20 signs you’re the problem in your friendship

Life is much better with friends.

We all know this, of course. But sometimes, friendships just go sour for one reason or another. Painful as it is, you might have wondered “am I the problem?”  at some point.

To help you along, here are 20 signs that you’re indeed the problem in your friendship, and what you can do about it.

1) You have incredible high standards

Everyone has slightly different ideas for what a friend should be.

For some, a friend is someone who’s there to hang out with sometimes, while for others, a friend is someone they can pour their heart out to like they’re family—think F.R.I.E.N.D.S or Sex and the City.

Being a good friend means that you should respect that you all have different expectations for what a friend is like instead of trying to force a single standard, especially if it’s yours.

You act like you’re some sort of Friendship Police where you impose that you should all do this or that because that’s what good friends do, and if you feel they’re not doing friendship the right way, you distance yourself and become passive-aggressive.

The possible reasons you’re like this is that you have control issues. You may also be a little bit judgmental, critical, and arrogant—three of the most toxic traits you must avoid if you want to be a good friend. Justin Brown explains this in the video below.

2) You keep on getting involved in drama

There’s the saying that if you keep on smelling poop everywhere you go, maybe you should go check your shoes.

Running into problems with your friends and getting dragged into drama every now and then is, unfortunately, normal. If it only happens to you every now and then, then you might just have been hanging out with the wrong people.

But if you run into problems with almost every friend you make, then it might be time to look at the common factor in all those incidents— you!

It might be frustrating to consider this, and you might go “wait, no, they started it this time!” but that’s no excuse.

Conflicts happen all the time, even between the best of friends. What matters is how people handle those conflicts.

Do you fight back when arguments happen, or do you try to calm things down? Do you try to keep it private, or do you air your dirty laundry on social media? Do you listen to what they have to say, or talk them down?

3) You keep cycling through friends quickly

Does it feel like you just can’t stay friends with people for too long? You would meet someone, be very close friends with them, and then a few months later it’s over?

Maybe you would have a big fallout, or maybe they will begin talking with you less and less until they stop entirely.

That would be normal. People make and lose acquaintances all the time. The problem is when you just can’t seem to hold on to any deep friendships at all.

An even bigger red flag is when you seem to find yourself in entirely new friend circles every other year or so.

If this feels like it might be the case for you, chances are that you’ve been a not-so-good friend.

Even incredibly asocial introverts often have at least one friend or a small circle who stay with them through thick and thin.

4) You end friendships the moment an argument happens

We don’t generally like arguing with our friends. It’s frustrating, and it can make us feel either incredibly angry or incredibly sad for weeks after the incident.

Because of that, there’s the temptation to call it quits when you find yourself arguing with a friend. After all, if you’re arguing now, you’re only going to get into more arguments later right?

Or maybe you convince yourself that they now hate you forever because you fought against them, especially if the argument got heated.

If this is you, then you need to think deeply about what friendships truly are.

Conflicts always happen, even between the bestest of friends. And sometimes friends argue with you because they care about you and want you to get better.

If you’re shutting someone out because they argued with you once or twice, then you simply aren’t being a good friend at all.

And in the same vein, if they’re truly a friend to you, they aren’t going to hate you over a single disagreement.

5) You keep on making conversation about you

People don’t usually like being around people who keep on making things about them. It’s exhausting, and one would be hard-pressed to call someone like that a “good friend.”

While no conversation is ever going to have everyone in it speaking equally—some people are just more quiet than others—what’s important is that people have the floor when it’s their turn to speak.

If your friends are trying to talk about how bad their day has been, or to confess about some insecurities of theirs, the last thing you should do is to try to insert yourself into their story.

Saying things like “my day was worse,” or “it’s not a big deal, I have those insecurities too” is going to absolutely make them like you less and less.

Unfortunately, if this is something that you’ve been doing, you might not necessarily be aware that you’re doing it. You might even think it’s normal! Sadly, it’s not and learning how to practice mindful listening is important if you want to be a good friend.

6) You break your promises

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Your friends invited you to dinner, and you said yes without thinking. The problem here, of course, is that you already have another commitment at that exact time, so now you have to disappoint someone at the last minute.

Sometimes we just can’t help but disappoint people. Life happens, and things may suddenly come up and force us to cancel plans and the many promises we’ve made with our friends. And guess what? That’s fine!

What isn’t excusable is for you to say “yes” when you should say “no” like, say, if someone asked you to come join them on a road trip only to cancel the night before the trip.

Even if you’re the nicest, funniest, kindest person in the world, if you don’t keep your promises, you’re not a good friend.

The sad truth here is that you would be a bigger jerk by saying “yes” to promises you can’t follow through instead of saying “no” outright. Keep doing this, and your friends aren’t going to trust you at all and you’re going to stop getting those invitations.

