“There are a few different types of toxic friends,” says Art Markman, Ph.D., professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and author of
. “At a general level, what they all have in common is that they take much more from you than you get in return.” Turns out, there's something to the whole fair-weather-friend thing after all. “Any friendship ought to be balanced in the long run — most of the time, you are neither taking much from someone else, nor are you giving much away,” he says. “But, every once in a while, you do need to be there for a friend if they are having a rough time of things. And, you should expect that they will be there for you in return.”
Narcissists are people who build up their self-esteem by drawing on energy from other people, he says. “At first, narcissists are great to be friends with, because they are completely devoted to you," he says. "They make you feel special, but eventually they raise up their accomplishments over yours, make you feel bad about the things that go well in your life, and start to resent the successes you have.”
We all have some friends who have less than we do, and it can feel good to treat that person to coffee or buy her a drink, says Markman. “But, some friends just don't like to reciprocate, even when they can, and these friends borrow things from you and don't return them.” Some key signs: They always let you pay for lunch or drinks. And, let's be honest: Being the one to constantly foot the bill is not fun.
“There are some people whose lives seem fascinating when you first meet them,” says Markman. “They tell you about spectacular fights with friends. They have bosses who do terrible things, and their parents are always misunderstanding them. At first, you share their outrage at the world around you — because the world just seems aligned against these people.” There's one thing that these dramatic situations have in common, though: the friend, who's manufacturing his or her own drama. Walk away before you become an "enemy."