Posted by: mollyrossiter | February 18, 2009

Make new friends and ditch the old?

When I was preparing for the story on toxic friendships that ran over the weekend, I was really surprised at the number of people who could relate. The more I talked about the story, the more stories I heard.

I talked to a woman whose toxic friend would call her cell phone 20 to 30 times a day. Another woman received a letter in the mail from a former friend after their relationship ended “and it was all like we were in 7th grade – ‘Why are you mad at me?'”

I had never heard the phrase “toxic friendship” until a few years ago when a friend and I were talking and she first brought up the phrase. She told a story of a girl in college who would call her, follow her to parties and events, try to hang out and just be “around.” When my friend didn’t reciprocate, the girl became verbally abusive and, well, toxic.

That got me to thinking about my own relationships, and those of people I’ve known through the years, and it made me wonder just how common toxic relationships really are.

So I turned to the experts.

Tricia Borelli is the director of counseling services at Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids and a licensed mental health counselor. She works with college students in identifying and dealing with toxic relationships.

“I think a lot of times we kind of rationalize things so it does take some time before we realize we’re even in one,” Borelli said. “Sometimes it takes other people to point it out, but often that doesn’t even work. Until we really see it for ourselves, we don’t believe it.”

So what makes a friendship “toxic?”

“I think it’s so much about balance and in toxic relationships there’s no balance, there’s no reciprocity,” Borelli said.

Some key things to watch for, she said, include friends being possessive of your time, putting down other friends or your partner, someone who is “doing the guilt-tripping” or who tries to be intimidating or insulting.

“These people can be really charming, they’ll boost you up one minute and then pull the rug out the next,” she said.

And getting out?

“Be honest and open, tell the person that this just isn’t working,” Borelli said. “At least you can then walk away and say, ‘I’m done with my piece in this.'”



  1. Toxic friendships can also interfere with your healthy friendships. It was this discovery that made me end one toxic friendship (though not nearly as nicely as Tricia Borelli recommends). Life’s too short, and there are too many good people out there to put up with that kind of relationship. I found that I never once missed that person.

  2. Nice topic! I really appreciate it! Thanks for post and keep up the great work.

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