Life takes us on some rather interesting journeys, and having wonderful friends with us on the long ride can make both the best and worst periods a lot more enjoyable.
That said, having crappy, fake friends can make even the best situation quite horrible, and the worst of life’s trials just… hellish.
Real friends are there for you when you need them, are fun and supportive, and will call you out on your bullsh*t or crappy life choices because they love you, not because they want to make you feel bad.
Below are some of the traits exhibited by false friends: take a look at them and ask yourself if anyone in your social circle embodies these traits.
You Only Hear From Them When They Need Or Want Something
“Oh, hey… I haven’t talked to you in forever, how are you doing? Are you free next weekend? See, I’m moving and I’m going to need some help slinging boxes…”
Charming, right? And more common than you might realize. You might not have heard from this person for six months or more, but funny how you came to mind as soon as they needed manual labor taken care of? If you’ve proven that you’ll come to this person’s rescue whenever needed, that’s the role they’ve labeled you with: the helper, the fixer, the one they can depend on.
They’ll appreciate you in the moment, sure, and thank you with pizza and beer and what have you, but then you won’t hear from them again for at least six months until something else comes up that they need help tending to.
They Put You Down
Subtle digs in the guise of playful teasing, one-upmanship, and backhanded compliments are just a few of the ways that fake friends may try to put you down in order to make themselves feel better.
They usually do so from a place of pain, like having low self-esteem, or projecting their issues with having been mistreated by others in a similar manner, but understanding where their behavior stems from doesn’t make it okay, nor easy to deal with.
A female friend may give an item of clothing to someone else, and when/if the recipient tries it on and expresses joy with it, they might say something akin to: “Yeah, I thought it was really cute, but it was HUGE on me… I figured it would fit you instead.”
Or, when introduced to your new boyfriend/girlfriend, the fake pal might sow seeds of insecurity, saying that the person is way out of your league and will undoubtedly leave you for someone better looking/wealthier/more successful.
They may even hit on your new partner right in front of you to boost their own ego.
You Are Their Emotional Punching Bag
You know that person who only ever tells you about all the awful crap going on in their life? Yeah. That one.
Often, they can be labeled as “askholes,” in that they constantly ask your opinion about their choices or situation, but never take your advice. In fact, they often do the complete opposite of what you advise them to do, and tend to keep repeating the same awful, self-destructive patterns of behavior over and over again, without ever learning from them.
Instead of being introspective and self-aware, and maybe doing some measure of growing as a result of running the same gauntlet a dozen times over, they pour all their frustration and negativity into you. They force you to do their emotional labor for them, and will likely tell you about how much better they feel after talking to you.
An example may be a person who is being abused by their partner, tells you all the awful things that happen behind closed doors, but stays with that partner out of a misguided sense of “love” and “loyalty.” Right.
So you’re the one who fumes at the table the next time they’re over for dinner because you know what’s been going on, but your so-called friend is as pleased as punch because they’re not stressed at all: they’ve handed all that negativity to you to deal with, so their heart’s lightened.
They Go Ballistic If You Call Them Out On Poor Or Hurtful Behavior
If you tell a true friend that they’ve said or done something that’s upset you, they’ll apologize and try to make amends. If you tell a fake friend the same thing, they’ll likely get defensive, lose their sh*t at you, start fabricating lies to make you feel that you’re the one who’s in the wrong, and then stop talking to you for a while. Or indefinitely.
See, the thing is, when someone truly cares about you, they’ll do their best to ensure your relationship is symbiotic. If they care more about themselves, their wants, and their needs, then they stop seeing you as a person who deserves to be respected and cared for: you exist solely for their benefit, and at their convenience. Calling them out on their bullsh*t shatters that illusion, and they’ll rage about it.
Funny how you may always be there for your friend when they need you, but when you need something in turn, they’re nowhere to be found. Yeah, that’s not a real friend at all. If they just happen to be busy each and every time you need them, or if they ghost on you and can’t keep a single promise they’ve made you, there’s a pretty good chance that they’re only keeping you around for their own benefit.
This is also a trait common to narcissists, so be careful: if one decides that you’re their favorite person, you may be in for a whole world of ugly. They’ll be difficult to get rid of, as they’ll guilt trip you and make you feel like the worst person on the planet for not pandering to them when they’re being all fragile and pathetic.
You Feel Like You Have To Walk On Eggshells With Them
These people expect you to be an ever-supportive, nodding, smiling creature who agrees with everything they say, and are quick to pull the trigger and start a huge fight if you have an opinion or idea that differs from theirs.
They might spout off about political or social issues, expecting you to echo their thoughts, and strike you down if you dare disagree. If you do, they may publicly mock you for doing so, tell you how disappointed they are with you for not seeing “the truth,” and cut off communication with you until you wake up and see the world from their perspective.
Real friends can agree to disagree, and respect one another’s opinions and beliefs. End of.
They May Fish For Information
Some people will come into your life and try to befriend you solely to suit another’s purpose. It’s ridiculous and juvenile, but it’s really quite astonishing how many so-called adults actually can’t seem to behave with integrity and maturity.
A new person may enter your life (usually via social media) and is immediately really chatty and eager to get to know you. In no time flat, they might start asking personal questions about some other people in your circle, and if you do a bit of digging, you’ll find that you have an acquaintance in common – usually someone you’ve had a falling out with.
Have you broken up with someone recently? This new “friend” might be spying on you for them to see what you’re up to so they can report back. Or perhaps a coworker who dislikes you is trying to dig up dirt on you to get you fired.
You might laugh at these scenarios, but you’d be surprised at how often they occur, despite the fact that they’re utterly ridiculous.
If some of these descriptions have struck a bit close to home, ask yourself why you still have these people in your life. Be honest, and then take what actions you’re most comfortable with to extricate them from your life.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.