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Why do I just attract toxic friends?

(81 Posts)
HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 10:03:10

How do I go about finding decent ones?

I've recently bought a book about different types of toxic friend, and I can honestly say that every friend I have fits well into one or more of the categories.

My friends do things such as:

Always being too busy to see me despite having plenty of time to see other people. Cancelling plans in favour of other people. Telling me they are ill and then going out with other people

Expect unlimited support from me when they're having a bad time, expecting me to be outraged if anyone crosses them and to 'side' with them. Not giving me any support when I need it, and 'siding' with anyone except me. Recent example is a friend who has been very needy recently and who I've offered a lot of support to. The other day she was round here after school with her DD and my DD said a girl who isn't very pleasant in their class had hit her that day. Friend just sat there and said nothing, yet it if was her daughter that had been hit she would expect me to be outraged.

Behaving like a frenemy; nasty comments, cutting comments, little digs. Talking to me sometimes and not at others.

I probably have 10 friends and like I said they all seem to fit into categories in my book about toxic friends. I can't think that any bring anything to my life, they all just seem to use me.

HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 10:04:27

The other trait they all seem to share is talking incessantly about themselves. To the point where if I say anything about me they just ignore it and carry on talking/texting.

Lizzabadger Wed 06-Mar-13 10:05:06

If you don't want to be friends with them, ditch them. Life is too short.

HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 10:07:10

I'll have no friends then though. Story of my life. No friends, so just had to put up with anyone that wants to be friends with me. Sorry if that sounds self pitying, I don't mean it to be but that's how I feel.

Current thing is a woman has asked me to meet her for coffee tomorrow. She wrote on my Facebook wall last night to say she can't make it, and now I've just seen via other Facebook conversations that she's meeting a group of other friends for lunch. I wish she'd just been honest.

HeathRobinson Wed 06-Mar-13 10:09:59

What does the book suggest about why people attract toxic friends?

LadyBigtoes Wed 06-Mar-13 10:13:58

I used to attract a certain type of friend - not nasty usually, but needy and controlling types who would come round unannounced all the time and bring presents and then expect me to stay up half the night listening to their woes. Or try to organise my life for me so that it involved doing everything with them.

I have gradually moved away from this but tbh I think as much as I've tried to, it's also because having kids and family life as well as work means I just don't have the time, so I became much tougher with these people just through necessity.

So in short, people will use and abuse you if you let them - if your response to this behaviour is to try to go along with it and please people. You need to develop ways to gently drop people - not having a showdown, just saying you're not available, too busy etc. and saying no to demands until they get bored with you as you're not giving them what they need.

These days I do have fewer friends and I don't see them as often, but they are good friends who won't hold it against me if I haven't seen them for weeks or months, and we have a catch-up/lunch/trip away together once in a while. In a way, the friends who have "survived" with me are by necessity the ones who are secure and busy themselves and don't need constant attention and propping up. If you drop the toxic friends you'll make space for healthier friendships, but accept that it may mean you're not always surrounded by friends (which isn't a bad thing).

HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 10:27:19

I think I need to develop some strategies LadyBigToes. I've tried to phase a couple of friends out recently but both seemed to suss that was what I was doing, and one got very very nasty with me. Some people just can't seem to take a hint.

The woman that has invited me for coffee and let me down, I've decided will not get the opportunity to become a friend. She wants to reschedule for Friday and I've said I'm busy that day.

A FB friend has done a status this morning about something her husband has done to upset her and she got about 20 replies from her friends, everyone siding with her and agreeing with her. And IMO that's what friends should do. If I did that kind of status I'd get replies like 'oh don't worry about it' and 'I'm not taking sides'

Then another friend expects me to travel around after her all the time, she's always late to meet up. I've done so much for her, and yet she's really rude to me, never ever supports me on anything and challenges everything I say and makes out I'm wrong.

HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 10:29:00

It hurts that I'm a nice, decent person but I don't think any of my friends would have a single good thing to say about me. I certainly wouldn't get the 'lovely lovely lady' comments some seem to get on FB

LadyBigtoes Wed 06-Mar-13 10:37:29

Stop and think what you're saying. That people expect things from you - and it seems like you go along with it. Why? It's not the end of the world to just be unavailable or uninterested. I think these friends are used to using you because you go along with all this crap, even though you are upset by it. No friends would be better than this lot. And you can make new friends - just take it slowly.

And ditch FB! Seriously. The thought of someone discussing their relationship on FB and expecting everyone to side with them is not my idea of an enjoyable friendship scenario, it just sounds like a pain in the arse.

