Friendship is a lot like falling in love. You meet someone. You find that you two have the same interests (“You like coffee? No way! Me too!”) and you hit it off from there, fancying yourselves as an inseparable duo. Like Batman and Robin. Two peas in a Batpod. What we seem to forget along the way is that friendship is based on give and take. You do something, and the other returns the sentiment. Not out of obligation, but because there’s a mutual understanding, a shared confidence that you’ll do anything for each other. It’s a wonderful feeling, that sense of security, support, and structure.
But what happens when the give and take stops and suddenly it’s just take take take? When the support caves in and the structure begins to feel more like shackles? That is a friendship that’s not worth the effort. To put it simply, you’ve got a fake friend on your hands. Everyone has come across a fake friend at some point in their lives. They may even be standing next to you and you don’t even know it. Lucky for you, there are warning signs to look out for…
1. They make you feel guilty for not hanging out with them.
“How come we don’t hang out anymore?” “Why aren’t you in my life?” Sound familiar? Those nagging, needy, and selfish questions designed to put you on the spot. They enjoy doing this more than you think. They watch as you fumble for an excuse. And they know they’ve got you once they hear your inevitable admission that perhaps, yes, they were right, that you two should be hanging out more often. I’m here to tell you to stop. Don’t give in to the guilt trip. I repeat, do NOT give in. It’s a string that fake friends have no problem in pulling, which makes you their puppet. If you find yourself in this position time and time again, it’s probably time that you cut them loose. After all, there’s a reason why you two stopped hanging out in the first place. Perhaps you should remind them.
2. They constantly make promises they can never keep.
So let’s say you do choose to hang out with them. Your friend says that he or she will totally go (probably because their better plans fell through). But they don’t stop there. They promise to plan the occasion with you! Oh how fun that sounds! At first. Then, time goes by. You don’t hear from them. Suddenly, you’re left planning the entire shindig by yourself. To top it all off, they don’t even show up. Now, they may hate hearing excuses but they have no problem coming up with a few of their own. And they always seem to have the perfect alibi (albeit an overly exaggerated one) because they don’t want to take responsibility or feel guilty. Afterwards, they leave you with a, “Next time, I promise!” You might as well stare at an empty seat. That’s all they’ll ever be.
3. They expect you to drop everything so you can cater to their needs.
Ever get those compulsive texts asking for your help and they’d be like so grateful if you did, like OMG. Let’s be clear: you often do help them. There are times, however, when you can’t. Because you have a life too, and your life doesn’t revolve around theirs. But no matter what you have on your plate, their situation always seems to be far more important. It is absolute hell if you do succumb to their needs because then they make their problems your own. It’s a stress dump, really. They see that you’ve got your life figured out and they want you to do the same for them. Thus, they’re not really seeking to chill or hang out. It’s just convenient for them because they need you to fix something. Here’s a reality check — we’re all adults here. We’ve got our own things to deal with, our own problems to micro-manage. Sure, friends help each other out. But you can’t be expected to do so all the time. If that’s something they can’t understand, then they are blinded by their own self-importance, which isn’t an ideal ingredient for a sustainable friendship.
4. They always puff up their own importance.
You got a job! You got an award! Or perhaps you’ve nabbed yourself a free cup of coffee (which, c’mon let’s be honest, is a pretty awesome feat). So you share these details with your friend hoping to hear them say, “Good for you!” Instead, they find some clever way to make it all about them. “You got a job? Well I got promoted,” or “Oh you got free coffee? Well I got free coffee and a croissant.” They feel the need to one-up you because they don’t see your good news as something to be happy about. They see it as a competition. Soon, you’ll be less ecstatic about sharing your personal accomplishments. You should never have to feel that way. We all want to share what happened throughout our days. Because as people, we naturally seek validation from our peers. But if you have to actively search for it in your so-called “friend,” then perhaps you should find a new friend.
5. They mock you and compliment you at the same time because…passive-aggressive.
Here’s one of the most frustrating things about fake friends: they’ve mastered the art of speaking passive-aggressively. It’s a second-language to them. Again, it all stems from their nature to compete. It’s not enough to one-up you. Sometimes they just have to put you down. “This casserole is delicious! Where did you cater?” or “That was an amazing piece you wrote the other day. Who helped you write it?” They find ways to mask their insults as compliments. That’s the worst part; because slowly but surely they chip away at your self-confidence. You may not even realize it until your morale has worn out completely.
6. They gossip endlessly about others.
This is a major red flag. If they’re constantly talking about other people, just imagine what they’re saying behind your back. That’s a terrible thought to have lingering in your mind. But it’s how they convince themselves that they’re better than everyone else, including you. Sure, it’s one thing to vent about someone. It’s another thing entirely to tear people apart when their backs are turned. A real friend wouldn’t do that; a real friend’s got your back.
7. They only see you as a means to an end.
This is the cold hard truth: a fake friend will use you any way they can. They see you working hard in class so they jump on the bandwagon and hitch a free ride to an A. Perhaps you offered to pay for dinner that one time so they convince themselves that it’s okay to steal from you because they know you’re well-off. Simply put, they see your generosity and take advantage of it. A true friend recognizes your inherent kindness and returns it a hundredfold. Because it’s a trait they admire, not envy. Those who don’t fall into that category only see you as a stepping stone. And they will ditch you once they have no more use for you. Believe me, that isn’t where you want to end up. Because the way back to your dignity will be a dark and lonely road.
Of course, we don’t see these traits right away. We are often caught up in the honeymoon phase of a newly-forged friendship. But time reveals many things, like whether a friendship has run its course. Don’t beat yourself up if that turns out to be the case. Be grateful for it. Consider it a learning experience to help you evaluate who to keep in your inner circles. After all, life is a precious thing. Spend it with people who make the journey worthwhile.