What are the signs of a toxic relationship?

April 20, 2022

Collage created with photograph of Woman on Phone by Liza Summer and photographs of party people by Tima Miroshnichenko both at Pexels

Ismahan Hussein and Zaynab Ali discuss the friendships they have and how to spot when one is becoming toxic

Healthy friendships are the ones that have a balance between listening and being heard, with honesty and support and a genuine concern for a friend’s well-being.

Even strong friendships sometimes have rough patches and can be fraught with conflict and tension. Difficult or toxic friendships, on the other hand, never seem to go smoothly. According to an article in Forbes magazine toxic friendships are all too common with 84% of women having a toxic friend at some point.

What’s tough and confusing is if a friendship was once fun, comfortable and safe but it’s now not making you feel good about yourself. In fact, you might often feel unhappy and isolated.

To us a good friendship is when you both feel chilled together, you can have good banter, as well as feeling safe when you’re confiding in each other.

Our discussions have given us both a real insight to what makes a friendship toxic. See below a scenario we came up with based on our first-hand experiences. I’m sure you’ll have been part of something similar or have witnessed this stuff at some stage.

Daniela and Olive have been friends since year 8 at secondary school. The girls will soon be starting at the same sixth form. Olive is feeling anxious about this but doesn’t quite understand why. Eventually she starts to recognise her friend’s negative patterns of behaviour. The trouble starts in the summer break.

Olive confides in her friend, who within days, reveals all to some guys they meet in the park

It’s a hot summer evening and the two friends are meeting some guys in the park. Olive is full of good vibes which Daniela soon diminishes by embarrassing her. She tells everyone about some personal stuff Olive confided with her a few days before. Olive tries to confront Daniela about it later but she brushes it off and puts Olive down some more. Olive ends up feeling shamed and miserable.

A couple of days later Daniela suggests she helps Olive study all night for a maths test. Olive is surprised and not totally comfortable with it but agrees anyway. Olive does very well in the test. Daniela barely congratulates her and immediately changes the subject to talk about herself and a boy she’s met. Olive is left feeling frustrated and uneasy.

Olive is waiting for Daniela at their usual hangout. After half an hour she gets very worried and calls her. Daniela picks up saying she’s at a great party. Feeling foolish and isolated, Olive asks whose party it is. Daniela fobs hers off with, ‘oh it’s just this guy’s party that I like. You won’t like the vibe. Just looking out for you babe.’

After the results of another test Daniela is excited and can’t wait to tell Olive about how highly she scored. Olive hugs her and congratulates her warmly. However, when it turns out that Olive has got a better grade, Daniela dismisses it and puts her down, implying she does so much work it’s weird and anyone who put that much effort in could do well. Olive walks away feeling hurt and guilty.

A few days later, after another uncomfortable encounter, Olive realises she’s had enough of feeling undermined and confused and tells Daniela that she needs some space.

It’s not easy to extricate yourself from a toxic friendship, we’ve all been there. Click here to find great tips and advice on how to move beyond it.



Ismahan studies English literature, Politics and History at Woodhouse College. She enjoys reading and learning about current events around the world.

Zaynab studies Biology, Psychology and English Literature at Woodhouse College. She enjoys reading, writing and discussing controversial topics.

Ismahan studies English literature, Politics and History at Woodhouse College. She enjoys reading and learning about current events around the world.

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