The following signs of an abusive friendship indicate that the relationship is not healthy. That means that you need to do something about it. Simply recognizing what is going on is not enough. That's not going to change anything. You must take steps to stop the abuse.
So let's get right to it...
You always end up doing what your friend wants.
You are often afraid of doing something that might upset your friend.
You feel awful if he or she gets upset.
They will often take your stuff and not give it back, or give it back damaged in some way.
They can be critical of you but you are not allowed to criticize them.
In fact, they often talk badly about lots of other people and you may wonder what they actually say about you when you are not present.
Despite any nasty things they say or do, you find a way to justify it to yourself. After all, they are your friend.
They are not quite like your other friends. They are somehow more present, more forceful, more the center of attention. In other words, they stand out as being more important than others.
They can get very offended by certain things and everyone around feels that they have to make it right for them. They play the victim very well and make others feel guilty for being so horrible to them.
You realize that they have been telling lies to you.
They start arguments between people, often by telling lies.
They take up a lot of your time and attention. You may have even given up some friendships to be with this person. Or this 'friend' has deliberately changed your impression of other friends so that you spend less time with the others and more time with this special person.
They have rules for themselves and rules for everyone else. They can break the rules any time they like and they will have a justification for that and you have to accept it.
They are always right, everybody else is wrong. Nothing is their fault. They are fantastic at distorting events so that they can shift blame to others.
You find it difficult to think badly of them. After all, they are your good friend, even your best friend. Or you have known them for years so they can't be that bad.
You may be afraid to challenge them or call them out on things. You feel that you don't really want to upset them or cause trouble. So you just put up with what they do.
They may disappear for days on end with no contact and no explanation.
They may very well also give you the silent treatment and you end up running to them to try and sort things out because it's too unpleasant for you to not be on good terms with them.
You realize that there are lots of ups and downs in the friendship. They will do something awful, but then minimize it or blame you for it, then they will act nice and friendly with you. During this latter phase you relax and are glad that things are going well again. You forgive and forget. But then the tension starts to build and you know something bad is going to happen.
Talking about forgiving, you are expected to forgive them any time they think it's necessary. But somehow they seem not to forgive you. They will remind you over and over about all the wrong things you have done in the past. Their timing for this is interesting, too. Whenever they want to guilt you into something, they will give a list of 'hurtful' things you have done in the past, making you feel ashamed of who you are, ashamed enough to give in to their 'requests'.
They will do cruel things. They will laugh about people's shortcomings, make jokes about others to their faces, scoff at people's ideas and opinions, spread rumours, reveal other's personal business and so on.
They say one thing but do something else. This can be tricky to recognize because they will typically have some justification for not following through on their word. These justifications may seem to be plausible but if you look carefully you can pick holes in them. The other thing is that they are numerous. An abusive friend will not follow up on many promises. It's a pattern with these people.
Despite being able to see many of their defects, you probably feel that you can't do anything about it. Any time you brought it up, things got very unpleasant for you because they twisted and distorted the information to make out you were the one with the problem. And despite all this, you are still in the relationship. That tells you a lot.
Do you feel as if you have lost yourself in the relationship? Is who you are tied up with your friend in some way? Do you find that you have difficulty making decisions unless you are referencing your friend´s likes and dislikes? Do you often ask yourself, "What would he (or she) think about this?
Obviously you don't have to have every single one of the above in a relationship to be able to say it is an abusive relationship. But if you see many of the above in your relationship, then you are in a bad situation. There is a power imbalance in this relationship. Your 'friend' is taking advantage of you. They are using you. And they are abusing you.
If this has been going on for months or even years, your 'friend' is not going to change. You need to do something to put an end to the abuse.
A very important question here is what kind of person are you dealing with? Is this person behaving this way because they want to control and dominate others? Yes, there are people who treat others this way deliberately. They exploit others because they can. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you need to know it. It's very important. You can read more here about why people are emotionally abusive.
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If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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