7 Sure Signs It's Time to End a Friendship
As we grow older, our time becomes all the more precious; we don't want to waste it on friends who deplete us. While this may sound selfish, it's just part of maturing and realizing how important it is to surround ourselves with positive, healthy people who enrich our lives. While there are numerous psychological and physical benefits to having strong friendships, untold damage is caused by holding on to weak ones.
Is It Time to End a Friendship?
- Do you have a friend who's always asking for favors: babysitting her kids, supporting her fledgling business, or looking after her pets when she's out of town?
- When you have plans to get together, does she consistently show up late and frequently cancel?
- Has she done a vanishing act during your time of need?
- Does she weigh you down with her steady flow of personal problems?
- Do you find yourself drinking too much, eating too much, or being overly negative when the two of you are together?
If you're nodding your head, it may be time to end the friendship. Just as it's extremely painful at first for hoarders to relinquish their material possessions, it can be hard for us to let go of long-time friends. When we do, though, it can be incredibly liberating!
How Do You Know When a Friendship Has Run Its Course?
When I was younger, I was drawn to people who had lots of turmoil in their lives, fascinated by how different they were from calm and predictable me. It didn't matter that they were often self-centered and self-destructive. I liked these drama queens (and kings) because they were intoxicating. In hindsight, I realize there was a part of me who felt superior to them, thinking they were broken and I could fix them.
Many decades later, though, I have a totally different criteria for choosing friends, wanting to surround myself with people who support me when I'm down, get me exited about life, and challenge me to be a better person. With that in mind, I've made some tough calls of late, saying goodbye to relationships that were far too draining and debilitating. During this difficult but necessary process, I thought a lot about why these friendships had run their course and discovered seven sure signs it was time to end them.
7 Sure Signs It's Time to End a Friendship
1. She Isn't There for You During Tough Times
My wake-up call about friends came when my son got diagnosed with autism. Up until that point, I'd have described myself as a lucky person with a solid group of pals who would certainly be there for me during a crisis. However, my son's diagnosis quickly and irrevocably extinguished that illusion.
Not surprisingly, the drama queens in my posse turned out to be self-centered. They didn't have what it took to support me in my time of need (I know this gets a big "duh" from many of you). Everything had been hunky-dory when they were center stage but, when they were relocated to the wings, they couldn't tolerate it. They lacked the depth, patience, and compassion to listen when I desperately needed to talk about my son. In fact, they offered so little support that I wound up unburdening myself to a therapist.
My son's devastating diagnoses and its aftermath highlighted the superficiality of those friendships. For that moment forward, I needed something more meaningful and substantial so I let those buddies go. The sage words of the beloved poet, Maya Angelou, helped me know I was making the right decision: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."
I do believe that if we become the best friends for ourselves, we just might keep attracting real friends who would more than likely be very much like ourselves. This is why I have aimed to practice my own life quote on a daily basis, 'Love everyone the same.' In so doing, the ones who are to walk alongside you will stay and those who might only be coming to take, will leave.— Sister Jenna, spiritual leader and author
2. She Doesn't Nag You
After my son got diagnosed with autism, I was prescribed anti-depressants to deal with my grief. One of the medicines led to a 20 pound weight gain. Fortunately, I had one friend who cared enough to nag me about getting in shape and dropping the pounds. We started walking together three mornings a week. During this time, she let me unload about my son while also unloading the lard. She urged me to stop taking anti-depressants and to deal with the source of my sadness in a healthy, pro-active way.
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. She pushed me to take care of myself. She was the friend who'd say "how are you" and want an honest response, not just a robotic "fine."
Think of people in your life that are constantly filling your bucket. They give you new information and challenge you. When you surround yourself with friends like this, your life will completely change. You become more positive, driven, and focused on your priorities. THIS is who you need to be spending time with!— Chalene Johnson, motivational speaker and health expert
3. She's All Talk, No Action
When you're struggling and need help, words ring hollow. When my son got diagnosed with autism, my best friend was full of beautiful things to say: "I'm praying for you. You're in my thoughts. I'm sorry you're going through this." 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. Their actions forced me to see them in a whole new light. They watched my baby when I attended speech and occupational therapy sessions with my older son. They brought us 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, vanished from our lives, and weren't missed one bit.
