We are the sum of the people we spend the most time with – so our environment must be one that nurtures and sustains us. However as not all friends are created equal, here’s when to end a friendship.
At all stages of our lives, friends are important. After all, humans are fundamentally social creatures.
Friends share in the good times and the bad. They laugh with you and cry with you. They add a special dimension to your life.
However, not all friends are created equal.
And if the time comes that your friendship causes more pain than pleasure, it may be time to let that friendship go.
But how do you really know when to end a friendship?
If you’re starting to think that a friendship is no longer serving you, then see if your situation is reflected in any of the reasons for a friendship breakup.
WHEN YOU NO LONGER HAVE ANYTHING IN COMMON
In social psychology they talk about the similarity principle, which is defined as such:
“The similarity-attraction effect refers to the widespread tendency of people to be attracted to others who are similar to themselves in important respects.
“Attraction means not a strictly physical attraction but, rather, liking for or wanting to be around the person…
“Similarity effects tend to be the strongest and most consistent for attitudes, values, activity preferences, and attractiveness. Personality similarity has shown weaker, but still important, effects on attraction” (source).
If you think about your friendships over time, and what you were doing in your life at the point when you made them, chances are there’s a pretty solid connection.
High school friends, college friends, work friends, friends who you made through your children…
We initially connected with these friends because we shared a similar environment, and niched down to a smaller group with whom we shared common activities, attitudes, and values as mentioned above.
But the circumstances of our lives change. So do the things we like to do. In fact who we are changes as well.
I know one person who had a particular group of friends.
These friendships became more important when over a short period of time, his relationship ended and he was made redundant.
He, therefore, spent a lot of time at their houses or going out drinking with them.
Then he got a new job, met a new woman, and things changed.
He developed stability and started valuing being sober more than going out to party.
As he and his friends no longer had much in common, he started to drift away from these friends, and eventually the relationships ground to a halt.
He felt guilty about this, but in reality, it was always going to happen.
Many times our friendships serve a purpose, and when that purpose no longer exists, the friendship does not either.
So if the reason for the friendship is the season – then it’s okay to move on. And don’t feel bad about it.
WHEN THEY ARE JEALOUS OF YOU
In some ways, saying that someone behaves in a particular manner because they are jealous of you is a cop-out.
It’s a line that we tell someone when someone else is treating them poorly because it makes it all about the supposed jealous person and nothing about the one on the receiving end.
The truth is, sometimes that is neither fair nor accurate. It may be the case that the former has good reason to act the way that they do.
However, there ARE several ways in which you can tell if someone truly IS jealous of you.
The three main ways you will see jealousy displayed by a friend are:
- Minimizing your achievements. This includes making comments that suggest everyone is capable of the same experience or is receiving of the same rewards or recognition.
For example, you tell your friend how you just got a promotion, and they mention how so did X,Y, and Z. Or you tell them you’ve been selected for something, and they comment that there wasn’t much competition.
- Ignoring your achievements. This is a passive aggressive approach – rather than minimize your achievements, they simply don’t even react to them. This can include changing the subject when you share your good news, not liking posts on Facebook or Instagram where your achievement is mentioned, or if you share your news via text, for example, not mentioning it when they see you in person.
- Boasting about their achievements. In addition to the above, another sign your friend is jealous is if they are constantly tooting their own horn. You mention getting a pay rise, and they immediately make it about their latest pay rise and oh, they also got a great travel perk that they hadn’t been expecting. You can’t share anything without it getting one-upped.
Conversely, you might say you can’t afford to go on vacation this year, and they reply with details of their planned PLURAL vacations.
It can be quite hard to see jealousy in a friendship at first.
However over time, you will start to feel that all isn’t quite right, and when you actually pay attention to instances where you share those positive moments of your life, you will notice any or all of these three responses.
Of all the issues mentioned here, this one is one of the hardest and saddest to deal with, especially if the friendship has previously been solid.
People are not jealous when they are happy with their own lives.
Therefore you can either call them on it to see if there is anything underneath (which is an extremely challenging thing to do), or decide to end the friendship.
WHEN THEY ARE PERSISTENTLY NEGATIVE
We have all met one of those people for whom everyone and everything is always awful.
