It can be hard to identify an abusive friend. Oftentimes, when you’re close to someone, you'll justify certain actions or explain away things this person does in order to preserve the relationship. But that's never the best way to handle an abusive friendship - if you're even able to recognize one in the first place.
Abusive friends come in all different types and personalities- think anyone from Regina George, from Mean Girls, to Anne Hathaway’s friends in the Devil Wears Prada. When I had an abusive friend, it took me years to realize how much energy and effort she was draining from me without giving anything in return. In the end, it was an unfulfilling relationship that didn’t help either of us. Below, take note of some warnings signs that occur in abusive friendships.
They don't make time for you.
This one seems straightforward enough, but so many people miss out on this cue. If your friend constantly has excuses about how they can't meet up with you, or always seems to blow you off, that's a good sign that they simply don't prioritize your relationship. Even if they text you back all the time or tag you in funny posts, they do those things because they're instantaneous actions that don't require as much effort as physically setting aside time to be with you.
If this happens, try to hang out with them a couple more times and check if it's clear that they aren't prioritizing you as a friend. If it is, it might be easier to simply stop trying and start moving on from the friendship on your own. You shouldn't be the only one giving 100% in a relationship.
They only call you when they need something.
Abusive friends use you. And while it's good to be a resource for your true friends, you shouldn't let an abusive friend take advantage of you for the sake of the relationship. If you notice that your friend only messages you when they want something, or always seems to need something from you, you should step away and say no to their constant requests. There's no reason to support someone who won't support you back.
They use you as a backup friend.
Along the same lines, an abusive friend can call you up whenever they want or need to hang out. They might contact you simply when they don't want to be alone, and when all of their other friends are busy. This is not to say that you need to be at the top of your friend's contact list all the time, but if a friend only seems to contact you after seeing that everyone else is busy, there's a problem.
I've known people who have been put on the back burner by some of their closest friends. It's extremely difficult to end the friendship because it seems like the friend still makes time for them, when in actuality, the friend simply has free time they want to fill. In cases like these, you should prioritize other friends first, and speak honestly with the abusive friend about how you feel.
They don't listen to you.
Whether you're giving them advice, venting about a frustrating work story, or simply trying to share your day, an abusive friend might not listen to you. They might be on their phone for the majority of the time you guys are talking, or they might not even acknowledge you. A friend who doesn't listen isn't a true friend.
I once had a friend who would ask me for advice, but then never listen to me. They would adopt a very woe-is-me attitude whenever things went wrong, but eventually I didn't try to help her because I knew she wouldn't listen to me anyway. Don't stay interested or invested in a friendship that doesn't benefit anyone, especially if it's just going to tire you out.
In stressful moments, they're suddenly absent.
When you're hurting, who do you call? Which friends do you picture consoling you or helping you out? Which ones always have something better to do when you're not at your best? Friends who leave you when you're in distress and come back during fair weather, aren't true friends. If you can't count on your friend, then they're not upholding their part of the relationship.
You've brought up their shortcomings as a friend, and they don't take you seriously.
If you've tried to talk to your friend openly about how you're feeling neglected, and they brushed you off, it's a good warning sign that they're not taking the relationship seriously. You should always be able to talk to your friends with candor and without malice. If you're bringing up concerns about the friendship, your friend should know that you're only doing so because you care about strengthening the relationship. And if they ignore you, that means they don't care about keeping up a strong bond.
They discourage your interests.
Friends don't have to be interested in the same things to be close. But regardless of that, they should support each other and the things they're enthusiastic about. If your friend has insulted or ridiculed you for your hobbies, they're not mature enough to have friends with different interests yet. Stay confident in yourself and what you like; don't doubt your interests, doubt your friend who makes you feel bad about them.
They isolate you from your other friends.
I once had a friend tell me that they don't like hanging out in groups or trios because they didn't like having to vie for attention. As a result, I simply didn't hang out with multiple people when I was around her. She isolated me by using her own insecurities (that her friends would leave her) to manipulate me into only spending time with her. Eventually I realized how insensible it was for me to only hang out with one person, as per their request, and I also realized that she had to deal with her insecurities on her own. I couldn't help her if she felt nervous whenever I talked to or got close to other people. Friends don't keep other friends from being social; instead, they celebrate in the fact that their friends are getting to meet new people and have new relationships to cherish.
In a similar vein, friends can often use their own hardships to manipulate you into staying close with them, even if you don't want to spend time with them anymore. If they're using hard times, or even their own mental health as an excuse to abuse or insult you, you shouldn't stick around. You should try to get them any help they need in terms of talking to a professional about their emotions, but if they're trying to make you into their own personal therapist, that relationship is only going to harm the both of you.
An abusive friend doesn't have to check off every box on this list. They don't even have to have half of these qualities for you to know that they're not giving you the level of care a true friend deserves. If your friend doesn't do too many of these things, and you think they might actually try to rectify their behavior as a bad friend, then by all means, sit down and have an honest talk with them about your friendship. Tell them what you think they do harms the friendship, and explain to them that you want to salvage the relationship, but only if they're willing to try. If nothing changes even then, you'll have to start looking into ways to end the friendship, at least temporarily.
In any case, it's best not to cut people off immediately; you don't always have to burn bridges. Sometimes it's best to phase out the friendship by gradually spending less and less time with the friend, so that you simply drift apart. Though it's sad, there's no need to justify keeping an abusive friend. And who knows? Maybe one day when they've matured, they'll come back and want to start a proper friendship with you.