7 Sure Signs It's Time to End a Friendship

Updated on October 6, 2018
letstalkabouteduc profile image

As I grow older, I have less energy for people who drain the very life out of me. That's why I've had to end some friendships.

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.

Some friends wouldn't let me talk about my son when he was diagnosed with autism.
Some friends wouldn't let me talk about my son when he was diagnosed with autism. | Source

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
Surround yourself with friends who keep you healthy, motivated, and feeling good.
Surround yourself with friends who keep you healthy, motivated, and feeling good. | Source

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.

If a friend refuses professional help and instead relies on you, it's not a balanced relationship.
If a friend refuses professional help and instead relies on you, it's not a balanced relationship. | Source

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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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.


Questions & Answers

  • 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!

© 2017 McKenna Meyers


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    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      8 months ago from Bend, OR

      Dyme, I'm sorry you're going through this difficult time. Friendships are so valuable in our lives so it's understandable we feel hurt when they come to an end. We need to grieve the loss, and it takes time. The fact that it's so painful reveals how much the friendship meant to us.

      Sometimes we can step back and see we've outgrown the relationship--that we've moved forward in our life journey and the other person hasn't. It's my goal to always be changing--getting wiser, stronger, and more compassionate. Other people are okay staying in the same safe place and, therefore, there's a disconnect.

      Take good care of yourself, Dyme. I'm glad you're seeing and appreciating the supportive friends around you who challenge you to be your best. I never looked for that when I was younger, but now it's everything to me.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      8 months ago from Bend, OR

      Tammy, I feel your pain because I, too, have had conflicts with neighbors and know it's not fun. Like you, I try to get along with everyone, but sometimes that's part of the problem. Someone sees that as a weakness and tries to take control.

      I would give your neighbor some time and space to cool down. Stop beating yourself up and stay busy with activities and friends. It sounds like the girls next door are bored if they're listening to adult conversations and then reporting back to Mom. I'd just ignore them. Your neighbor will probably come around in due time but, if not, it doesn't seem like much of a loss. Good luck!

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      I fill I had a toxic friendship with nextdoor neighbor, and she made me feel like I was the guilty one... Here is what happened.

      I know it is for the best to let go but the last two days i have really beaten myself up for something i didnt do...

      The other day I was talking to a neighbor behind us, she was talking about how cruel it was for the ones right beside me to keep a goat pinned up in such a small pen.I told her that they let the goat out in th back yard, She was talking about how horrible that the goat had mange and her husband told the daughter(The mom kept sending the girls out to listen to all what we said) . She asked the daughter if she wanted to sell the goat, any ways the daughter only heard mayb 1/4 of the conversation and went to tell her mom that we both was talking about the girls. I simply answered the ladys question about the goat and my neighbor thinks I was actually talking about the girls.

      I am too old for these games but now my next door neighbor is not talking to me, threw stuff in my yard I gave her. The lady behind us tried to tell her she was only asking about the goat but the mom of course believed all the young girl said. Which is normal for a moms side But i really feel that she should of asked us and herself should of came out to actually ask what it was all about.. I did nothing wrong but she is making me feel I did... I tried to talk to her but she told me to leave she did not want to talk... I would like to get this settled since we are nextdoor neighbors but it seems hopeless...I try to get along with everyone, Im in my late 40's and her in her 30s and Im too old for childish games, I should of seen this coming when she did not talk to me for 3 months because I did not give her my new number, but I pay the bill where does it say by law I had to give her my number.. I would just like to be peaceful, go on, stop feeling guilty and walk around my back yard talking to my Husband and son with out her sending her daughters out to spy and find out what we are saying.. her daughter that started all of this is a sheltered 14 year old and a 10 year old... The mom takes off alot and leaves them two girls at home with the 2 year old... Any suggestions how i can take care of this matter or should i just ignore it and not feel like a prisoner in my own home and afraid there daughters will run back in and tell more lies?

      Is it normal to feel guilty for what I did not do? and I should not have to walk on pins and needles in my own yard just because she sends her kids to fence to listen to all my husband and I say or my son and I say... Yes we both own our houses... she wants me to move but I will not, this is OUR HOME NOT HERS...

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      10 months ago from Long Island, NY

      “Robbing my energy” - That’s exactly the reason I finally decided to end it. And, yes, it did take a lot of thought beforehand. It was a tough decision, but a worthwhile one.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      10 months ago from Bend, OR

      That's so true, Glenn We also have less patience for people who rob us of our energy. I'm really picky about who I let into my sphere now. I want positive, upbeat people who challenge me to be a better person. I think when I was younger I accepted a lot of troubled people into my life because they made me feel superior. But I can't take the drama now. While it's hard to end a long-time friendship, I'm sure you gave it a lot of thought and made the right decision.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      10 months ago from Long Island, NY

      A few years ago I discontinued a friendship with someone I knew since we were kids. Your explanation of reasons to end a friendship rang true for me as I related many of your examples to the reasons I felt I needed to end that friendship.

      As you said, when we get older we tend to value our time a lot more, and therefore we have less tolerance for toxic friendships.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      12 months 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


      12 months 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 imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      12 months 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


      12 months 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 

      18 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 imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      18 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 

      18 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.


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