Why You Keep Going Back Again and Again to a Friend That Hurts You

Can't Leave a Toxic Friendship

A hurtful friend
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Do you ever wonder why you gravitate toward a friend who has consistently hurt you, yet you keep going back for more? Ideally, you should spend your time with people who care about you and encourage you, not those who put you down and cause problems in your life.

Sometimes a friendship will be so difficult to leave that you'll be putting up with your friend's bad behavior for years. Why do you do this?

And more importantly, how do you stop it? Here are some thoughts.

You Keep Thinking Things Are Going to Be Different Next Time

Chances are that sometimes you'll have a good time with your toxic friend. You'll enjoy his or her company, so when they have a major blow up or put you down suddenly, you shake it off thinking that next time will be different.

The problem with toxic friends is that you are unable to communicate reasonably with them. Whereas you'd probably tell a friend, "Hey, that hurt my feelings" and they would apologize and you'd both move on, you can't do that in a toxic friendship because your friend just won't hear it. Maybe they're a bully, maybe they can't listen to criticism, or maybe they are just unable to have a conversation that isn't about them.

Your assumption might be that even if you don't discuss the situation, your toxic friend will feel sorry for acting badly and want to do better.

But this thinking is flawed because it's based on what you would do. You can't change the behavior of others.

You Think Your Friend Is Just Crabby, Kidding, or Having a Bad Day

If you've ever thought to yourself, "They couldn't really mean that, could they?" and then went on to justify it with thoughts that your friend must be joking or just having a really rotten day, pay attention.

You are giving them a pass based on who you want them to be instead of who they really are.

Accept the things they do at face value, especially when you've given them the benefit of the doubt many, many times. Start looking at them realistically so you can protect yourself.

Something In Your Past Makes You Think Negative or Toxic Behaviors Are Okay

Perhaps your own personal background edges you toward acceptance of bad behavior. Maybe you even think this is what friendship is all about.

But there is a big difference between someone that is just having a bad day and someone who consistently does negative things. The difference is that a friend will feel bad that they hurt you and offer an apology. They'll mess up from time to time, but their intention is not to hurt. If you find that you're consistently allowing toxic behavior into your friendships, or even that all your friends seem to be of this negative nature, seek out a professional who can talk to you about dealing with the perceptions you carry from your past.

You Keep Thinking You Can Change Them

Maybe you see yourself as a kind of friendship warrior. You believe you're there to make all friendships great.

It's a noble goal, but the only problem is that you can't change people, they have to do it themselves.

Allowing their negative behavior to continue only makes them believe it's okay to treat you that way.

They won't get the wake up to be a better friend until you are honest with them. Tell them (as kindly as you can) that you won't tolerate bad treatment and if they continue behaving poorly (and give them examples so they understand what you're talking about), then you're done.

However, toxic people are notoriously bad at listening and it's hard to have a genuine conversation about their behavior. They don't want to hear it, and until they're ready to listen, you can't help. Move on to another volunteer activity or person who will accept your help.

You Don't Have a Lot of Friends And Are Afraid to Let Go

Sometimes you have a hard time making friends, so you hang on to the toxic ones because you think it's better than being alone.

While it's hard to be lonely, filling up your life with toxic people doesn't make you feel less lonely.

That's because loneliness can only be remedied by deep, meaningful connections with friends. When you have a friend that understands you (even just one) you'll feel less lonely and will value good friendships that much more.

If you're lonely, focus on just meeting more people (here are some tips for how to do that) and make an effort to form a new friendship with the people you have fun with, who treat you well, and who encourage you rather than tear you down.