Friendships can be some of our most sustaining and joy-inducing relationships. But from time to time, certain friendships can devolve into relationships that bring you more stress than happiness. At Thrive, we support letting go of things that feel draining, and prioritizing the things (and people) that do bring you joy, and that bring out your best self. So we asked members of the Thrive Global community to share how they were able to tell when a friendship was no longer working for them — and when they knew it was time to walk away.
You’re exhausted from hearing about all their drama
“I’ve found that letting go of a friendship can actually be more devastating than ending a romantic relationship. Having said that, though, doing this is still often necessary when the friendship brings more frustration than joy. Recently, I let a friendship go because it felt like I was being taken advantage of. She asked things of me that I would never ask of anyone, was constantly late, and our conversations were always about her drama. It was exhausting. She also took great joy in hurling jabs at everyone else we knew. I realized that she was likely saying the same things about me when she was talking to others.”
—Jo Ann Burkhalter, writer, Atlanta, GA
They don’t value you or your time
“We can never recover time. That’s why who you spend your time with is as important as what you do in order to maintain your well being. Here’s some behavior from people who didn’t make the time worthwhile:
- They only called only to complain about how bad everything is.
- They found any reason to get upset about service, such as in a restaurant.
- They only talk about themselves, and never ask about your day.
The more we leave behind those who don’t value time enough to enjoy it, the more valuable our lives become.”
—Kalliope Barlis, licensed master trainer, New York, NY
They jeopardize your well-being
“Ending a friendship can feel devastating, much like experiencing a death. I had to make the difficult decision to no longer be in contact with someone who had been a friend for many years. She had gotten into a relationship with a married man who worked in her office. He said he was getting a divorce, but he ultimately never went through with it — he broke her heart, and she was devastated. She ended up leaving her job and spiraled into depression. Like any good friend, I stood by her and would take her calls at all hours of the night. She was in a lot of pain. I also turned down other invitations to be with her when she said she needed me. This went on for more than six months. She did get a new job and was doing better, but then she called to say that he was back, and that it would be different this time. It wasn’t. Her calls started coming at all hours of the night again. I finally told her that I needed a break from our friendship to protect my own health and well-being. I will always care about her and want the best for her, but knew I had to walk away. It wasn’t an easy choice, but I know it was the right one.”
—Mim Senft, CEO, Blooming Grove, NY
They don’t put effort into the relationship
“One of the hardest things in life is walking away from a friend. It’s an unexpected act that takes a toll on your entire being. Books and movies always portray friendship as ‘forever,’ but just like any relationship, life happens and people change. A slow build-up of small issues opened my eyes to a deteriorating friendship. I felt like our conversations were quiet and filled with her gossiping and complaining, which are two things I try to avoid. I began to notice the differences between my empathy and her selfishness. I was always changing my plans for her, and it was never reciprocated. Then I read an article saying something like, ‘The happiness you cultivate in life stems from those you keep in your inner circle.’ That struck a chord in my heart — although I loved her, she was poisoning my inner circle. I realized that not all friendships last forever, and you, as much as anyone else, deserve a team of supporters: friends who fill you up instead of bring you down.”
—Sammi Sontag, Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large from the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
They don’t respect your boundaries
“I had to let go of a friendship when boundaries weren’t respected. There was no reciprocity, and I was giving away too much without getting anything but guilt in return. Since then, my life has been drama-free and more fulfilling. It’s amazing how some relationships can do more harm than good.”
—Britni McCotter, consultant, Austin, TX
The conversation is all about them
“When I start feeling like I ‘should’ hang out with them, rather than looking forward to seeing them, that’s usually a sign. Another sign is when the conversation is very one-sided, meaning that it’s more about them, and they show very little interest in what’s going on in my life. If this happens consistently, or I usually feel worse after getting together with them, I know it’s best to part ways — even if it’s just for a little while.”
—Lindsay Ford, parenting coach, Ontario, Canada
They take financial advantage of you
“Sadly, I’ve let some friends go because of money. There have been instances when a friend has excuses for why they don’t or can’t pay their half. When that happens, I tell them, ‘I’ll take care of it,’ and never put myself in that position with them again. It might be harsh, but I tell myself, ‘You just lost out on buying a new toy for your son.’ I stay friends with them, but I never include that friend in anything where they can’t go dutch.”
—Rudy Chavarria Jr., college web mentor, Diamond Bar, CA
The friendship hinders your growth
“In order for any relationship to work well, you have to grow together. Some of my friendships have drifted because we no longer share the same interests, perspectives, or beliefs. I’ve moved on from some because they dragged me down. Beneficial relationships must be mutually supportive in order to thrive. If your friendship becomes an energy drain, it could also be toxic to your positive growth, and therefore, time to move on.”
—Erin Urban, career strategist, Houston TX
You have different moral compasses
“After I had my son, one of my closest friends and I had to part ways. She and her husband didn’t want children, which I always respected, but she couldn’t quite understand my new lifestyle. With a baby and a business, I wasn’t able to stay up until 2 a.m. and sleep in until 11 a.m., and I wasn’t always available at the drop of a hat. A year or so later, she cheated on her husband and woke me up with a panicked, late-night call. She told me that she wasn’t going to tell her husband, but was going to take that secret to the grave instead. I never judged her, but it was incredibly awkward for my husband and me to be on double dates with them while knowing her secret. Our life goals and moral compasses were just off, and I had to step away.”
—Lisa Pezik, business strategist and content expert, Ontario, Canada
They don’t take care of themselves without your help
“She was my best friend — we were one another’s rock. Sadly, she started to struggle with addiction, which was toxic for everyone around her. She was spiraling, and I was doing everything I could to help her. I quickly realized that I was her crutch, the one she could always run to. But as much as I wanted to be there for support, it was enabling her. I had to let her know that our friendship could only thrive if she took care of herself first, and until then, I had to let her go. After I went through with it, she finally hit rock-bottom and admitted herself into a rehab program. Two years later, we are finally rekindling our friendship on a positive note!”
—Morgan Tashea, organizational development consultant, Portland, OR
The relationship brings you negativity, not joy
“I once had a lot in common with a friend, but my exhaustion increased with every moment we spent together. I would go home and wonder why things had changed. Why did this friendship no longer bring me joy? Why was I finding myself drifting away from wanting to spend time with them? I realized that as I was growing and developing myself, they weren’t. I was becoming more intentional with who I wanted to spend my time with. I no longer wanted drama, backstabbing, and judgment in my life. I needed to let this friendship go and create a circle of like-minded, positive and supportive friends. It was a very difficult thing to do, but one of the best decisions I made for my own self care.”
—Carrie McEachran, executive director, Mooretown, Ontario, Canada
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.