A new initiative at work means yet another thing to do on top of their too full life.
They can never meet anyone for a romantic relationship.
The town they live in lacks sophistication.
Their family takes advantage of them.
And they never, ever have anything to do with this awfulness. It’s a cruel and unjust world that conspires to make their mere existence a misery.
Listen, I’m in my mid-40s and I want to tell you something important. And then I’ll leave it at that because even writing about these people makes me feel icky and tired.
People like this – they never, never change.
Being with them is exhausting. And horrible. And it rubs off.
Save yourself in this situation, and end the friendship by cutting all ties. Become another thing they can complain about. At least you will be happy!
WHEN IT’S ALL ONE-SIDED
A sign that a friendship has reached its endpoint is when there is only one person making any effort.
Only one of you texts or calls.
Only one of you attempts to arrange to spend time together.
Only one of you recognizes important events, such as birthdays.
If you are the one doing all the work, then this one-sided friendship can start to create a number of different emotions in you – not the least resentment. It is also common to feel unworthy, unvalued and just plain frustrated.
However, as a sign, a one-sided friendship is not always as clear-cut as it may seem.
Before you rush in and sever all ties, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself how things are going for your friend.
Have they just started a new job?
Do they have a new baby?
Or are they doing it tough in any area of their life that they may feel too ashamed to share with you?
If you value the friendship, then make some gentle inquiries before you make up your mind that your friendship is over.
On the other hand, maybe it’s not you making all the effort. Maybe it’s your friend.
If that is the case, then maybe you need to ask yourself why that is.
It can be that the one-sidedness has developed because of one of the other issues mentioned here, and the slow fade is the friendship ending strategy of choice.
However, maybe it’s the reverse of the above situation – when your friend’s life is a little too hectic.
At the moment, for example, I work a lot, and what spare time I have is spent with my husband, or doing housework, or gardening. There isn’t much room left for friendship beyond the odd like of a Facebook post.
I accept that it’s not possible to have everything, so this is what has had to slide. I don’t like it, but I have to live with it.
In this situation, therefore, it’s important to consider context before deciding whether to end the friendship.
WHEN THEY DON’T LIKE YOUR SPOUSE
When you were younger, it was a poor friend and a lousy person who ditched a friend when the boyfriend came along. The saying was something like boys come and go – friendships last forever.
However. the complete opposite approach is required when you’re a happily married adult.
If you have a friend who puts down your spouse (overtly or covertly), or makes little comments about them behind your back (because these things always get back to you), or anything else (such as refuse to socialize together) then guess what – this is a deal-breaker.
The person to whom you owe your number one allegiance and support is your husband. So if your friends don’t like that man you have chosen, then stop seeing them now, because this is a no-win situation.
This is super hard, especially if the friendship is of a long duration.
But put yourself in your husband’s shoes.
How would he feel, knowing that you are choosing to have a relationship with someone who dislikes him?
He wouldn’t feel very valued or supported, would he?
And the life you have is with your husband not your friend.
There is one exception to this rule however – if the man you are married to actually deserves the things your friend is saying about him.
If that’s the case, no judgement because I’ve been there too in the past – but I think you have much bigger issues than friendship to worry about.
WHEN THEY LIKE YOUR SPOUSE TOO MUCH
So what’s worse than a friend who doesn’t like your spouse? One who likes them too much, of course!
How can you tell though? you ask.
There will be small things. They will talk to them a little more than they talk to you. You’ll notice tell-tale signs of flirting, such as laughing, touching and complimenting.
One of the biggest signs in my lifetime of experience? They’ll complain to your husband about their marriage.
The other biggest sign?
You’ll feel that something is a little bit off.
I am a firm believer in trusting my gut. It has not let me down yet.
There’s a lot you could lose by continuing this friendship. Trust me.
Do you have acquaintances, friends or family members who left their wives for the other woman? If so, in how many cases was this woman a friend of the couple’s?
I believe in protecting your marriage and that means having an environment which supports its growth.
An environment where a friend is trying to get into your husband’s pants is not such an environment.
Kick in your “end of friendship” strategy of choice when you notice this happening.
