When to End a Friendship: 8 Signs It's Time to Say Goodbye

Updated on December 19, 2017
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Our lives are made infinitely richer by our relationships. I love finding ways to strengthen them at home, at work, and with friends.

As I grow older, I become stingier with my time and less willing to waste it on insignificant friendships. While this may sound harsh, it's just part of maturing and turning away from those who deplete you.

When my son got diagnosed with autism, some friends turned their backs on me while others stayed to help.
When my son got diagnosed with autism, some friends turned their backs on me while others stayed to help. | Source

When I was younger, I embraced people who had lots of drama in their lives, fascinated by how different they were from me. It didn't matter they were often self-centered and self-destructive. But now I choose to surround myself with those who support me when I'm down, get me exited about living, and challenge me to become a better person. With that in mind, I made some tough calls and said goodbye to relationships that didn't serve my needs. Here are 8 signs it's time to end a friendship:

1. She Isn't There for You During Tough Times.

The biggest wake-up call for me about friendships came when my son got diagnosed with autism. Up until that point, I would have described myself as a lucky person with a solid group of caring friends. But there's nothing like adversity to put relationships to the test and separate fair-weather friends from the real deal. The saying, "A friend in need is a friend indeed," rings true during trying times.

I had a couple of people in my inner-circle who wouldn't even let me talk about my son. They shut me down so I eventually turned to a therapist to discuss my grief. I should have ended those relationships right then and there, but I let them limp on for many years. I learned an important lesson from that experience: If a person doesn't rise to the occasion when you're in crisis, there's no point to the friendship.

2. She Doesn't Nag You.

After my son got diagnosed with autism, I started taking anti-depressants to deal with my grief. One of the medicines caused me to gain over 20 pounds during a six-month period. Fortunately, I had one friend who cared enough to ask me about my sudden weight gain and nagged me to get in shape. We started walking together three mornings a week, and she let me unload about my son. She urged me to stop taking anti-depressants and face head-on the causes of my sadness.

This woman became my prototype of how a friend should behave. She challenged me to become a better, healthier person and I'll be forever grateful. While nagging has a negative connotation, research shows that it's motivational when coming from a caring friend or family member. My friend's nagging meant the world to me because she saw my pain and reached out to help.

When You're in Crisis, You Need More Than Prayers.

When my son got diagnosed with autism, my best friend would always say, "I'm praying for him." When you need help, those words ring hollow and get annoying.
When my son got diagnosed with autism, my best friend would always say, "I'm praying for him." When you need help, those words ring hollow and get annoying. | Source

3. She Says, “I'm Praying for You” or “You're in My Thoughts” But Never Offers to Help.

When you're struggling, words like these ring hollow. When my son got diagnosed with autism, my best friend said them to me constantly. I found them comforting at first but then just irritating. During difficult times, you need a friend who'll spring into action, not just give you lip service.

Some people, who I didn't even consider close friends, took concrete steps to help and I began to see them in a whole different light. They watched my baby when I attended speech and occupational therapy sessions with my son. They brought our family dinner when we had a long day of medical appointments. They invited us to play dates at their homes and picnics in the park. People who did nothing to help quickly became former friends and vanished from our lives.

4. She Doesn't Value Your Time.

It seems we all have a person in our lives like this, someone who always keep us waiting -- showing up 20 minutes late for a lunch date or 40 minutes late for a scheduled walk. She always has a ready excuse but basically it comes down to this: She doesn't value your time and she doesn't value you.

Psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow, says some people are chronically tardy to show they're busier and more important. He writes: "People who use lateness to signify they are special or more powerful than those they keep waiting may not plan to show up late, but there’s often a quiet running commentary at the back of their mind suggesting that others will — and really should — wait for them." In the past, I was patient with friends who were late but now show no mercy. While they may not value my time, I certainly do.

When We're Younger, We're More Willing to Forgive People Who Cancel on Us, Saying They're Just Flaky. As We Get Older, We're Less Tolerant.

If a friend cancels on me, I give them one more chance. If it happens again, I say sayonara.
If a friend cancels on me, I give them one more chance. If it happens again, I say sayonara. | Source

5. She Cancels on You.

Although it hurt my feelings, I'd always forgive friends who would cancel on me, thinking we all have unexpected things happen in our lives. I'd just excuse their rude behavior by saying they're flaky. But becoming a mother changed all that and now I drop-kick those folks to the curb. Like those who are perpetually tardy, people who cancel need to feel important and in control.

I stopped putting up with people who cancel when it negatively affected my child. I invited a good friend over to my home for a summer pool party with her three sons. I planned a delicious lunch, got the pool ready, and cleaned the house. An hour before they were due to arrive, she called to cancel, offering up a lame and vague excuse. My 10-year-old was heartbroken. When you screw with me, that's one thing. But when you screw with my kid, that's another. I now have a one-chance rule. If you cancel once, I'll give you another chance. If you cancel again, it's good riddance to you. As my mother used to say when I was a kid, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

6. She Doesn't Reciprocate.

If you think a friendship is a perfectly balanced 50/50 enterprise, you're probably a very lonely person. That's because our lives get messy with health scares, marital problems, work issues, and troubles with our kids. At those times, friends often take low priority.

