Chances are, toxic people in your life ruined a day or two ― or shoot, all 365 of them ― this year.
There’s clearly something in the water; just last month, the Oxford Dictionary proclaimed “toxic” the word of the year for 2018, so you’re definitely not alone in your experiences.
“For most of us, toxic people and bad relationships can become like an addiction — a difficult habit to break, because you are emotionally attached, and the attached part of you wants to keep trying,” said Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and co-author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. “The rational part of your mind knows you need to let go, though.”
Why not endeavor to make 2019 the year you become a little more rational and distance yourself from the toxic people you know? Below, Tessina and other therapists share six negative people to leave behind in the new year.
1. The Ghoster
Ghosters don’t just exist in the dating world; a friend who used to be dependable and communicative but now never responds counts as a ghoster, too.
If your requests to hang out continue to fall on deaf ears, it might be time to stop counting on your chronically flaky friend.
“Relationships with these people often feel one-directional; they disappear easily, shut down and escape without saying a word,” said Talia Wagner, a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. “Most of the toxic people in our lives, including ghosters, are good at taking ― our time, resources, energy, empathy and compassion ― but not so good at giving it back.”
2. The Adult Dependent
Everyone in your friend group loves Mike ― but everyone in your friend group has also more or less grown up while Mike remains strangely stagnant. You help him out of financial jams, answer his drunken calls at 3 a.m. and help him work through romantic entanglements he should never have gotten in to begin with.
At this point, your relationship is starting to feel more like an episode of “Queer Eye” ― or worse yet, “Intervention” ― than a genuine friendship.
“The thing is, the toxic adult dependent person will never stop needing,” said Susan Pease Gadoua, a therapist and co-author of The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels. “There’s always another drama around the next corner.”
While there’s nothing wrong with helping out friends in low places, it’s important to check in with yourself and make a value judgment about the friendship: Does this particularly needy friend extend the same care and kindness to you, or has your friendship morphed into a co-dependent relationship?
“Is this friend there for you when you have a tough time?” Pease Gadoua asked. “Toxic needy people tend to be intolerant of others with needs. Your healthy friends will be able to reciprocate lending a helping hand.”
3. The Narcissist
The term “narcissist” gets tossed around a lot these days. Given how commonly used the word is, it’s important to note that narcissism exists on spectrum, and not everyone you’ve met who’s vain or vaguely self-absorbed is a narcissist.
But even a little bit of narcissistic behavior can be hard to stomach when you’re dealing with it daily or weekly, Tessina said.
“People who just take and never reciprocate think the world is all about them,” she said. “They will drain you dry emotionally like emotional vampires. Don’t allow them space in your life.”
4. The Eternal Critic
Your time with close friends should be rejuvenating and judgment-free. If your friend is constantly criticizing you for your choices, it might be time to re-evaluate their place in your life, said Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City and co-host of “Marriage Therapy Radio.”
“Do you ever find yourself withholding details about who you are dating or a career change just to avoid the judgment?” Heck said. “You should never have to defend yourself for being who you are. There are many people in this world who will stand in your light and help you shine brighter. There is no point in dimming your light to make others more comfortable.”
5. The Attention-Seeker
The attention-seeker lives every day like it’s their birthday ― or their birthday week, because you know they’re into that sort of thing. The problem is, it’s exhausting to be around someone that self-indulgent, especially when they monopolize the conversation and dictate your plans together.
“These types of toxic people are usually arrogant and controlling,” said Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas. “They know what is best for everyone else and will tell you what that is, though you never asked. If you don’t cave or they become bored, they’ll move on to someone else who will support their antics.”
6. The Instigator
We all have that one friend who is a bit of a shit-stirrer; if there’s drama unfolding among your circle of friends, you’ll hear about it from them. But there’s one thing you can count on with someone who loves to spill the tea; at some point, you’re bound to be the subject of their gossip.
You might not want to completely kick them to the curb ― let’s be honest, the entertainment value of their small talk is unparalleled ― but definitely be careful about how much you reveal to them, Wagner said.
“Usually they aren’t trustworthy and loyal in relationships, and they show this in countless small ways,” she said. “Just keep in mind that instigators absolutely thrive when creating divisiveness, stirring doubt and uncertainty.”