Humans are social beings that need a sense of belonging. Having long-term friendships not only brings us happiness but also enables us to enjoy the highs and lows of life without feeling alone. One of the most overlooked benefits of friendship is that it keeps our bodies and minds healthy. In fact, a study conducted by Harvard University found that healthy friendships promote brain health. The power of friendship is real, so why and when would you want to end one?
Friends help us deal with stressful situations such as ill health, financial stress, the loss of a job, and other bad experiences. During difficult times, friends can help put things into perspective. With friends, we can engage in great conversations, laugh out loud and enjoy heartfelt support.
Indeed, it explains why friendship is the basic component for any relationship; from marriage, work colleagues to our social buddies. But, at some point, you may feel that you and a friend aren't connecting well anymore, and they are not adding any happiness to your life. In that case, it may be time to end a friendship and consider making some new friends you have more in common with.
Some people believe that friendships are for ever, but, as we all know, that's not always the case. Even friendships that have thrived since childhood evolve and can break down. People grow out of friendships, and as they grow older, they have to think how and when to end them, especially the toxic ones.
Friendships change with time © shutterstock/szefei
Some friends can become relentlessly needy while others disappear on you for ages without valid reasons and resurface later, hoping to revive the friendship. But a friendship should be balanced; there needs to be few incidences of one party giving or the other taking all the time.
As we age, many of us become more confident in ourselves and don't have the energy for friendships that just aren't working. However, actually going through with ending a friendship isn't always an easy task! If this is something you're struggling with right now, here are four reasons that can help you identify when to end a friendship and how to do it healthily and without bad feeling.
All types of relationship should be a two-way street, whether it's a working, romantic, platonic or familial one. As such, if your friendship is consistently one-sided, then it could be time to end it. If you're pouring energy into a friend who isn't reciprocating the same care and love, then it's not fair and you may become resentful.
Many selfish friends only show up when they're going through a rough patch and will disappear as soon as you've helped them. However, when you're in need, they'll go silent or provide little support. If you have a friend like this in your life, it's could be time to say goodbye.
Friends often share secrets with each other; after all, they're there to listen and support one another. But this can be dangerous if your friend likes to gossip. In fact, friends should create boundaries about what they can and can't share about each other, to avoid betraying trust by divulging private information. Be clear what you don't want repeated: a true friend will respect that. Trust is fragile and makes up a significant part of any relationship.
Gossip can easily end friendships © shutterstock/Jacob Lund
While minor betrayals like gossiping may be forgiven – especially if your friend shows remorse and willingness to regain trust – some betrayals are so deep then the friendship cannot be salvaged. However, major betrayals such as seducing a friend's partner or stealing, are often unforgivable. Such betrayals break trust completely and can be difficult to rebuild. It's usually time to end a friendship when this happens.
We all have our ups and downs, but if you have a pessimistic pal (don't we all?), you may want to reconsider your friendship. Friends who are more pessimistic than optimistic can really drag you down: complaining about their lives, always with negative energy or ruminating over past mistakes, or even being a downer about your ideas or life.
Of course, friendships are about showing empathy and compassion to your friends. You may try to lift a friend's negative attitude or mood by talking to them, but if they don’t make any effort to change, this is a warning sign.
“All types of relationship should be a two-way street. As such, if your friendship is consistently one-sided, then it’s time to end it.”
While you obviously want to care for your friends, it's also important you take care of yourself also, and that involves avoiding friends who bring you down constantly. If you're wondering when to end a friendship, this may be a good time. In fact, it won’t hurt to take a break from them for a while or discussing how you feel.
Negative noise from friends is a deal-breaker © shutterstock/pathdoc
Not all friendships end with arguments or drama. Sometimes friends simply drift apart; their life circumstances may change suddenly, as in the case of marriage, a new job, moving city or becoming a parent. It's natural when friendships are altered by such life events.
However, sometimes you drift apart simply because you're growing in different ways. Perhaps your interests, ambitions and shared ideas have changed. When your paths diverge to such a degree, sometimes you end up with nothing or little to talk about, and this is a sign your relationship has changed. You can always try to focus on the remaining things you have in common, although you may decide to invest less time in that friendship instead.
“Major betrayals such as seducing a friend's partner or stealing, are often unforgivable. Such betrayals break trust and can be difficult to rebuild. It's usually time to end a friendship when this happens.”
It's easier to accept that things are changing and that your friendship is indeed drifting apart. You may wonder when and how to end a friendship, i.e., whether to end it formally or allow it to drift away naturally. There will be sad feelings you may need to work through, so give yourself time to grieve. However, you should not beat yourself about it. Every friend adds something to your life, so appreciate the time you've spent together.
So, whether your friend has betrayed you, your relationship has grown apart or you want to break off from negative friends, it's essential to know when – and how – to deal with it. The most obvious sign that a friendship's not working anymore is if you often feel exhausted at the idea of hanging out with your friend and no longer look forward to seeing them. You may even find yourself making up excuses to avoid them. In this case, it may be time to approach your friend to talk things through or to finish the relationship.
Ending a friendship should involve tact and care
However, if you don't feel ready to express your feelings to a friend right away, consider journaling about them first. It provides a safe space for you to vent without discussing your opinions with other people and determine when to end a friendship.
You've probably spent significant time together and shared the best and the worst of memories. As such, you want to end any friendship amicably where possible. While you feel some strategies may be appropriate in particular situations, it’s best to avoid the following approaches, especially if you've spent years together:
Always try to break the friendship cordially (although in cases of betrayal, this is not always possible!). It's an expression of mutual respect, honesty and maturity. In fact, you never know – perhaps you may want to rekindle the friendship sometime in future. Here are some tried and tested ways to end friendships:
In this case, you don’t seek out your friend as before. This tactic is ideal for people who want to avoid confrontation. You may decide to text instead of making a call, take a long time to get back to them, or answer with short replies. Your unavailability shows you're no longer interested in the relationship. If you're wondering when to end a friendship that has lasted a long time, this could be one way to do it if you don't want to confront and upset your friend too much.
If a slow fade-out approach does not work, then talk things out. Let your friend know that you have outgrown each other, and that it's better for everybody if you stay in touch occasionally. Prepare a script about how to handle the situation if your friend gets angry or hurt.
Talk honestly with your friend if you want to end the friendship © shutterstock/fizkes
If your differences remain unresolved even after talking, it’s best to terminate the friendship or take a break from it for a while. This technique will help you calm down, reevaluate the friendship, develop a different perspective, and determine if you want to end it for good. Be sure to set a time in the future when you plan to meet and talk through stuff further. If you're feeling lonely after ending a friendship, there are many ways you can change that.
If you're wondering when to end a friendship that has gone toxic or has involved a betrayal of some sort, this might be the best time to do it immediately! State that your needs are not being met and let the other person go. The approach can seem harsh, but it is also transparent and provides a chance for you to voice issues that you may have been holding back.
It’s challenging to find a balance between being there for others and putting yourself first. You don’t want to come off selfish, but you don’t want to surround yourself with people who won't make you happy or support you.
Indeed, don’t fear breaking off such friendships as they can hold you back from your own happiness. Try to determine when and how to end a friendship early on before it creates a negative impact on your attitude, behavior and perspective on life.
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