When my son got diagnosed with autism, I had nothing to offer my friends because I got drained and defeated. They had to shoulder the relationship if they wanted it to continue. Some did and some didn't. But, when the tables got turned, I was there to lift them up and make them feel stronger. There's reciprocation between true friends but not always on a strict tit for tat time-line.

If you're always giving and getting nothing in return, that's probably because the person doesn't really see you as a friend. She's using you to get what she needs and the relationship between the two of you is of no concern. This happened to me when I was a stay-at-mom. Other mothers would often ask me to watch their kids and I happily did so. But they never returned the favor. I quickly realized that they didn't see me as a friend at all, just a babysitter.

7. She Uses You as a Therapist.

It's easy to get flattered when a friend turns to us for advice. But often they're using us instead of seeking out the professional help they need. Some people thrive on sharing their problems because it makes them feel like the center of attention.

I had a friend who turned to me with all her marital problems. For many years, I listened to her and gave her the best counsel I could. But, year after year, her problems stayed the same and no progress got made. Then I found out she was talking about these problems with many people, not just me. I was nothing special to her, just another ear. When I recommended that she start seeing a professional, she ended our relationship.

8. She Doesn't Share Your Morals and Values.

When you're young, this is hardly a concern as you hang out together, gossip, shop, and attend parties. But, as you grow older, shared values and morals are essential to fostering a friendship, building trust, and having stimulating conversations. Without them, you have only the superficial in common and that's not enough to sustain a meaningful relationship.

I had two best friends in college and I thought we'd become lifetime pals as we established careers, got married, and had kids. But, upon graduation, both of these women had affairs with married men – one with a guy who had a wife and two children and the other to a guy with a pregnant wife. My friends told me about their situations, expecting me to act in a supportive, non-judgmental way. I couldn't do that and that was the end of our friendship. They didn't want me in their lives and I didn't want them in mine.

This Book Helped Me Become a Better Friend

Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness
Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness

Research shows the enormous benefits of having friends. Friends help us have longer and happier lives and make us less susceptible to illness. But making friends and keeping them is often a tricky matter. This books explains how to create meaningful friendships that last a lifetime. I learned so much from reading it and am now committed to making my friendships a priority.


© 2017 McKenna Meyers


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    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 5 weeks ago from Bend, OR

      Yes, Lauren, a friend who truly listens is rare and should not be taken for granted. I read recently about "compassionate listening" and have been applying it both personally and professionally. In compassionate listening, you don't give advice, make comments, or pass judgment. You let the speaker purge their hurt. I find it to be so very powerful, and it sounds like what your friend did for you.

    • profile image

      Lauren 5 weeks ago

      This has opened my eyes and showed me that a guy who I didn't really think is a friend really is a friend he was there for me when my dad passed away and now he listens to me when I talk to him even if what I say makes him uncomfortable believe me friendship isn't always comfortable he did help me through my anxiety

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 8 weeks ago from Bend, OR

      Please accept my condolences on the death of your mother, LaTrice. Sometimes a major event in our lives (your mother's passing, my son's autism diagnosis) gives us great clarity. We realize life is precious, and we don't want to waste time with those who bring us down. During those difficult times, we have less energy and we can't waste it on negative people. Good luck to you. I'm glad it's given you the incentive to make new friends.

    • Miss Liberty31 profile image

      LaTrice 8 weeks ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I'm thrilled that I stumbled upon this article, so reading it has been informative and refreshing. Unfortunately, not too many people know how to be a true friend in someone's time of need. Life's too short to deal with unnecessary drama, especially when it's coming from a person who's only available on a part-time basis.

      I recently ended a "friendship," and haven't regretted my decision. I haven't seen and heard from my so-called friend in a couple of months. He texted me out of the blue while I was at work. I was barely responding back to his text messages and phone calls, since I was busy doing my job. All of a sudden, he gets angry by accusing me of being insecure, wasting his time, poking fun at my appearance and being arrogant. I found his accusations comical, because he's insecure and has a problem. It's not my fault that he can't find anyone to go out with. Despite being a single woman, I wouldn't date someone like him, due to his foul attitude and walking around with a chip on his shoulder. I told him to lose my phone number and blocked it.

      I don't need someone like him in my life, since I have enough going on as it is. My mom passed away four months ago, and I'm still grieving her death.

      He gave me the opportunity to make new friends. Good riddance!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 8 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      I love the saying that says To have a friend you must be a friend. I see you live in Bend, my granddaughter was there until recently. I love it there. Must be hot.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 8 months ago from Bend, OR

      Thanks so much for the compliment, Lori. You made my day. I think it's ridiculous how people define friendship today ("I have 550 friends on Facebook"). I think, if we're really lucky, we have a hand-full of really good and loyal friends. They're the ones who deserve our focus, kindness, and appreciation. The older I get the more I value them.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 8 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      I find it odd there are no comments. This was a great article and I learned a lot from it. Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts on friendship.