If you think about it honestly, every woman has at least one female friend who really isn't a friend. While most friendships have their highs and lows, toxic ones are characterized by consistent patterns of negativity.
Yet the signs of a toxic friendship aren't always obvious. One reason why: Women are taught and conditioned to overlook, forgive, and forget---and we get good at it. From a very young age, we learn that friendships are supposed to last forever and whether the decision is yours or hers, there's stigma attached to losing a once-close friend.
Here are some ways to determine if one of your friendships may be bad for you---either mentally, physically, or both. Ask yourself:
1. Does scheduling time to see your friend feel like an obligation rather than a pleasure?
2. Do you feel trapped when you are together?
3. Do you feel tense in her presence?
4. Does she often show off at your expense?
5. Is she never reliably there when you need her?
6. Is she self-centered, sneaky, deceitful, or disloyal?
7. Does she have habitually bad judgment?
8. Are you giving more than you're getting?
9. Does the relationship feel out-of-sync?
10. Do you feel emotionally drained when you are with her?
11. Do you come away from her feeling depressed?
12. When you talk, does it feel like she isn't listening or just doesn't get it?
13. Do you dread her phone calls?
14. Do you hate when you see her screen name online when you look at your buddy list?
15. Are her emails too long to read?
16. Does she always choose to spend her time with men, over you, given the opportunity?
17. Has she flirted with the man in your life?
18. Has she done anything to undermine your position at work?
19. Can you trust her to keep your confidences?
20. Has she betrayed you?
There isn't any score and this isn't a case of let me count the ways. The questions are merely designed to help you think about your real feelings.
Based on online survey of more than 1300 women, Irene is writing a book about female friendships called The Myth of Best Friends Forever (Overlook Press, January 2009). She hopes you will be inclined to post your own experiences and questions about female friendships in the comments section of this blog.