6 Friendship Red Flags You Should Never Ignore, Therapists Say
You can spot them in an acquaintance before you waste your time.
Many of us like to consider ourselves impeccable judges of character, especially when it comes to our friends. While romantic relationships can sometimes be clouded by feelings of lust and love, friendships are often more even-keeled and peaceful. However, just like there are red flags in the world of dating, there are also red flags in the platonic realm. Here, therapists tell us the friendship red flags you should never ignore, whether you're hanging out with someone new or assessing a life-long relationship. Taking note of these issues early could save you years of disagreements and possibly even betrayal.
They want your attention all the time.
If a new romantic partner wanted your attention all the time, it might trigger some alarm bells. Well, the same thing is true with friends. "This might look like your new acquaintance wanting to be in constant contact with you, expecting you to meet all of their needs, or getting jealous when you talk to or spend time with others," says Jordan Brown, MS, LPC, NCC, licensed therapist and owner of No Worries Wellness.
"At first, this can seem flattering and exciting when you are building a connection with someone; however, these can be signs of codependent behavior," Brown warns. In a healthy friendship, it's important for each person to have their own wants, needs, and relationships outside of the friendship. To allow that, your new friend has to give you some space.
There's a lack of reciprocity.
On the flip side, you shouldn't feel like you're the one making all the effort, whether that be with time, energy, money, or communication. "Sometimes, this is temporary, maybe your friend is going through a difficult time and doesn't have the capacity to put in the same amount of effort that they used to," says Brown. "That is different from a friend who regularly puts in less effort, reaches out less often, seems to only come around when they need something, etc." If you notice this behavior, have an honest conversation with your friend. A good pal should take the initiative to change their behavior.
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They always try to one-up you.
When you meet a potential new friend, pay attention to how they bounce off you in conversation. "A major red flag to be aware of when meeting someone for the first time is if they always try to one-up your own story or experiences," says Rachel Eddins, therapist and executive director at Eddins Counseling. "Someone who does this consistently often has a lot of self-esteem issues, and they think that their experiences are more valid than yours. These people never actively listen in a conversation and interject often to tell you about themselves." Doing this can make it difficult to be friends because you'll never have a constructive conversation. It'll always feel like a battle of stories and wits.
If they gossip with you, they're going to gossip about you. "If a person is trying to build a connection with you based on gossip or by telling you personal information about their own friend, that person is not going to be a good friend," says Kaylin Zabienski, LMFT. "They aren't trustworthy and will do the same with you and your personal information."
Gossiping constantly could also signify that a person is insecure or doesn't trust others enough to be vulnerable. "That's not necessarily a red flag by itself, because we can all have insecurities when meeting new people, but if their default defense to that insecurity is to talk about other people, then that is not likely someone that you want in your circle," Zabienski adds. Positive vibes only, as they say.
The friendship is draining.
Ultimately, your friendships should feel good. So if you find yourself exhausted after hanging out with a certain person, that relationship may not be ideal. "We're stretched so thin, and we need people that help us feel more full rather than more empty," says Mikayla Williams, MA, LPC, NCC, a licensed therapist in Texas. "Of course, all relationships take work and effort, but they should also be relatively easy and natural. We should feel comfortable letting our friends know that we're overwhelmed and need some time to recuperate, and may be slow to respond or initiate a conversation for the time being." If they're unwilling or unable to give you that, consider it a major red flag.
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They show signs of jealousy.
Friendships that have even a touch of envy involved should be looked at with caution. "A big red flag is an underlying feeling that you need to shrink yourself down to fit into their world—that you're too much in some way," says Williams. "Unhealthy competition is a huge sign that your friendship is unhealthy. If your friend isn't 100 percent genuinely happy for you when you succeed or respect you for who you are, if they tear you down, or give you the impression that they're somehow more deserving than you are, it is not healthy." Instead, seek out friends who will celebrate with you and lift you up.