7) You cling to your friends for emotional support

It’s totally fine for you to rely on your friends for some reassurance every now and then. We all need someone to vent to from time to time. Someone who can share in our problems, our heartaches, and be there to help us get back up on our feet.

But at the same time, you should also remember that your friends aren’t your therapists.

There’s only so much of your burdens that your friends can carry with you before it becomes too much. How much is ‘too much’ depends on the person, because some people are more willing to help you than others. You will just have to try to be sensitive of their emotional state and ask their permission before you unload any negative feelings on them.

Moreover, it’s equally important to keep in mind that all of us carry our own burdens. Even the people who seem to be set in life may be dealing with problems just as bad as yours.

And what that means is that if you are a good friend, you’re more than willing to help your friends bear the weight—to listen to their problems and feel for them, just as they do yours.

8) You pressure them into things for the sake of “friendship”

We like to do things with our friends, and sometimes a little prodding can be necessary when they’re being especially lazy or forgetful.

Think about the times when you forgot about something you promised ages ago—like repainting your wall—and had to be reminded about it.

But there’s a line between giving reminders and pressuring your friends into doing things for the sake of friendship, especially if it’s something they don’t really want in the first place.

Put yourself in their place.

Ever did something that scared you, or something that you know is wrong simply because a friend had been talking you into doing it? That feeling where saying ‘no’ or holding it off feels like you’re not being a good friend?

This is called peer pressure, and it’s something you don’t want to subject your friends to.

The usual things friends pressure each other to do are drinking, smoking, partying, and showing up to an event they have zero interest in.

If you always pressured your friends by saying “Do it for us, please?” Or “We’re friends, right?”, then you’re not being a good friend.

9) You let them ruin their lives

True friends simply don’t let each other mess things up.

Being a good friend means calling your friends out (the right way) when they get themselves into something stupid or bad. You’re supposed to be there to offer an open hand and offer them a way out.

Imagine that you’re at a party, and your best friend got dumped by her boyfriend that night. You saw her drink a whole 12-pack, and then reach for her keys.

You wouldn’t let her drive home like that, won’t you?

The answer, of course, is that if you cared for her, you would not because she could get killed!

Now this is an extreme example, but go ahead and recall if there were times you didn’t pull them out of trouble when you could have had.

Maybe some of them realized that they need friends who’ll actually look out for them if they can’t do it for themselves.

10) You don’t trust them to make their own decisions

While you should definitely call out your friends when they’re obviously up to something bad, you should also take care to trust that they can still make their own decisions. This requires some maturity and wisdom on your part.

It’s one thing to stop your friend from doing something that could get them jailed, killed, or hurt. It’s another to think they’re incapable of making any good decisions, and intervening when there’s no real need for it.

Think of, say, insisting that they shouldn’t buy a new cell phone because the one they have works perfectly fine anyways. Or to not date someone because you think they’re awful.

Trust and respect are important to friendship and if you simply can’t trust your friends to make their own decisions, you need to stop for a moment and think about why because you’re most likely just being a controlling friend.

11) You spoil them with gifts and nothing else

Gifts are nice, and there’s no doubt that they can help strengthen relationships. But too many people miss the point and use gift-giving for all the wrong things.

And an especially bad misunderstanding is that you can rely on giving material gifts to build a friendship up from zero. But life is not a video game, and you just can’t throw gifts at someone until they magically become your best friend.

The most important part of gift-giving isn’t the gift itself, but the sentiment behind it. This is why a single thoughtful gift is worth ten random ones, even if those random gifts cost more.

You should be giving gifts because you know it makes your friends happy, without any expectation that they’ll grow closer to you because of that. If you’re giving gifts to make up for a lack of care for your friendships, or simply to buy their favor, you’re simply not being a friend.

12) You resent it when your friends are successful

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One of the simplest ways to discover who your true friends are is paying attention to who’s happy when you’re truly happy.

How do you react to the good news your friends share— marriage, job promotion, awards, pregnancy?

It’s normal for us to feel jealous when we see people being successful and happy, and that doesn’t change even if they’re a friend. In fact, you’re likely to feel more bitter and jealous the closer a person is to you.

What if things become so good for them that they think you’re no longer worth their time? And what about you? You used to be in the same league, but now they’re leaving you behind!

Now, feeling a little bit of resentment isn’t the end of the world. You’re free to feel whatever emotions come into your head, after all, suppressing jealousy is incredibly hard.

But the least you can do is to not let it affect how you act towards your friends. Did you grumble at them or ignore them a little simply because things are going well for them? Did you belittle their accomplishments to their face? Then, you’re not being a good friend.

13) You ignore the signs that they want something from you

Sometimes your friends might not tell you outright what it is they want to tell you, and it’s not just because they can’t be bothered to try. They might be unable to find the words for it, or find the right time to talk.

They might want something more than just friendship from you, or for you to give them more space than you’re giving at the moment.

If you ever notice the signs and decide to ignore them instead of at least trying to approach your friend and talk it over, well you’re not really a bad friend but you’re not a very good one either.

