Toxic friendships can affect your mental health, just as a lack of vegetables can impair your well-being. But how do you know a friend is toxic, and how can you find friends that are real? We will talk about the signs of a toxic friend and how to recognize the ones who will stay by your side forever.

What toxic friendships are and what they are not

Let’s get one thing straight up front: We don’t want you to break up with your friend just because you read this article and found a sign of toxicity. We should all keep in mind that every person is different and no one is perfect. Before cutting someone off, you should try to talk to them and find out the reasons for their behavior.

However, it is important to feel good and safe in friendships (because that is what they are for). That’s why you should always look for people who will support you and respect your decisions. Life is too short to spend it with the wrong people, and toxic friendships can destroy your image of what makes a real friend.

friends sitting on a bench in front of a flower field laughing

Signs of toxic friendships and how to deal with it

So, how do you recognize that you are stuck in a relationship that is not good for you? We’ve summarized for you some typical characteristics of toxic friendships:

  • Your friend teases or insults you regularly
  • Your friend doesn’t respect your boundaries
  • Your friend pressures you into things you don’t want to do
  • You feel emotionally drained
  • You feel abused and not supported by your friend
  • You feel like you have to act as someone you are not
  • You can’t trust or rely on them (or even have them gossiping about you)

Do you feel that one or more of these signs apply to you and your friend(s)? Then talk to them!

Confront them with their actions and ask why they are acting this way. Let them know that it makes you uncomfortable. Maybe your friends are ready to change their behavior and weren’t aware of how you feel. However, if your friends are unwilling to change anything, blame you, or even make you feel worse, you should reflect on whether they are true friends.

How you can recognize a real friend

Probably each of us has fallen into some toxic friendships at some point in our lives. Fortunately, however, most of our friendships turn out to be real. Sometimes we just need to remember who is really on our side – no matter what the situation.

So what are the characteristics of a genuine friendship, and how do we recognize them?

  • Real friends accept you for who you are (even with your weaknesses)
  • They celebrate your success and are not threatened by it
  • They support you in all situations (e.g. when you are trying new things, or when you are afraid of failing)
  • You can trust and rely on them
  • They make time for you when you need them

In short, true and toxic friendships seem to be the exact opposite. Yet, friendships are not always black or white. Some friendships can have weaknesses, and it’s important to talk about them with your friend.

two girls at the beach holding each other in the arms and laughing

How to rediscover genuine friendships?

We believe that true friendship takes time and that honest communication is the key. In times of social media, these two values are sometimes forgotten. People often feel the need to distinguish themselves and judge other people – traits that often lead to toxic friendships.

That’s why we founded PenPal. PenPal is a platform that helps you find a like-minded pen pal across the globe to talk to. PenPal is all about meaningful and honest communication and making an effort to reach out to a friend. At PenPal, you can match with a pal based on your interests and then reach out with a postcard you’ve create online, but that is physically sent to your pal’s home. Sounds easy? It is!

PenPal wants to rediscover the true value of friendship and create a community of people glued together by its love for culture, friendship, and writing. Listen to some voices of our community and how they have found true friends through Pen Pal.


German girl addicted to lemon ice cream who wants to do everything at once. I can't think of a language I wouldn't love to learn, but I often don't take the time to slow down. As a pen pal, I can take a breath and interact with so many inspiring people from different countries.

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