Fake friends are tough to spot, at first.
Things start out great. (That’s why you’re friends!) Your friend takes an interest in your life, makes an effort to hang out, and has other redeeming qualities. Maybe your friend is funny and witty, for example.
But slowly, you start feeling like things are “off.” An off-hand comment here, cancelling plans there. Things that you try to justify, to keep your friendship intact.
Maybe your friend was in a bad mood. Or spread themselves too thin. Whatever it may be. In some cases, this is okay! We’re all human.
But in other cases, you’ve got yourself a fake friend. And that’s when the questions start flooding your mind.
“Am I sure I have a fake friend?”
“If I do, should I end the friendship? Or give them a chance to be a better friend?”
“Can a fake friend turn into a real one?”
Needless to say, fake friends can cause confusion, stress, and even guilt.
It hurts to be treated badly by someone you care about. Especially if you don’t understand why they’re treating you that way.
You might also feel guilty about potentially ending the friendship.
Are you being too harsh? Are you too easily forgetting all of the good times you shared? Is this the time when your friend needs you most?
As someone who has asked herself these same questions, I know how difficult it can be to spot fake friends and cut them out of your life, if need be.
I hope this post helps provide clarity, so you can surround yourself with those who want the best for you, and let go of those who don’t.
How to Spot Fake Friends (Note: There are Different Types)
Before we can spot fake friends, we need to be able to spot real ones. So what’s a real friend?
A real friend cares about how you think and feel — even if they disagree with you.
A real friend is there for you when it counts. They’re there to celebrate your wins, help you get through losses, and share the special moments in between.
A real friend doesn’t hold you responsible for their happiness or well-being. They own that themselves, and invite you to be a part of their journey.
A real friend wants you to succeed and be happy. They’re not there to “compete” with you on these fronts.
A real friend respects your uniqueness, your time, and your energy.
These are just a few of the qualities that real friends have. And a final note on real friendships: just because a friendship ends, does not mean it wasn’t real.
Real friendships are not defined by their length. Sometimes, they end due to distance, circumstance, or other life changes. And that’s okay.
But with fake friendships, sometimes we have to take an active role in ending them. To that end, the sections below cover some types of fake friends, and tips on how to spot them.
A few notes regarding this list:
- • It isn’t an exclusive list. Some fake friends may have several of the qualities discussed below, or qualities that aren’t listed here.
- • You may even feel you have a “real” friend who has some of the qualities discussed below. That’s okay! This list is simply meant to provide food for thought, and help you think through which friendships you feel are best to keep vs. let go of.
Friends Who Think, “What’s in It for Me?”
This kind of fake friend may care about you, but only insofar as it relates to themselves. They ask how you are so they can tell you how they are.
When you talk about your life, they’re counting down the seconds until they can talk. They’re listening to you, but not really. Every topic somehow ultimately leads back to them.
They use you as a resource and sounding board. And while this is a healthy, normal thing in friendships generally, it’s not if it’s only one way.
This kind of fake friend may also be in it for other things they feel you offer, like good connections, a car, favors you can do for them, etc.
To make matters more confusing, this type of friend might not even be malicious. They might not even recognize their self-interest, or how they’re coming across.
Sometimes, people have difficulty putting themselves in others’ shoes. They have trouble considering others’ perspectives besides their own.
If you feel your friend fits into this category, think about whether you feel the friendship is salvageable, or if it’s time to let the friendship go.
Friends Who Don’t Care
This type of fake friend is entirely ambivalent. They don’t care if the friendship lives or dies.
This lack of concern could be a more recent development, or something that has existed during the whole friendship. In any case, such apathy can ironically cause a world of pain.
To spot this kind of fake friend, think about how much each of you invests in the friendship.
When you text them asking how they are, do they reply with a simple “good!” and nothing more? Do they care to keep the conversation going?
Do they initiate, whether it’s catching up or finding a time to hang out? If not, do they at least take an active role in the friendship? Are they eager to hear how you are, and what’s going on in your life?
Will they go out of their way for you, or is everything on their terms?
In other words, if you stopped putting in effort, would the friendship die?
If you’re the only one working to sustain the friendship, that will take its toll on you. It doesn’t make you feel worthy, respected, or just plain good. And that’s not what real friendship looks like.
Friends Who Blame You
Have you ever had a fake friend over invest in you? So much so, that it feels like you don’t have room to breathe?
Just as in any relationship, we need time to “fill our wells.” We need “me” time where we can process our thoughts, pursue our unique passions, and grow as individuals. And we need space to do that, so we can show up as our best selves.
That said, a fake friend is not someone who wants to hang out a lot! The distinction is how that friend reacts if you can’t give them what they want, exactly when they want it.
Fake friends may look to you for their happiness, and blame you when they don’t have it. They may rely on you to fill a void that you can’t fill. And they will declare you responsible for the consequences of not filling it.