First of all, don’t offer your help; provide it...So, when you have a friend in obvious need, don’t assume she will ask for your help. Instead, step in and provide your help when and where you can.— Kelly Hoover Greenway, blogger
4. She Doesn't Value Your Time
Many of us have at least one friend who doesn't value our time nearly as much as she values her own. She consistently shows up late for get-togethers or cancels at the last minute with a vague excuse. She's always puffing herself up by saying how incredibly busy she is. Her message is quite clear: I'm a very important person and you're not.
Some therapists suggest that those who constantly arrive late have low self-esteem. However, psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, adamantly disagrees. He believes they have big egos and expect everyone to cater to their schedules. 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." Whether it's too much ego or not enough, I eliminated friends who were always late and frequently cancelling. My time was too precious to waste on them and their behavior was just rude.
5. She Doesn't Reciprocate
If you think a friendship is always 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 was 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. It's okay to have transactional relationships like that; just don't mistake them for friendships!
If a friendship is not mutually beneficial and if a relationship is not close to a 50/50 give and take, it is not a true friendship. The acid test of a true friendship happens when you have absolutely nothing tangible to give, yet this amazing person stands with you. This is a true friend.— Fred Crowell, blogger
6. 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, but they have no intention of taking our counsel.
I had a friend who turned to me with all her marital woes. For many years, I listened to her and gave her the best help I could. But, year after year, her problems stayed the same and no progress was made. Then I found out she was talking about these same 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 was insulted and ended our relationship.
Your core values are the ones that stay in place for very long periods of time and tend to endure even when other aspects of your life change. I like to think of these as the values that you cannot do without and will make you absolutely uncomfortable and acting out of step with yourself if you don’t respect them.— Natalie Lue, author and relationship expert
7. She Doesn't Share Your Morals and Values
When you're young, sharing the same morals and values is hardly a concern as you hang out together, gossip, shop, and attend parties. But, as you grow older, they're essential to fostering a strong 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. After graduation, though, both of them 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.
What do you think?
What would make you end a long-term friendship?
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Questions & Answers
I texted "I need a friend" to a friend. She never replied. The message was "seen." Should I drop her?
No. People aren't obligated to respond to every text or e-mail they receive during their busy days. Some do, and some don't. You have no idea what she was experiencing when you sent that message. Maybe, she was suffering from horrible menstrual cramps. Maybe, her boyfriend was breaking up with her. Maybe, she was dealing with a crisis at work.
Our relationships can get so screwed up when we rely too heavily on impersonal ways of communication like texts and e-mails. If this friend means anything to you, you'll discuss the matter with her face-to-face and hash it out. You can start by saying: “I was hurt when I texted 'I need a friend' and I didn't hear anything from you.” Then let her explain. Have a conversation.
We shouldn't be so willing to end a friendship based on just one episode. It should be because there's a long-time pattern of negative behavior. If this friend of yours, for example, is consistently unavailable when you reach out for help, then that's a good indication that the relationship isn't working, and it's rather pointless to keep pretending.Helpful 8
I have a group of friends. They’re kinda my only friends, but they leave me out of a lot of things, ignore me, and don’t care about me when I’m obviously upset. Do I drop them? They’re always there for me when nothing is wrong, but when I’m sad or angry, they don’t care.
You seem to have a good understanding of these friends and their limitations, so I see no reason to drop them from your life. They're “good time Charlies,” fun to hang around and share a laugh or two. Your relationship with them, though, is largely superficial so you should cultivate deeper friendships and keep this group on the periphery of your social circle.
Build up your self-esteem, setting new goals for yourself and working hard to achieve them. Doing this will turn you into a more confident person who's prepared to choose kinder and more empathetic friends. You'll be ready to do the choosing rather than waiting for others to choose you. Remember, you can't expect a fine dining experience when you decide to walk into a McDonald's!
In all our lives, we have different tiers of friendship. Most people are on the bottom or middle with few making it to the top. When my sons were babies and toddlers, for instance, I had a dozen friends who had kids the same ages as mine. These relationships were good for hanging out at the park and talking about parenting issues but never grew more substantial than that. Fortunately, I had two long-time friends from college who I could turn to about issues that really mattered deeply to me: spirituality, the environment, social and political causes. We had common interests and values that kept our relationship strong even as our lives moved in different directions.
