When You're Not Sure If They're Your Friend or Not

How to Decide If Someone Is Really a Friend

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Why is it so hard to determine if someone is really a friend? On the surface, friendship should be easy. If someone behaves in a positive manner towards you, it should mean they consider you a friend. If they are snarky or mean, they aren't a friend. With some friends, the boundaries are clearly defined. (Here's more about the definition of friendship.)

But there are friendships that confuse us. On the surface, we can hang out with someone and have a great time, but still question their friendship.

If you're feeling this way about a person in your life, ask yourself these questions.

Is My Friend Negative With Me During Certain Situations

This question can help you decide if the person in your life only acts badly during certain times. For example, if your friend is snarky with you when you're doing well, perhaps they're jealous of you. This would explain their behavior.

Or maybe the opposite is true. When you're doing poorly your friend is sweet and caring, but when things get back to normal they behave differently. If you can isolate a certain circumstance, it will help you to approach your friend about why they're acting like they are.

Has my friend always been up and down with me?

If your friend's negativity is new, think about the things in each of your lives that could have contributed to their behavior. Generally, a change of any kind (even a positive one) can bring out a change in behavior.

For example, if your friend suddenly gets a new job and is doing well, he or she may be feeling stressed out at their new level of responsibility and as a result they treat you badly. It isn't right, but it's one explanation.

If your friend has always been hard to predict, this might just mean that's the way they are.

You can decide if you want to accept that or move on from the friendship.

Has my friend burned me in the past?

If your friend has gossiped about you, shared a secret, betrayed you, or in some other way shattered your trust, you could be feeling fearful that it will happen again. This will cause you to look for negative things that could tip you off to your friend's disloyalty.

Trust takes years to build and only moments to crush, so if your friend has burned you in the past, you'll naturally wonder if they are really your friend or not. However, if you've decided to forgive your friend for their past mistakes, you owe it to the friendship to not hold onto a mental list of wrongs.

Have I heard negative things about myself from people my friend knows?

If you're hearing gossip about yourself that could have only originated from your friend, it's time to pay attention. Someone that acts nice to your face but spreads rumors, twisted truths, or even secrets you've shared is not to be trusted.

In this case, you might need some time away from the friendship to determine if they are really a friend. You could also try asking a trusted mutual friend if they can give you some perspective, but be cautious here.

Don't try to start gossip about your friend just because they gossiped about you. Consult a third party only if you feel it will give you insight into your suspicions.

Why do I believe my friend won't be there for me?

If you have a feeling deep down that your friend will bail on you when you need them most, think about why exactly you feel this way. Does your friend have a habit of being wishy washy when it comes to commitments? Do you feel that deep down they aren't really happy for you?

If your friend can't commit to coming to big events or giving you their support, let them know that this is really important to you and you hope they can be there to share the moment with you. But trust your gut. Don't rely on them alone if you really need help. Invite friends who you are sure about to support you, and your friend can either give you a pleasant surprise by being there when you need them or they will show you once and for all that you can't trust them.

Either way, you'll have your answer, but your other friends will be there to soften the blow if it turns negative.

Will taking a step back from this person give me perspective?

Your first instinct may be to end a friendship that you feel is negative, but a step back will help you to get greater clarity. For a short period of time:

  • Spend less time with your friend
  • Mentally decide not to share details of your life with them
  • Observe your friend's behavior with other people

Reflect on things you've noticed or thoughts that have occurred when you take this step back. How did you feel when you got some distance from your friend? Do you still feel that ending the friendship is the right move or is there a way you can have this person in your life in some capacity while still protecting your emotions?

Whatever you decide, make your decision without regret. Know that whatever you choose may be difficult at first, but that you owe it to yourself to surround yourself with people who care about you.