We all know how painful breakups can be.
Sleepless nights, tissues full of tears, and enough takeout to last us a lifetime. Days spent convincing ourselves we will never be the same again. But we silently pray to ourselves that the miserable feelings will pass, and eventually, they do.
But what about those less painful breakups — those necessary breakups — that we didn’t even realize we had the power to execute? There are no endless fits of crying or love letters tucked away under the pillow. No “exchanging of the things” or wondering if you’ll ever meet that special someone. Instead, there’s relief.
Breaking up with friends isn’t always the easiest decision to make — but it can be the healthiest. Somewhere along the road to adulthood, we forget that we get to actively choose the people we let into our lives. Furthermore, we forget that we have the power to kick people out, just as we have the power to invite people in.
Not everyone is meant to be our friend forever — and that’s OK. But standing up for ourselves is essential to our happiness, and sometimes that means trimming the fat in our social circles. The truth is, friends don’t always act like friends. And when that becomes a pattern, it’s time to demote them to acquaintance, where they belong.
So how do you know when enough is enough? Take a look at some indicators that it might be time to break up with a friend.
1. The negative interactions outnumber the positive ones.
If you hang out with your friend on a regular basis and more times than not there is a negative interaction, it might be time to call it quits. Friendships are meant to be enjoyable, not tense or anxiety-provoking. Uncomfortable moments are bound to happen in any relationship, but if it’s becoming consistent, it could be a sign that you two simply aren’t compatible.
2. Jealousy and competition run rampant.
One-upping, tense competition, and biting jealousy could be a sign your friendship isn’t what it’s chalked up to be. If you are constantly feeling the need to prove yourself to your friend, you’re going to feel more exhaustion than comfort from your pal. Friendships are supposed to be supportive and encouraging, not polarizing and antagonistic. So if you look around and realize you and your bud are pretty much participating in a stinky match-up of “whose poo don’t stink,” it could be time to exit through the gift shop.
3. There’s little contribution to your life.
Let’s be real: If someone wants to be in your life, they’ve gotta bring something to the table. Just like your polite dinner guests never show up empty-handed (and your true favorites bring wine), your friend should be delivering some sort of enhancement to your life. Maybe she always cheers you up. Perhaps she keeps you in stitches with her quick humor. Or maybe she’s just a good listener. Whatever it is that she contributes to your life, you cherish it.
So if you seriously can’t think of much that she contributes, it could be time to cut one chair from your next dinner party.
4. The perceived effort is off-balance.
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One-sided relationships are not fun. Nobody likes to constantly pursue someone else for their time while not feeling the same in return. So you’ve gotta ask yourself, why are you chasing somebody who won’t chase you back?
When there is a lack of balance, that’s often an indicator that the friendship isn’t quite doing it for one or more parties involved. And if the balance isn’t in your favor, it could really damage your self concept. Don’t let that happen. If someone doesn’t have enough energy to reciprocate your fabulous friendship, then stop burning up all your energy, and let it go.
5. You feel controlled or manipulated.
If for any reason during a friendship you feel like you are not being your true self, stop and reflect immediately. Why is it that you aren’t acting like your authentic self? Are there some controlling behaviors at play? Are you a highly impressionable person? Do you feel that your friend is a bit manipulative? Really think about this one. The best friendships highlight our true character and mirror back how unique we are — so if you aren’t reaping those benefits, or instead you feel the exact opposite, seriously reevaluate the friendship as soon as possible.
6. You are guilty by association.
Be honest: Is your friend a good person? If you hesitated for even a minute just then, think about how her character is reflected in yours. If you are friends with a bully, chances are the world will assume you are a bully. Or even worse, you could become accustomed to bully-like behaviors, and even adopt some yourself. Yikes! Be careful with the people you associate with, because even though friends are not carbon copies of one another, we do pick up on mannerisms of the people we spend a lot of time around. So it’s always helpful to be friends with people who have qualities we would be proud to emulate.
7. You spend more time focusing on the past than the present.
We all have those friends who have been in our lives for years. Playdates grew into study groups that grew into happy hours and beyond — and we can’t imagine them not being in our lives.
Or can we?
If you spend most of your time holding onto the relationship because of your history, it might be time to leave the past in the past. People grow apart, and that’s normal. If we held onto every single friend we ever had in our lives, we would be seriously overwhelmed. Sometimes people grow into humans we don’t really like anymore, but we yearn for the days when we got along on the playground. It’s not a good idea to hold onto a toxic relationship simply because you feel obligated to honor your history.
8. Your self-esteem is negatively affected.
Period. Dot. The. End.
If ANY of these reasons contribute to your self-esteem withering away whenever you are around this friend, it is absolutely time to break up. Your self-esteem has enough to deal with! We have to maintain our grades, our jobs, our apartments, our relationships, and all the while we are fighting off self-doubt every step of the way. Friends are supposed to be our cheerleaders, our support systems, our buds. If for any reason a friend DOES NOT contribute to your overall confidence, then it’s really not a friendship at all.