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?
This Book Helped Me Become a Better Friend
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.
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© 2017 McKenna Meyers