Can you set yourself up with some activities/evening class/things to do so that you aren't focusing on them so much and might meet new people?

HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 10:43:18

Can you give me any tips on phasing people out gently, LadyBigtoes? I don't seem to be very good at it.

You're right, no friends would be better than the friends I currently have. I find I often attract grown women that are quite nasty to me and do childish things. About 5 years ago I tried to join a womens' netball team, which I loved, but one woman on the team, the captain, who was very dominant, didn't like me from day one and would shout at me during matches really nastily if I didn't perform as well as she wanted me to. She was nice and respectful to other people. I ended up having to stop playing.

I also went on a girls night out about two years ago with some mums I met at a toddler group. One mum took a dislike to me and spent the night drunkenly slagging me off loudly to other mums whilst they smiled awkwardly, but very few spoke to me as they felt uncomfortable doing so. I ended up going home early and not going back to that group again.

samuelwhiskers Wed 06-Mar-13 10:50:16

Agree with LadyBigtoes, step back from them and be "busy" more. Try and limit your views on FB, that in itself can make you feel that you are somehow missing out or are out of the loop. I have gone through loads of toxic friends but over the years I have learnt to cull them and dispense of the toxic ones and I am sooo much happier. Remember it is not you but them who have the problem, somehow you need to attract more genuine friends. If you stepped back a bit then you might have clearer vision.

Lizzabadger Wed 06-Mar-13 10:59:02

I think you would be better off having fewer/no friends than toxic friends.

Do you think you might be a bit oversensitive and quick-to-take offence as well, though? For example I can't imagine that I would even remember a one-off incident of somone "slagging me off" two years ago!

LadyBigtoes Wed 06-Mar-13 11:01:20

You just don't ask them to do anything, and if they ask you, you're busy/maybe next time (NOT)/you're tired. It's a gentle way of just not being involved any more, without having to say "I'm not your friend!"

However if someone starts treating you nastily when you do this, that is not a reason to obey them! On the contrary, they are showing their true colours and even more reason to ditch them. You can say "I don't like you speaking to me like that" and walk away, delete on FB, ignore, etc. You've said that people let you down/cancel on you etc - you're free to do the same.

HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 11:12:35

Well that's very true LadyBig. The friend I tried to phase out I just didn't contact, and every time she suggested doing anything I said I was busy, and if I happened to answer the phone when she called I had a quick chat then had to go as was 'busy'. She has DCs at the same school that my DCs go to, and lets just say she created a bit of a scene at the school gates and told me to grow up and that she wouldn't be surprised if I had no friends at all if I treated them all like I treated her. I just walked off. I didn't know what else to do. I'm pretty sure all mutual friends sided with her though.

Lizza, I can't help remembering it as she slagged me off very loudly literally the whole evening, saying very personal things and that she just didn't like me. I went home in tears. So I think that's why I always remember it as it was a really upsetting night and her behaviour came out of the blue.

badtime Wed 06-Mar-13 12:21:36

HerLordship, I used to have much the same problem as you. I thought about it and realised that many of my so-called friends really just upset me, and I would be better off without them.

I think you have to ask yourself why you want to have friends, and why the idea of having no friends bothers you. Is it because you don't want to be the sort of 'loser' who doesn't have friends (i.e. because everyone else has friends), or because you want supportive, nice people to spend time with? If it is the latter, you have to accept that your 'friends' aren't what you want, and you may well be better off without them. If the former, you might want to consider counselling to address why you are so concerned about not appearing to be a loser. You should at least watch 'Muriel's Wedding', one of the finest studies of real v fake friendship in the history of the world.

I think you did the right thing by trying to join a netball team, but it is unfortunate that it was not a supportive environment - could you try again (the people in the team might have changed), or try a different netball/hockey/roller derby team? I found that having a sport based 'fake' social life (something to do in the evenings, spending time with people without any pressure or obligation) helped me to relax and learn to deal with people on my own terms.

Really, from your comments, your issue does appear to be based in self esteem and assertiveness.

HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 13:07:10

I think I know the reason for not wanting to have no friends: I was really popular at primary school, never had to make an effort particularly and had great friends. To start secondary school we moved 150 miles away, where they started high school a year earlier than in my old area, and so I started at the beginning of the second year. Everyone already had friends, and I was put into a very unfriendly form and basically bullied from day 1, with classmates saying there were fleas on my chair when I got up, and that I smelt (I never did).

