You know what the worst part is about finding out that your friend isn’t actually a good friend? It’s that most times, you don’t even realize it until after it’s already over. Once the friendship has ended, you find yourself playing back key moments of your friendship that really should have been red flags. Then you get upset at yourself for having wasted your time and now have to wrestle with your conflicting emotions. It’s almost like getting into a heated argument and not coming up with your best comebacks until they don’t even matter.
Basically, it sucks.
So in order to prevent those horrible feelings or at least mitigate them as much as possible, here’s a list of three types of “friends” to watch out for. If someone you know falls into any of these categories, you might want to reevaluate your friendship and see if it’s in your best interests to be involved with that person.
1. “What About Me” Friends
Imagine that you’ve just received some really great news. I mean, AMAZING news, the kind that makes you want to jump up and down to the annoyance of your downstairs neighbor. You just HAVE to share it, so you pick up your phone. Do you feel an urge to call your friend? Or at least text them? If you do, then that’s great! If you don’t, try thinking about why. It could just be that you aren’t the kind of person that likes to share big news right away. However, if you find yourself experiencing reluctance or dread when thinking about telling your friend, it could be because they aren’t supportive of what makes you happy.
There’s a difference between a friend who’s looking out for your best interests and a friend that’s simply unsupportive of your accomplishments. To tell the difference, think about what your friend says upon your announcement. Are they concerned for you, your safety and your happiness? Or are do they show signs of jealousy, spite and annoyance? If it’s the latter, then they’re a “What About Me” friend. This type of friend can’t genuinely be happy for you because in their mind your success means that they’re failing or falling behind. My advice would be to limit your time around these “friends.” If you know that you’re emotionally strong enough to handle their reactions to your accomplishments, then that’s great! But if you’re not, it can get pretty draining pretty quickly, so here’s some advice: If it gets to the point where your fear of telling them stresses you out and spoils good news, then it’s time to cut them off.
2. Self-Centered Friends
Balance is one the most important aspects of any relationship, friendships included. You can’t give more than you take or take more than you give without issues arising. Sometimes, it’s natural life occurrences that offset the balance. It just might be that one friend’s life is more eventful at the moment and gives them more to talk about. Other times, however, you’ll run into certain people where the balance is always off.
At first glance, self-centered friends aren’t that different from “What About Me” friends, but there’s a crucial distinction to recognize. Let’s revisit the scenario that you received some amazing, life-changing news. Your professor offered to give you a handwritten letter of recommendation. You got the internship with a huge applicant pool that you thought you had no chance at. You won a lifetime supply of your favorite body lotion.
Hey, no judgment here. I’d be excited too.
So you run to share this news with your friend, and similarly to a “What About Me” friend, their reaction is lackluster. Whereas the “What About Me” friend is bothered by the notion that your success suggests their failure, the self-centered friend is wholly indifferent to any details of your life in the first place, no matter how exciting they may be to you. In their mind, the friendship that exists between you two is meant to serve them and only them. Have you ever seen a show or a movie where the annoying, self-centered lead has a “best friend” that pretty much shadows their every move, acts as a makeshift therapist whenever the lead has issues, and never, and I mean never, has a storyline of their own? What’s going on in their life? We don’t know. That’s the kind of person a self-centered friend wants you to be. This is their movie and not yours, so how dare you have your own storyline?
When you’re with this friend, you feel like everything revolves around them. You notice that your friend seems more active, engaged and happy when the conversation is about them versus any other topic. It’s important to recognize the toxicity in these situations, especially if you’re interested in keeping this friend around. This unbalanced relationship will inevitably cause friction down the line and may even affect your personal mindset and self-image. A friend that’s solely interested in talking about themselves has no regard for you or your life in good times and bad. Don’t try to force them to become a better friend or expect them to change on their own. You can’t control other people, only yourself.
3. Fair-Weather Friends
These friends are some of the riskiest kinds of people to associate with because the quality of your friendship is wholly dependent on the conditions of your life. When things are good, your friendship is good. You talk frequently, hang out for a good amount of time, and feel an almost unbreakable bond with them. When things begin to go south, your friendship suddenly dissolves. This kind of friend disappears off the surface of the earth the second that things become difficult for you. Dealing with fair-weather friends is very similar to dealing with self-centered friends. To minimize their ability to hurt you, you need to recognize fair-weather friends for who they are. You need to know that when the going gets tough, these friends won’t stick around. I won’t explicitly advise you to hide those parts of your life from them (and you shouldn’t have to), but anticipate that once you share the darker aspects of your life, they might start searching for someone to replace you with. It happens gradually. First, you realize that they don’t talk with you as much as they used to. Then, they stop reaching out. After that, they begin to actively avoid you, leaving you with no choice but to let them go. Before you know it, you’re strangers once again.
I imagine you might have some decisions to make now that you have all this information. You might be uncomfortable with the prospect of cutting off people that you’ve known for a long time or people that you’ve always thought you could trust. Personally, I’m fond of the phrase “adapt or die.” You either adapt your expectations of the friends whom you recognize in this article, or you end the friendships that are harmful to you. Sure, there are other options, but ultimatums are so dramatic!
I also want to say that none of these friends are inherently “bad” people. Maybe it’s just their personality. Maybe they have issues of their own to work out before they can be a better friend to others. Maybe your expectations in friendships are just incompatible. Whatever the situation might be, it’s not your job to compensate for it. More than that, their failings in friendship have nothing to do with you as a person, so don’t let that thought keep you up at night.
Best of luck to your current and future friendships!