After a tiff with your BFF, it's natural to get upset and ask yourself (or a third person), "What's wrong with her?" That's because it's much easier us to recognize blemishes or faults in our friends than it is to look in the mirror.
But if you're finding that you're having frequent conflicts--either with the same person or with multiple friends--or that people who you thought were close friends often wind up dumping you, you have to consider whether there's something you are doing or saying that's sabotaging your own friendships.
Here are 5 possible signs of toxicity to watch out for:
1) Are you too needy? Are you always the one who asks to get together? Are you the one putting forth all the effort in the relationship? Friendships need to be reciprocal. Even an ideal relationship may not be balanced every day or even every year but there's a give-and-take that evens out over time. If you are constantly asking for attention, advice, support, time or even material favors from your friend, or are demanding more than they're able to handle, it's not unreasonable for them to grow weary of your neediness.
2) Are you too volatile? Do you blow-up each time things don't go your way or do you tend to hide your feelings until they spew out when they can no longer be contained? No one likes to be with a friend who is intense, unpredictable, and seething, or who is unwilling or unable to work out little problems (before they become big ones) by talking about them.
3) Are you too moody? Everyone has his or her ups and downs but it's difficult to be with a moody person no matter what the relationship. Are you always in the throes of depression? Are you so energetic to the point that you exhaust the people around you? If your moods seem too intense for others to bear or if your moods cycle rapidly, it may be off-putting.
4) Are you too blunt or invasive? Are you the type of person that always says what's on your mind and expresses every thought totally unvarnished? Do you probe and ask questions regardless of whether your friend is ready to answer them. Are you so pushy that you make friends squirm in their seats? Close friends need to be kind and respectful of each other's feelings, not say everything that comes to mind, and be sensitive to and responsive to the lines their friends draw around them.
5) Are you too insecure? Do your friends always make you feel one down to the point that you feel like you need to brag, lie or aggrandize your own situation? Do you hold back or feel too shy to talk, to disagree, or to set boundaries? Are you unable to talk about things that are important to you? If most people make you feel this way, you need to look inside and see how you can make yourself feel better.
If you have lost a friend or two in succession, it may not be anything to worry about. But if you begin to recognize a pattern of lost friendships, one after another, intermittently, or very often, it's time to take notice and at least consider the possibility that it's you, not her.
Have a question about female friendships? Send it to The Friendship Doctor.
Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Her new book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend was recently published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at PsychologyToday.com.