Rebecca Eckler is one of Canada's most talked about newspaper columnists, the author of Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother to Be, which has been translated into nine languages. Also the author of the bestsellers, Wiped!, Toddlers Gone Wild, and Rotten Apple, the first in a YA series. Random thoughts on life in the competitive world of modern mommyhood. Blog will be loved by trendy mothers who still feel, or often feel, that the most important word in "mommee" is ME!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Toxic Female Friendships

Ok, so you've been friends with another female for a few years. You've tried hard to ignore her backhanded compliments, because you didn't understand why she would say them and maybe you're hearing her wrong.

You've tried hard to ignore the spiteful things she says about you to you and behind your back. (You want to believe that the gossip mill is wrong.)

For some strange reason, you can't shake the fact you just know she kind of wants you to fail, that she's happy your relationship is rocky, that you've lost your job, or whatever. She constantly is bragging about her successes and you are honestly happy for her. But...

When you attempt something great, like getting a book deal, suddenly she must get one too.

When you start a blog, she'll tell everyone how much she hates blogs and that bloggins is stupid.

When you have a baby and start writing about it, she starts telling everyone why she doesn't want a baby and how life sucks once you have a baby.

On and on the list goes. You're pretty sure whatever you do, she'll either race out and try to catch up, or she'll critcize you for doing it.

Yes, it's the Toxic Friend (otherwise known as The Frenemy, thanks to Sex and The City.) We all have them, or had them.

I attended a book launch party last night for my very good friend Lousia McCormack, whose recently released debut novel is about dumping a best girlfriend. It's called Six Weeks To Toxic.

There are number of reasons you should by Six Weeks To Toxic, at your bookstore, off, or even

1) The books is amazing. I couldn't put it down. I stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish it. The last book I did this with, for a Canadian author, was two years ago, with The Bird Factory, by David Layton.

2) She's my friend. Which means she is also your friend. She is definitely NOT a toxic girlfriend. She once took me to the hospital, when I was all alone in the city and having a medical emergency when I was pregnant, even though her favorite show, America's Next Top Model, was on that night.

3) The book is sexy and raunchy (in a good way.) The cover is brillant and cool.

4) She's donating part of the sales of Six Weeks To Toxic to a charity for literacy. Come on! How many authors do you know who do that?

5) She's Canadian. And we should all support Canadian authors, because it is hard work to write a book and get it published. And most Canadian authors, save for Margaret Atwood, would get paid more money if they worked part-time at McDonald's for a year.

But it is also about a friendship between two women which goes south over six weeks. All women can relate to that.

McCormack is right. Most females know how to dump a guy. Females do not know how to dump females. And it's hard to pinpoint that exact moment when female friendship turns from rocky to non-existent.

It took me a lot longer than six weeks to ditch my Former Toxic Friend. I'm sure she will tell you, and whoever else will listen or care (not many) that she ditched me.

Like most male/female breakups, everyone wants to be the dumper, not the dumpee. (Unless you're like me. I liked being the dumpee.)

Though I have had bad breakups with men, I can't really name one who would ruin my night if I ran into him again. Breaking up with a female is different. You DON'T want to see them ever again. I would leave any place that my Former Toxic Friend was at, if it wasn't imperative that I be there.

You don't want to attempt small talk with a Former Toxic Friend when you run into them at a party, bar, or book launch. Because you are soooo past even wanting to try. And, after breaking up with a Former Toxic Friend, you feel better about life, and you don't want to ruin that feeling that took weeks to get to.

A good friend is one that you should be able to blackmail, but you would never. Female friends always do know more than your male partner, because that's what females do. They share their most intimate secrets, most of which you are completely embarassed about.

How could I break up with Former Toxic Friend? She knows too much about me! But you realize that you know way too much about them.

That's once difference between female-male breakups and female-female breakups. When you break up with a man, you know they'd never pass on your secrets, because they probably weren't listening to them in the first place.

But human decency should keep your trap shut about Former Toxic Friends.

