To celebrate the release of her new book, The House of Whispers, author Anna Kent has written a feature for Female First, all about the signs you should look out for if you suspect you might be in a toxic friendship...
1. Your friend is never happy for you. No matter what you achieve, your friend sneers at it. If you save up to buy something nice or go on holiday abroad, she disses it. If you get a promotion, she belittles it. If you lose weight, you’re too skinny; if you buy a new blusher, the colour doesn’t suit you. She sucks the joy out of everything to the point that you find yourself no longer wanting to share your achievements with her.
2. Your friend takes, but never gives. Both financially and emotionally. She’s happy to crash at yours when it suits her; she expects you to listen to her problems; she’ll complain endlessly to you about work and expect you to lend her a tenner when she’s short of cash – but does she ever return the favour? A toxic friendship is about her, her and only her.
3. Your friend talks badly about you... And sometimes not even behind your back. She calls you by your childhood nickname in front of your work colleagues, or she tells the crowd something you’ve told her in secret. She makes passive-aggressive comments about you, in front of you, disguised as a joke and you have to laugh because it’s ‘funny’, but inside you’re crying.
4. Your friend controls your emotions. Some days she’ll make you feel like nothing you do is right; other days she’ll make you feel like she’s the best friend in the world. She’ll exclude you from a meet-up with your friends, claiming that what they’re doing that day ‘isn’t your thing’ and, just as you’re about to give up on her, she’ll arrange something over-the-top special just for you. She pulls your emotional strings and controls you like a puppet – and you walk on eggshells around her not knowing what to expect each day.
5. You feel drained when you've spent time with your friend. Being with a friend should be uplifting and leave you feeling happy and positive but when you get home from seeing her, you’re wiped. She might feel better for having seen you, but you realise that you’re just an emotional dumping ground for her dysfunctional life.
6. Your friend tells you that you need to change. And not in a constructive way. Rather than accepting you the way you are, she’s always telling you: you’re too this, you’re too that, you ought to do this, you ought to do that. Pointing out your flaws stops her from having to face her own – and trust me, she’ll have plenty.
7. She won't let you take the limelight. Maybe you’re telling a funny story to a group of friends but, behind you, your toxic friend is rolling her eyes or mimicking you to discredit what you’re saying. She can’t stand you being the centre of attention or making people laugh, because it’s always got to be about her.
The House of Whispers is out now, published by HQ. The compelling new novel is all about guilt, obsession and toxic female friendships. It's sure to get under your skin.
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