If you have one or two friends who you can share anything with and who will always have your back, you're beyond fortunate. The whole notion of friendship these days has become hugely distorted by social media where people now claim hundreds and even thousands of “friends” on Facebook, most of whom they've never met! In reality, building a true friendship takes a lot of time: talking, listening, and sharing experiences.
You sound like a level-headed person. Good luck with finding some more meaningful friendships. It's not easy to find the right match, but it's well worth the effort!Helpful 6
I have a best friend, and I'm the one who's always paying the bills when we hang out to get something. I think she is just around me because of the benefit. I am not feeling the friendship anymore. How do I write her a breakup message that I'm not interested in the friendship anymore?
I wouldn't write her a message. When people receive a written communication like that, it causes them a lot of anguish. They read it over and over, analyzing every word, and struggle to understand the “hidden meaning.” It's not a kind way to end a friendship because it's one-sided; the recipient of the message doesn't get to be part of the discussion, asking questions, defending her actions, and stating her point of view. The brave and compassionate thing to do is talk with someone in person and deal with her reactions and emotions at the moment.
I suggest you have an open and honest discussion with your friend over lunch. Tell her how you're feeling and give her the opportunity to express herself. Something good might come of it. She might value you a lot more than you realize—more than someone who just pays the bills. That's the story you're telling yourself, but it may not be accurate. Give her the chance to tell her side of the story before dropping her from your life.
If you still feel the need to end the friendship, take responsibility for the part you played in its demise. Why were you paying for everything? What was in it for you? Did it make you feel in control? When did it begin to feel not okay? Did you start to feel used? These are some good questions to ask yourself, so you won't get in the same predicament again as these situations often become patterns.
You refer to this person as your “best friend” so please take the time to have a conversation with her. This relationship sounds like it can be salvaged if the only issue is you paying for things. Perhaps, you two just need to limit your time together or take a break. All this should be discussed. I hope it all works out for you both!Helpful 6
I shared a good friendship with someone. I just feel his behavior has changed towards me. He is married now and I do understand that after marriage you need your space. But his behavior is such that I am not able to understand whether he is ignoring me or wants to cut me out. Is he upset or angry ? He does involve me when plans are made but I am really not able to understand his change of behavior and I don't know how to talk to him about this. I feel stuck.
If you want this friendship to survive and thrive, you need to talk with him about what you're experiencing and feeling. Then listen to what he has to say. Otherwise, you may be operating under a false notion. For example, you may think he's distant because he's married now and wants to spend time with his spouse. In reality, though, his spouse may get insecure, possessive and angry when he spends time with friends. You'll never know until you have a conversation!
In any relationship of depth and substance, you must be vulnerable and expose your feelings. Getting married, even when it's a happy union, is a huge change in one's life and can cause a lot of stress. Your friend may be struggling to balance it all. He may need your support and patience.
It would be sad if this friendship disintegrates because you don't communicate. No matter what happens, you'll be glad that you spoke up and tried to save it. This situation is also an opportunity to build new relationships. If your friend starts having children, he'll be even busier and you'll have even less in common.Helpful 1
My best friend and I have been going through a rough patch. She cheated on her partner, which didn’t sit well with me- I made that clear. She’s on antidepressants now, but I feel like she only wants to talk when it’s about her problems. I feel like she is very condescending. Am I a bad friend for wanting to distance myself from the negativity?
Not, not at all. Distancing ourselves from negative people is often necessary for our own mental and emotional well-being. Successful people such as Oprah Winfrey say they're very intentional about surrounding themselves with only positive folks who inspire them to think in positive ways. Winfrey explains, “I know for sure what we dwell on is who we become.”
Since your friend is taking antidepressants, she's under the care of a medical professional. If she needs to talk about her problems, recommend she contact that medical professional to get a referral for a good therapist. Explain to her that you're not qualified to give her the professional help she needs.
She's overburdening you with her issues, and the friendship is no reciprocal. Encouraging her to see a therapist is what a good friend should do. Antidepressants won't get to the root of her problem, and they offer no healthy, long-term solution.
Hopefully, this rough patch will be over soon, and you and your friend can enjoy fun times together again. In the meantime, surround yourself with positive people who share your values.Helpful 1
© 2017 McKenna Meyers