Not all toxic people are cruel and uncaring. Some of them love us dearly. Many of them have good intentions. Most are toxic to our being simply because their needs and way of existing in the world force us to comprise ourselves and our happiness. ~ Daniell Koepke
Sometimes toxic relationships are obvious, like when your date calls you ugly, or when you catch your best friend with your boyfriend. When we think of toxic relationships we’re all likely thinking about cheaters, liars, abusers and bullies. But, not all bad dates and toxic friendships come with obvious warning signs. Sometimes the people that bring us down the most have personalities that are so subtly destructive, we would never think to suspect them in the first place. Everyone has their quirks, right? Although it is true that no one is perfect, this isn’t about perfection, but about having a clear map of human nature and knowing exactly where you stand in a relationship.
It is entirely normal to like, and even love someone who is fundamentally a bad friend or boyfriend. “Not all toxic people are cruel and uncaring,” writes Daniell Koepke, “Some of them love us dearly. Many of them have good intentions. Life is hard enough without being around people who bring you down.” The toxic personalities outline below usually belong to people that seem completely normal in every other way. These are your best friends, your mothers, your teachers, bosses and boyfriends. They are people who should be good for you to be around, and so naturally we turn a blind eye to the things about them that can be seriously destructive to your happiness.
. . . . .
1. The Narcissist: We Can Be Friends As Long As You Worship Me
Contrary to popular belief, narcissists are not people who are simply vain. Narcissism is a diagnosable mental health issue, and affects roughly 17% of the general population. Narcissists dwell in a perpetual state of victimhood, demanding both sympathy and special treatment from everyone around them. Don’t expect these people to take a sincere interest in you or your life. The narcissist always finds a way to twist every situation so that the spotlight falls on them. Somehow, even when they are the ones who have wronged you, you end up apologizing and feeling guilty. They are quick to notice the things you do wrong, but ignore all the times you go out of your way to help them. Narcissists firmly believe that their problems are more important than yours, and so they are entitled to be treated better. They have a sense of superiority, and are quick to judge others for their shortcomings, but fall into a rage if anyone suggests that they are anything but perfect.
. . . . .
2. The Bleeding Heart: I Will Save The World Or Die Trying
These are highly sensitive, compassionate people that will always be there for you when you need them. But their hyper-compassionate emotional streak, as wonderful as it is 90% of the time, doesn’t come with an off switch. When a situation calls for light-heartedness or laughter, they will always find a way to lead the conversation into deep philosophical waters that are frequently draining to those around them. These are the perpetual life-questioners and over-analyzers – what did she mean by that vague statement? Does he secretly hate me? Am I living my highest purpose? What’s the meaning of this life? Bleeding Hearts are the people that absorb everyone else’s problems and carry them everywhere they go like a ball and chain. They feel in innate obligation to help everyone, and fix everything, and they have no energy left over for taking care of themselves or simply enjoying life’s small pleasures. They are extremely good people, but they simply don’t know how to lighten up and stop taking life so seriously. On a toxic relationships scale of 1 to 10, Bleeding Hearts are about a 5. Not a total nightmare, but definitely a downer in the long haul.
. . . . .
3. The Robot: What Is Feelings??
Their brains are programed for two things and two thing only: Facts and figures. Forget self-reflection, analyzation, emotion or philosophical discussion. No, here you’re limited to discussing the immediate facts around you: The weather, the traffic, that day’s news, or that week’s to-do list. Put these people in a room with The Bleeding Heart mentioned above and you’ll have awkwardness of galactic proportions. These people cannot handle your emotions, and will not understand why you would be so upset that a friend said you look fat in your favorite dress, or that you’re co-worker called you lazy. “Why do you care? Just get over it” is their life motto and they embrace it fully. Nothing seems to faze them because their ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes is nearly nonexistent. They are painfully unable to see passed their own filter on reality, and no amount of explaining will change that. The more emotional you become around them, the more likely they are to think you’re just crazy and irrational. Trying to describe emotions to The Robot is like trying to describe the rainbow to the color blind.
. . . . .
4. The Addict: Let’s Party!
This one is much less obvious than you would think. Most addicts are highly functioning, seemingly normal people who come across as very social, outgoing and even-tempered. They are party-hard types who know how to have a good time – the only thing is that they can’t quite do it sober. No moment, no matter how perfect, is complete without the presence of (name your drug of choice here). They will go out of their way to get high even if it means ruining everyone else’s fun. Of course, on some deep level they know that their addiction has gotten out of hand, and the tendency to lie and hide creeps into the picture. It’s possible to have a close relationship with an addict, but be prepared to always play second fiddle to their favorite substance. They can be tons of fun at first, but quickly turn into a toxic relationship when they start lying, hiding things and becoming totally different people right before your eyes.
. . . . .