In short, these kinds of fake friends will not respect your boundaries.
This kind of friendship is a dangerous game to play. While we all go through tough times, and we absolutely have the right to lean on each other as friends, it becomes unhealthy when anger and blame get involved.
Remember: we alone are responsible for who we are and how we feel. And no real friend will assign that responsibility to you.
Friends Who Compete
Competitive fake friends are among the most common.
When you do something awesome, they might congratulate you. But they have a tough time being genuinely happy for you. Instead, the focus is on how they can do better.
You get a promotion, so they talk about how amazing their job is. You find a loving relationship, so they talk about how their relationship is second to none. And so on.
Many people naturally have a competitive spirit (I’m no exception!). And it’s only human to look at others’ successes and think, “I wish I had that!” sometimes.
But in a real friendship, you can talk openly about these things, and also foster genuine happiness and appreciation for your friend and their successes. Even as you hope to succeed in your own endeavors.
If you have a friend who puts you down to make themselves feel better — who diminishes your achievements to make theirs superior — don’t buy into it.
Don’t allow others who feel threatened by you to dim your light.
Friends Who Don’t Respect You
A friend who doesn’t respect you is a fake friend.
One example is a friend who doesn’t respect your differences. In friendships and life in general, there will come a time when you discover differences between yourself and others. So how will you and your friends handle those differences?
Real friends respect their differences. Their friendship is not contingent on holding all of the same views, having all of the same hobbies, sharing all of the same friend circles, and so on.
In fact, it’s differences that can often make friendships so rich! Be sure your friends respect such differences. Be sure you can be your authentic self around them.
Another form of disrespect is not respecting your time. Let’s say you plan to meet a friend for dinner. Are you left sitting at the table for half an hour before they show?
While this may be understandable in some cases, if it becomes a habit, your friend isn’t respecting your time.
Other forms of disrespect include speaking ill of you to others, dishonesty, manipulation, betrayal, and other harmful behaviors.
In any case, if a friend can’t find it in their heart to respect you, they’re not a friend worth having.
How to Cut Fake Friends Out of Your Life
Cutting fake friends out of your life can mean two things: turning them into real ones, or ending those friendships.
So first, ask yourself: can your fake friend become a real one?
If so, is the friendship worth saving? And if not, how can you best end the friendship?
Ask Yourself: Can Your Fake Friend Become a Real One?
If your friend has exhibited any of the qualities discussed above, ask yourself: why do you think this is?
Do you feel your friend has good intentions, and is simply unaware as to the hurt they’re causing you?
And do you feel that if you shared your thoughts with them, they could change? Do you feel they could nurture the friendship in a way that is healthier for both of you?
If the answer is yes, and you’d like to keep the friendship, feel free to share your thoughts with them. Express to them how you’ve been feeling, and explore ways to improve the friendship.
Come from a collaborative, as opposed to an accusatory, place. And see where the conversation takes you.
While your friend may get defensive at first, a real friend will hear what you have to say.
If they understand where you’re coming from and are set on changing their ways, it’s your decision as to whether you’d like to give them this chance.
If you feel the friendship can be repaired and flourish, you can give things a shot. But keep your eyes open, should things ultimately return to an unhealthy place.
If Change Isn’t in the Cards, Consider Having “the Talk”
Unfortunately, fake friends will often stay that way. They may offer to change, and then not. They might not feel they have to change at all. They may even blame you for the rift in the friendship.
If this happens, know not every friendship is meant to last a lifetime. Some friendships may even last a decade before they end, as was the case for me.
As painful as it can be, people change, and sometimes acknowledging that means letting things go. You owe it to yourself to protect your emotional health and set boundaries where needed.
To that end, consider whether you’d like to have “the talk” with your friend. In this case, the talk means communicating your desire to end the friendship.
You can express to your friend why you feel the way you do, and why you feel it’s best to go your separate ways.
Could this conversation hurt your friend? Yes. Could it anger them? Yes. Could the conversation escalate, making things worse than before? Also yes.
But, provided you communicate your thoughts and feelings to your friend in a non-blaming, calm way, you’ve done the best you can. And you can’t control how someone else reacts.
At the end of the day, having “the talk” provides your friend with honesty and directness.
It can also give your friend closure and food for thought moving forward in their friendships. In many cases, people deserve that.
That said, if your friend has betrayed you to the point where you’d rather not have “the talk,” that’s okay, too. Do what you feel is right.
And remember: while closing this chapter may be painful, better chapters lay ahead of you.
On Making Space for Real Friendships
It isn’t always easy to spot fake friends, let alone cut them out of your life. It can be a painful process to learn someone does not have your best interests at heart.
But you deserve friendships that will enrich rather than deplete you. You deserve to have friends that leave you feeling better after you hang out with them — not worse.
You deserve to have friends who are encouraging, trustworthy, and honest.
And by letting go of fake friends and making room for real ones, you’ll get all that you deserve.