trying to “fix” your friend’s life, refer her to a therapist or a life coach and put more energy into yourself.

When in doubt about when moving on from a toxic friend is necessary, keep in mind that anybody that treats you in a way that brings you more stress than happiness is no friend at all.

Opal Stacie is a freelance writer based out of the Miami area. Find her on twitter @OpalStacie
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