5. The Guilt Fairy: You Think You Have It Bad? What About ME?
Guilt, they sprinkle it on everything – arguments, friendly conversation, family events, happy hour – everything. The Guilt Fairies are often guilt-ridden themselves, and so to compensate for their own internal torment, they torment those around them. Guilt can be an excellent manipulation tactic, and when used in just the right way Guilt Fairies can control people’s feelings like the puppet masters they are. Watch out for tell tale signs like, “After everything I’ve done for you…” or “No one ever thinks about me…” or “No, I don’t mind you going out and having fun without me, I’ll be fine by myself, I’m used to being lonely.” The message is always the same, what you feel and what you want to do in your own time, and the things that are important in your life don’t matter because your job is to cater to their every whim. These relationships are toxic because they cancel out any possibility of empathy and compassion.
. . . . .
6. The Ego: Let’s Pretend Im Flawless
They talk, and talk and talk, pumping out facts, figures, and obscure references you’re neither familiar with nor care about. This is because they have an insatiable need to be the smartest person in the room. Because if they’re not, as far as they are concerned, they might as well wither and die. We are scraping the very bottom of the self-esteem barrel here. These people have such fragile egos that any correction or criticism from you will send them into hysterics. Tread carefully if you happen to notice that they’ve mispronounced a word or buttoned their shirt wrong, pointing it out may just ruin your week. They don’t take kindly to being seen as less than perfect, and can hold a grudge for an eternity.
. . . . .
7. The Opportunist: I Love You As Long As You Get Out of My Way
Their ambition is their first and greatest love, and nothing is going to stand between them, not you and certainly not your feelings. Though not necessarily evil, The Opportunist does not see anything morally questionable about taking advantage of and manipulating people if it means getting closer to their dream, whatever it may be. If the only thing standing between them and their dream job is your feelings, stabbing you in the back is not only the obvious thing to do, they’ll play your spine like a game of darts. You’re a walking target, and you better get used to it. Again, it’s not necessarily that they have bad intentions, it’s that The Opportunist will sincerely believe that you’d understand, and would likely do the same given the chance. As far as they’re concerned, ambition is the only reality there is, and everyone is out to get theirs.
. . . . .
8. The Troll: Let’s Destroy The World And Be Miserable Together
The Troll has a serious inferiority complex, and deep down, they hate themselves every bit as much as they seem to hate everything in the outside world. Their egos are like dying stars, small, dense and ready to supernova at any moment. It’s easy to insult or offend a Troll thanks to their misguided sense that everything good or controversial is a direct attack against them. For example, they hate their bodies so much that it drives them to insanity that anyone with an objectively “worse” body could be happy and confident in their skin. The line of thinking goes something like this, “How dare you be happy with less, when I can’t be happy with more?” In order to be friends with a Troll you have to commit to being as unhappy as them. They will not stand for your happiness. In truth, Trolls don’t really know where they stand, and have a fragile sense of identity, that’s why when anything comes along that makes them question themselves, their behavior or way of life, it shakes the very foundation of their reality. They panic, and proceed to tear down anything, or anyone, in sight.
. . . . .
9. The Spiritual Egoist: Literally Holier Than Thou
Are you having a hard time? Is life getting you down? According to the Spiritual Egoist that’s probably because *eye roll* you’re just not as enlightened as you should be, or more accurately, as enlightened as they think they are. Mind you, this is not limited to any particular religion or philosophy, and easily includes everything from politics to yoga. The Spiritual Egoist is all about optimizing and imposing strict limitations on life. They believe there’s only one “correct” way to live life – the way they happen to be living it, whether that involves cutting out carbs, or meditating everyday, or reading every self-help book on the market. If you choose not to join them in their crusade, they will continue to patronize and criticize you about your lifestyle until you eventually give in, or pretend to.
. . . . .
10. The Malingerer: My Friendship For Your Undying Servitude
Malingerers may just be the ultimate “average joe” toxic relationship. In part because of how destructive it is, in part because of how annoying it is, and in part because of how hard it can be to spot. A Malingerer is someone who lies, exaggerates or pretends to be sick, emotionally distressed, or in trouble with the sole purpose of manipulating you. The end goal could be to get money, sympathy or just to emotionally control you. Basically, they are combination of all of the above characteristics. Turn around and run. This toxic relationship is off the scale.
. . . . .
The larger take-away point here is that toxic relationships do not come with warning labels, in fact, they’re far more likely to be packaged just the way you like. So be aware. Keep your eyes and ears open, and above all listen to your gut. Stop romanticizing the things that hurt you. Thanks to books/movies like Twilight, and 50 Shades of Grey, text-book abusive behavior can all too easily be mistaken for passion. If you ever hear yourself say things like, “He may pretend to be a bad buy, but I know he has such a soft heart” or “Yeah, she can be a bitch, but we’ve been friends forever, I know she’d never hurt me on purpose.” Run. Turn around, and go in the opposite direction. Cut yourself off from people that put out your flame, and make it harder for you to be happy.