WHEN THEY CAN’T BE TRUSTED
A true friendship is much like a relationship in that it is one in which you must be able to be vulnerable.
At a course I attended recently, one of the presenters made a great point. He said, “All hurt happens in relationships and all healing happens in relationships.”
When we can confess our secrets, share our problems, and be open and honest, we gain a great deal from a friendship.
But if that friend turns around and ruins that vulnerability by breaking your trust – well it’s hard to come back from that.
Either they share a confidence, or what’s worse, a secret that wasn’t theirs to share.
Or maybe they say they’ll do something, but they don’t.
Whatever it is, you start to feel as though they cannot be trusted. And when you can’t trust someone, you have to ask what the point of being friends is.
You don’t know why they’ve done this, but the reality is, they’ve done it once, so chances are they will do it again.
Without trust, you don’t have much, so it’s time to end the friendship.
WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL SUPPORTED
We’ve all heard of the saying, fair weather friend. The kind of person who is there for you when things are going well, but is running for the hills the minute things start to get more challenging.
Having cancer really showed me who my true friends were.
They were the ones who came around, comforted me when I cried, and indulged my crackpot attempts to find some naturally occurring cure (essiac tea in this instance. My lovely friend Leigh and I brewed this up with much hilarity though I have to say, I think I only ever drank about a cup of it, and then threw the rest out).
Divorce will show you who your friends are, as will other forms of hardship and tragedy.
Sometimes people will avoid you because they don’t know what to say. But it’s the ones who say something – even if it’s not the right thing – who are the real keepers.
But it doesn’t even have to be that hard.
When you’re experiencing a challenging time, you’ll know those friends who make you a coffee and listen to it all, versus those who are too busy with aspects of their own lives.
WHEN YOU CAN’T BE YOURSELF
Any relationship in which you cannot be yourself is not a healthy one.
Maybe when you go out with this particular friend you have to make sure you’re wearing the right outfit and perfect makeup. You go out to cafes you didn’t budget for this week and drop money shopping in stores you’d normally have no interest in frequenting– just so you look good.
I had a friend once. She had a lot of money and whenever you went somewhere, you would know about it.
She would see something she liked and she would buy it, no second thought, regardless of cost.
I have never been like that.
Back then I couldn’t afford it, and now I try to be super intentional with what I buy.
In time, I started to feel like I wasn’t worthy, that I was failing at life financially, and so on.
Now bless her heart, there was nothing wrong with HER in this instance – it was all about me, and I got over it eventually.
But if you have a friend like this who expects you to be, live, WHATEVER, in a certain way AND makes you feel bad or ignored when you express your desire not to OR that you simply can’t do it, then this is not healthy either.
WHEN THEY ARE NEVER VULNERABLE WITH YOU
Finally, I find this one to be a bit of a kicker as well.
Let’s go back to the beginning – Why do we have friends?
Hold your answer to that in your head.
Now I want you to think about whether you have a friend who is never, ever vulnerable with you.
You don’t know the real truth of their marriage.
You don’t know the real truth of their parenting.
You don’t know the real truth about anything, because they never let their guard down. They never let you know their reality.
If you have a friend like this, I hate to break it to you, but they are not really a friend.
They are simply an acquaintance.
And even though you might desire to be vulnerable with them, you’ll always feel a little bit uncomfortable doing so, because it will never be reciprocated.
There’s a degree of shared vulnerability that’s absolutely essential to create a sustained and deep friendship.
SUMMING UP WHEN TO END A FRIENDSHIP
So if you’ve been wondering how to know when to end a friendship, remember that
- when you no longer have anything in common
- when things are one-sided
- when you can’t be yourself
- if she’s too jealous
- too negative
- never vulnerable
- never supportive
- can’t be trusted
- doesn’t like your husband
- likes him too much
the death knell is tolling on your friendship.
Now you might be freaking out, because according to this list, you now have only one friend left.
But I believe totally in the idea that we are the sum of the people we spend the most time with – and that our environment is one which we must cultivate to nurture and sustain ourselves.
If that means assessing our friendships to find the ones that are truly best fit, then I am all for that.
What other reasons would you have for ending a friendship?