I think I learnt from that day that I had to be a people pleaser and eventually things got better and I did make some friends, but many in my year disliked me from the day I started until the day I left school. Friends that I did make were fair weather friends though and would never stick up for me and would turn on me all of a sudden at times. I'd have periods of up to half a term being 'friendless' at school. One teacher even joined in on it and called me for a word and said I was the most unpopular person she'd ever met. Helpful! Not! She didn't even say anything when one English lesson the whole class drew 'anti her lordship' symbols on their hands. Apparently that was my fault.

At the same time, my parents who were never parents of the year, started being really critical of me, and for the whole time I was at school said I must be weird as no one liked me and that I was to blame. Some boys in my year at school also said to me all the time that poem 'everybody hates me, nobody likes me'. And another boy always told me to 'fuck off and die'

So I guess inside there is something subconscious that says I'm a failure if not everybody likes me. I do seem to attract people not to like me though. I joined an online parenting group when I had my 3 year old and everyone on there is chummy with one another but there are 4 that avoid me all the time and never ever reply to me, so I've stopped bothering with them. Likewise at nursery pick up there is one mum who has made it plain she doesn't like me. She gets on with everyone else, and no one else has anyone that doesn't like them. Think it must be me

BangOn Wed 06-Mar-13 13:07:57

i was going to start my own thread on this, but saw yours & thought i'd let you know you're not alone in this.

my problem is, i have lots of aquaintances i admire, respect & really enjoy talking to, but they don't seem to want to progress to friendhip, whenever i suggest meeting up socially. they seem to havr enough friends & don't have any use for me.

then i have 'friends' with whom i meet up & do playdates etc, but they end up ignoring me & talking amongst themselves, even when we're at mine. one 'friend' in particular takes any opportunity to pit herself against me. i feel like we're in that monty python sketch 'is this the room for an argument?' fgs. last time we met up, i silently resolved to be 'busy' next time they suggest meeting up, but like you, op i worry i'll end up with no-one.

HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 13:12:14

BangOn, that's exactly how it is for me. I've met a lovely friend, who is on my wavelength and I love her company, but she never has time to meet. She does text me though and we chat if we bump into each other so at least that's something.

colditz Wed 06-Mar-13 13:15:51

You aren't being picky enough with your friends, and also, you're really negative about the groups of people you meet.

If I meet a group of people, and one person is unpleasant, I don't immediately decide that the whole group is a write off. I will either nice at her until she gives up and is nice back, or I will laugh in her face but I don't let one person decide what I do and do not do.

10 friends is too many. I don't have ten friends, I have about five, and I only confide in two or three of those! You cannot have ten good friends, there isn't time in the day, if I were you I'd give the least pleasant half of those the boot.

HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 13:20:05

Colditz, I know what you're saying but on the night out no one stuck up for me, they all just listened to her with a nervous smile. That's why I didn't go back

colditz Wed 06-Mar-13 13:22:19

For example, I have an acquaintance who has decided that I am her friend. She rings me to offload all about her life. The awful things pople have said and done to her, the problems her kids have at school, her partner and the subsequent drama .... She is always having a bad time.

When my ex hit me in front of the police, and I had to have him removed, she was having such an awful time that she had to ring me at six am to witter about her nine year olds half a degree temperature. She didn't find out that I had split with the ex until several months are wards, because she just didn't ever listen to anything I said, ever. Are your "friends" like this?

Because the problem may be that you are categorising them as friends. I don't. I decide that they are just whiny people I know, and I filter their calls and ignore them if I feel like it, because they are not paying me forty pound an hour and therefore I will not provide a councilling service if I don't want to.

May I suggest that you also filter calls, and ignore the ignorant? And stop calling them your friends, they aren't friends.

colditz Wed 06-Mar-13 13:24:07

You shouldn't rely on others to stick up for you, stick up for yourself. You are a grown up lady, not a frightened eleven year old who is waiting for a teacher to intervene. Look her in the eye and say "gosh, did you mean to be so rude? Because that was SO rude that I can't believe an adult would say it on purpose! Hahaha!"

HerLordship Wed 06-Mar-13 13:24:58

Yes colditz, exactly. Never listening to a word I say. Although strangely they seem to listen to others as they will happily tell me about the 'hard time' others are having.

If said acquaintance phones and drones on, do you just say you have to go? Do you just let her whitter on?

colditz Wed 06-Mar-13 13:25:18

I was bullied at high school too, and it was shit, but this is not high school and adult behavior is expected of everyone, not just you, and you can call them on it if they are behaving like spiteful twelve year olds.


colditz Wed 06-Mar-13 13:25:58

God no, I hardly ever even listen any more. I say "anyway, must go" and walk off lol

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