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How to Handle Toxic Friends as an INFJ

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

“I have an aunt who whenever she poured anything for you she would say “Say when!” My aunt would say “Say when!” and of course, we never did. We don’t say when because there’s something about the possibility of more. More tequila, more love, more anything. More is better. There’s something to be said about a glass half full. About knowing when to say when. I think it’s a floating line. A barometer of need and desire. It’s entirely up to the individual. And depends on what’s being poured. Sometimes all we want is a taste. Other times there’s no such thing as enough, the glass is bottomless. And all we want is more.” — Meredith Grey

Need & desire

Grey’s Anatomy is one of my all-time favorite shows (up until this last season, but that’s another story). I love how Meredith struggles with a lot of the same things that I do. In the first few seasons she has a lot of self-destructive issues, like not knowing when to “say when.” I have that same problem. While she struggled with tequila and men, I struggle with food and friendships.

I’ve had this problem with a lack of self-love for years. I’ve been working through it for about 3 years now, but it’s a process. As much as I want it to be a switch that gets permanently flipped and “fixed,” it’s not. It takes constant work and effort.

In the past, my friends have been mostly people who are narcissistic. They were only my friends because they wanted something from me and I felt like I was desperate for friends, so I did whatever they wanted. Thankfully, I’ve gotten rid of most of the blatantly toxic people in my life. But what about the people who aren’t blatantly toxic? What about the ones that are just kinda, from time to time, pushing you to do things you don’t want to do? Just like the glass, how do we know when to “say when?”

How do you know when your friends are toxic?

This question is something I’ve been struggling with a lot. I wish I could give you a checklist, I wish I had one too, but the real answer is that it’s up to you to decide. You have to decide what you want in your life and what you’re going to accept.

I’ve started by making a vision of what I want my life to look like, a realistic view. I want things like peace, happiness, and fun memories. I don’t want drama, fighting, avoidance or any more codependent behaviors. If I can’t show you the whole of me, knowing that you will accept me for who I am, then I’m out.

I want to be around people who want to be around me. I’ve chased people who I wanted to be friends with for way too long. I’m done trying to prove that I’m worthy of a friendship. It’s just not worth it.

I’ve made a list of things that I want from my friends. It’s easy, simple things, like:

  1. They should text me back (I know this is a lot to ask from some people)

  2. They should be willing to get together

  3. They should meet me in the middle (not expect me to always come to them)

  4. They should be open to talking about our problems and fixing things that need fixed

I can feel the tension rising in my shoulders as I write this list. The codependent voice inside of me is saying it’s too much and I’m being too bitchy. Is it really too much to ask that your friends should be willing to text you back and go out to dinner once a month with you? Really?

How do you know when your friends are toxic? They are toxic when you set boundaries and they tell you you’re being selfish, when they refuse to abide by those boundaries, when they tell you you’re asking for too much or being difficult.

The point is that it’s really up to you to decide. You have to set the boundaries of what you’ll accept. Don’t let people tell you that you’re being selfish. They’ll try this. But it’s not selfish to understand that you have needs too and you should get equal treatment with your friends.

Confront the situation

OMG this is difficult. I can’t tell you how much stress it causes me to just think about talking to one of my friends about something that’s bothering me, even if I approach it in a loving and kind way. I just don’t want to. I’d rather put up with the bother of what’s bothering me than tell them that there’s something wrong.

The problem is the bothers start to build up. And in the past, I’ve walked away from friends because I would rather not talk to them than address the bothers. When I think about it now, it’s really pretty sad. I did the best that I could, but I know better now, so I want to do better.

Most adults are at least somewhat reasonable. If you come to them with love and kindness, they should hear you out and want to fix the situation.

Think about it from their perspective

I had a friend who offended me with something that she said, I don’t even remember what it was. But I mustered up the courage to tell her. During our conversation I told her that it was hard for me to tell her this and she replied with, “you don’t think that I care about you? Do you think I want to hurt your feelings?”

It kind of hit me right in the gut. I honestly hadn’t thought about this from her perspective, only from mine. When you think about things from their perspective though, your thought process will shift. If it was you that had done something that hurt them, would you want them to speak up? Would you want to know? Would you want to lose a friend over something that could have been fixed?

When you think about it that way, it’s easier to talk to your friend and work things out.

Do all that you can do

There’s an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in season 2 called Enough is Enough. In the episode, there’s an ambulance that arrives at the hospital with a 55 year old male, Ted, who was involved in a head on collision. He has many internal injuries and is not conscious. The paramedic says, “He’s pretty much gone.”

Dr. Bailey says, “He’s not gone ’til we say he’s gone.” She assigns the patient to George (an intern) and tells him to save the man. George says, “But he’s dead.”

A little bit later Dr. Bailey comes to check on George, who is still convinced the patient is dead and shouldn’t be wasting his time anymore. Dr. Bailey says, “If they’re dead or dying when they come through those doors you hump and hump hard (do CPR). Why?”

George says, “for the experience.” Bailey says there is something more, something George is missing. He can’t think of it. Bailey tells him to think about it and leaves.

Later in the show George has to go and tell the guy’s family that he’s not going to make it. He says, “Why do we hump on every dead or dying patient that comes through those doors? So we can tell their family that we did everything we could.”

I think about quite a few friends that I’ve had over the years. I’ve literally done everything that I felt like I could do to save the friendship. I’ve put up with so much and tried so many times. I’ve gone the extra mile. I’ve tried to talk to them about things that bother me. I’ve been round about and direct. I’ve gotten advice and implemented it. Nothing worked. The problems persisted. They didn’t want to recognize that I was changing. They wanted me to be the same as I had always been. But that didn’t work for me anymore. So I ended the friendships.

INFJs take a lot of flack for ending friendships, especially if it’s a doorslam. People say it’s cold and mean. They call us unforgiving and terrible. But they don’t know. They don’t see the part of the friendship where we “hump and hump hard (do CPR)” on the relationship trying like hell to save it. They don’t see all of the work that we put in, trying everything we know of to make it work.

They don’t see the contortions that we twist ourselves into to make ourselves fit into other people’s lives. There has to be a point where “enough is enough.”

Enough is enough

When you’ve reached the point where you’ve done everything that you can and it still doesn’t work, it’s time to call it. Put an end to the misery and walk away.

Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with door slamming people. Nothing whatsoever. As INFJs, we think about other people so much that we get lost in their feelings. Then we see this toxic advice going around about how terrible it is to “ghost” someone, which in my opinion is the same thing as a door slam. They say it’s terrible to just leave without saying anything.

Here’s what they leave out – the part where we did everything that we could to save the relationship! If you honestly did that, then how in the hell would your “friend” not know that there was something wrong? How would they not see why you left?

Does there need to be an “I’m leaving” conversation? Well, that’s up to you. I choose not to do it because it leaves me open to more hurt. It leaves me vulnerable to more of their manipulation. It leaves me feeling guilty for cutting them out.

In the end, you have to think about what you want in your life. Do you want to be beholden to someone who doesn’t care enough about you to respect your boundaries and treat you the same way that you treat them?

It’s completely up to you. What are you going to allow? 

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