If you know they need a place to crash for a few days, and you have an extra room in your apartment, and yet you choose not to offer them your place, then you’re not really showing up as a friend.

14) You give advice nobody asked for

We like to help our friends.

But that doesn’t mean that giving unsolicited advice is a good thing to do. If anything, it often makes things far worse.

If people want advice, they’re going to ask for it. Most of the time, your friends just want to have someone to listen to their troubles, and not someone who’d lecture them on their bad choices.

To paraphrase Hannah Horvath,

“No one could ever hate me as much as I hate myself. So any mean thing you say about me, I’ve already said to me, about me, probably in the last half-hour!”

Look, most people already know how awful some of their life decisions are. Instead of doing a Ted Talk about how one should make better choices, sit down and listen.

If you’re this kind of friend, they probably got tired of feeling bad around you.

15) You gossip about your friends

It can be quite hard to resist gossip. Not only is it fun, it makes you feel closer because you’re talking about something that only the few of you know.

All it takes is for someone to start the conversation, and the temptation to pitch in your take will try to pull you in.

Someone might mention seeing your friend cheating on their partner, and you might mention seeing that friend around town with a stranger at their side.

But as fun as gossip can be, it’s important to know that it’s incredibly harmful to everyone involved. It breaks down trust, destroys relationships, and it’s a total waste of time.

Gossiping about strangers is questionable enough on its own. Gossiping about friends is even worse, because it means you don’t really respect your friends and value your friendship together.

16) You only take and take

It’s normal to ask our friends for favors from time to time. Things like “please critique my essay” or “Can I sleep on your couch tonight?” would be thought of as perfectly reasonable, for example.

But it’s important to also keep in mind that friendships aren’t about what you can take from them, but how you can help each other.

And that means that you should also offer help in turn, as well as talk to them for the sake of sharing in their company without any favors being exchanged.

If the only time you call them is when you want something from them, then you’re not being a friend. You’re being a parasite.

17) You keep criticizing the things they do

Being friends with someone means helping each other be the best that you could be, and honest and helpful feedback helps with that.

But on the other hand, if you’re frequently criticizing your friends’ choices—their choice of dates, their cooking, their clothing, how they arrange their furniture— you’re being a toxic friend.

Put yourself in their position and think of what it would be like to have a friend who keeps on pointing out the million little things you’re doing wrong.

Criticism isn’t a bad thing, but there’s a time and place for it. And when you do give criticism, remember to be as gentle as possible.

18) You’re bossy

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Being bossy and controlling is one of the biggest ways you can be a toxic friend. The sad thing about it is that you can be controlling even without meaning to be, and because of that you might not even realize what you’re doing.

This is especially the case if you grew up in a controlling household. It will be so normal to you that you won’t realize just how badly it makes other people feel.

And by being controlling, I mean wanting to be the one in charge most of the time.

You always want to take the role of the leader.

You don’t want them making decisions without your approval.

You think that they won’t be able to make good choices without you.

You might think you’re doing them a favor, but take a closer look as to what you’re really doing and you’ll realize that what you’re doing is stifling. You’re an equal, not their boss.

19) You don’t show up

One of the ways to become a good friend is to invest in the friendship.

I’m not talking about the times that you hang out in a bar talking about your week (although those moments are great, too), I’m talking about the moments in your lives where you take the opportunity to truly show up for each other.

A friend in need is a friend indeed, definitely. But a friend who’s there on one’s happiest moments, too!

Were you there when they’re crying buckets because they just ended a relationship? Were you there when they went onstage to receive an award? Were you there when someone in their family died?

If something is inconvenient for you but you go there to be with them, to make them feel supported, you’re a true friend.

If you usually don’t show up because you have other priorities, or you’re simply lazy, then don’t expect them to treat you as a good friend.

20) All your friends are “bad friends”

One particularly damning sign that you might be a bad friend is when all your friends are “bad friends.”

It could be that you expect too much out of your friends and you blame them even if you’re part of the equation. Maybe to you, it’s always their fault and never yours.

But that aside from this, there’s also something to be said about how people draw in people who are like them.

Maybe you keep on meeting “bad friends” because you yourself are one, and you find comfort in what’s familiar. Maybe you share the same traits. Birds of a feather flock together, after all.

Whatever the cause may be, if you ever find yourself thinking “gee, all I have are bad friends”, then it’s time for you to sit down and do some soul-searching.

Last words:

If you’re feeling awful after reading this, please remember that you’re not alone. In fact, there’s a study that more than a third of Americans lose 90% of their friendships in just a decade. Imagine that!

That’s because we’re all flawed humans trying to be everything for each other, and that’s bound to fail.

Yes, do try to be a much better friend by not doing the things above, but as with most things in life, moderation is key. Do not lose your authentic self by bending over backwards just to become the perfect friend.

What will ultimately make you a good friend is if you keep trying to be one.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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