And, also, I kind of even forget I was once close with this Former Toxic Friend, let alone remember her secrets. That's what happens with all breakups. Time heals all wounds, it is true.

The Fiance, for years, has been saying to me about my Former Toxic Friend, "She's just not a nice person," and The Fiance NEVER says a mean word about anyone, so I should have listened. I kept telling him, "NO, she's ok. She is!" He would just shake is head and say, "How come you can't see it?"

I finally did see it, about three years later. But, you know, like a breakup with a boyfriend because it's just not working out, ditching a female friend is a lot like that. You know it's just not working out, but what do you say? Can you really call a girlfriend and say, "Listen, I just think you are not nice, haven't been good to me, and I don't want to be friends with you anymore."

You can say that to a guy, but a girl? No, you just have to stop returning calls, stop calling her, and, eventually, you just aren't talking anymore. You aren't going to get that much sought-after "closure" dumping a Toxic Friend. Oh well.

Sure, I remember the good times and there were times she was a good friend, but I've moved on. And, so, hopefully has she. What it was, really, was just a relationship (friendship) that was just not working out.

The tricky part is when you travel in some of the same social circles as your Former Toxic Friend. Because you are over the age of 25, you don't expect people to "pick sides."

I never even bother telling mutual friends we're not friends anymore. I just change the subject, if her name comes up, and fast. One of our mutual friends, who maybe kind of knew about our break up, said, "Well, that's just her. Doesn't she just say mean things to everybody?"

Also, there was another one of our mutual girlfriends who knew I wasn't talkint to my Fomer Toxic friend, and called to bitch about her. I honestly said, "I don't want to talk about it. It makes me really uncomfortable."

While I may not like my Former Toxic Friend, bitching about her doesn't make me feel any better. It just a procrastination tool, and I had work to do!

I much rather forget about her altogether, than talk about her.

In any case, much like breaking up with a guy, you do forget about the breakup. You realize you haven't thought of you Former Toxic Friend in weeks. It's liberating.

And, it's kind of a good thing to break up with a toxic girlfriend. It makes you reevaluate other friendships, and realize who your true friends are, and you stop wasting time on those who, for whatever reason, make you feel bad.

Buy Six Weeks To Toxic. You'll laugh, you'll cry, it's better than Cats.


Anonymous Tearfree said...

For my Tearfree take on all this, come to

10:54 AM

Blogger Kristen said...

I had my share of toxic friends. One girl spread vicious lies about me. Another got competitive at all times- and would even compete about who had the worse day??? I got fired on my birthday 3 years ago, and all she could say was "Oh well, wait till you hear how bad MY day was!"

I dumped her by never returning her calls again.

The boyfriend was always telling me how evil she was too. I'm glad I finally listened.

11:39 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

well said.
you're so right in saying that there are no ex-boyfriends that i would feel uncomfortable running into, but that if were to run into her, i would feel sick inside and just want to go away (no small talk, no attempts at fake catching up).

12:47 PM

Blogger T. said...

So timely, as I am dealing with this particular issue at this point in my life. Thanks for the tip. I'll check the book out. I mean, I will buy the book. Duh.

4:45 PM

Blogger JennC said...

I have a Toxic Friend at work. It's weird and we have to pretend that the other doesn't exist...

But you are right about not wanting to talk about it to others. I've had other colleagues that have tried to get my take on the situation and I've demurely changed the subject.

2:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with everything you said. When you reach the age of 30, you start to realize your true friends. I got rid of a lot of my female friends, who when I think about it, were not friends at all. I feel better too. I will check out the book. Thanks for the reading tip!

6:30 AM

Blogger Michele said...

I will read the book. Thankfully I am no longer lugging around any toxic baggage but I do have some old break-ups I would like some closure on.

I do think there needs to be a way to break it off gracefully, especially if you have mutual friends. Unfortunately the same mutual friends who are very understanding about a male/female break-up DO tend to get very weird about a friend-break-up. They always seem to think there is MORE to the story than what you tell them.

8:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're wrong.
I think secretly, everyone would rather be the dumpee. As the dumper you inevitably look like the baddie, even if what you're doing is cutting off the relationship equivalent of a gangrenous limb.
Also, is your toxic friend a certain blonde Globe comlumnist who has loudly been hating on blogs lately?

9:45 AM

Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I have a rant about this that I cannot post because my Toxic Friend has not been made an Ex (long story - and in any case, I don't want any hurt feelings) and she knows about my blog. I'm trying to screw up the courage to post it on my sort-of secret blog, but am still worried that she'll find it.

Yes. I am weak.

But your post underlines all of the reasons why that it is. Toxic friends are more difficult to deal with than ex-boyfriends and the like because the web of the relationship is so tangled. Regardless of how or why the relationship became toxic - or even it began as toxic - that relationship still involved friendship, real or perceived, and trust, and those things are hard to sort out from the toxicity.

Am heading out to acquire Six Weeks To Toxic. Sounds like the right tonic. (No rhyme intended.)

10:07 AM

Blogger ninepounddictator said...

I love how people assume it's someone - and you're free to assume - but that's all you're doing. Assuming. I will never say who the Former Toxic Friend is...It doesn't matter who it is, or who you think it is, or who you'd love it to be, or who you hope it me, those who guess are most likely so wrong. The only ones who know for sure are me, The Fiance and, um, God. Now, back to more important matters...filing my nails.

1:20 PM

Blogger Heather said...

You know what I find the most toxic? Friends you expect to, but don't show up at the plate when things change (eg. having a baby). It is not only hurtful, but extreemly difficult to understand and deal with. It won't be until they have children themselves will the understand, and unfortunatly by then, it just mightbe too late.

5:30 PM

Blogger stkitts said...

I got an email right around the date of this entry, from a former toxic friend, who I stopped speaking to about 4 years back.
It was v.apologetic etc.

And you're right - time does heal all wounds. And to be honest, I was glad she was making an effort to restore our friendship.

(but I'm not a dummy -- we'll never be real friends again..probably just acquaintences if that)

5:54 AM

Blogger phoenikia said...

It's amazing how some friendships that start out fine turn toxic...and you might not even notice when the friendship takes a turn for the worse. It seems that some women become more vicious and competetive as they reach their early 30s...especially if they are single.
I'm looking forward to reading the book.

10:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

After years of infertility (hers and mine), I heard toxic friend was pregnant. I called her (two days before my surgery to remove an ovary) to congratulate her -- I was really happy for her. SHE'D heard through the grapevine about my surgery. And that's all she could talk about ... how sorry she felt for me because I'd never know her joy, blah, blah, blah. At the end of the conversation she told me to call her when I was home again. I said, "I think I'll be too busy." And that was the last time we spoke.

4:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had toxic friend - much like others described here, she was always talking about her problems, but when I had stresses, she had no patience with them. Unfortunately, it became very complicated when she and I AND my ex ending up working on same floor of building, and she and my ex got involved. Finally confronted her about how yucky that was and got an earful about how I was spreading negativity over things past. Phew. Glad it's over.

2:38 PM

Anonymous scapegoat said...

Thank you! I am in the middle of a horrible break up with a very toxic friend, and I really needed to hear this. I am just tired of always being wrong, so I am going to let her claim the field of victory, and walk away. I am starting to feel like I can see the gates of the prison opening. A feeling of liberation and sweet elation is coming on...

9:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I felt so alone and devastated when my toxic friend broke up with me. It was a blessing. She really brought a lot of drama into my life and I didn't realize it until we broke up. Life is much more peaceful. But, it was all about her, and we were both single together. When I met my future husband that's when things changed. Then she slowly stopped communicating. That's what burns me up - she didn't have the guts to just tell me we needed to take a break. You'd think after 12 years of being friends - and I was there for her through her father's death, fiance's death, many family problems - when I found happiness, she was unable to cope with it. It's better we are not friends anymore. I used to miss her, but I don't anymore.

9:40 AM


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