3 Signs It’s Time to End a Friendship.

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Breaking up is (nearly always) hard to do, but breaking off friendships is far more difficult than ending romantic relationships.

The reason is that at some point, most of us are aware that romantic relationships (even marriages) may end, but many of us see friendships as being for life. As one good friend put it, after awhile you become almost like family.

However, just like there are good reasons to sometimes break off contact with family members, there are good reasons to end a friendship.

After having had two friendships end in the past year, I wish I had paid more attention to my gut and saw the signs that were there, but I chose not to see.

1. Your friend only contacts you when they need something.

We all have friends we may not be in constant contact with but turn to immediately in times of crisis. However, I am not talking about those situations or those people.

I’m talking about friends who only contact you if they need help moving, need to borrow money, or want to complain about their significant other but never reciprocate when you need them.

True friends are there for each other. Sometimes when they need you, it’s impossible to drop everything right then and there, but a friend will make a point to be there for you when you need them.

If it feels like your relationship is all give and take with you being the one who is giving and them taking, then it may be time to re-evaluate the friendship.

2.  They discuss things you shared with them without your permission.

We’re all guilty of this.

However, it’s one thing to share that your friend has gotten a new dog or moved to a new place and another thing entirely to share personal information you know they wouldn’t share with just anyone.

In this day and age of social media and blogging, some people seem to deliberately mine others for information to use for material or anecdotes.

Even before the age of the internet, some writers did this including author/social gadfly Truman Capote who famously betrayed the trust of his socialite friends including Babe Paley and Gloria Vanderbilt for his planned roman a clef Answered Prayers. (Indeed, he revealed such intimate details of the former’s philandering husband, CBS founder William Paley, that he left no doubt who the “inspiration” behind his characters were.)

While most (thankfully) will never have to worry about being the inspiration for a writer of Capote’s status, nearly everyone today has a blog, and I do know people who have had things written about them without their knowledge or consent.

In one case, an ex who was still “friends” with her ex-boyfriend wrote many unsavory things about him and even suggested he suffered from various mental illnesses. While she did not name him, she included so many personal and work-related details that anyone with Google could have found out who he was.

Frankly, I would not call a person who does that a friend.

Also, bear in mind that some people just want the personal stuff so they can feel better about their own situations or use it against you at a later time. Again. that’s not a friend.

If you suspect you are being mined for personal information for whatever reason, ask yourself if this is a case where you are constantly being asked to reveal personal things about yourself but your friend reveals little or nothing about themselves. If so, it’s possible you are being used and you don’t even know it.

3. Your friend cannot take criticism.

Being a friend and loving unconditionally does not mean that you cannot criticize someone, especially if you feel they are going to do something they’ll regret and/or hurt themselves or others.

Granted, constantly criticizing someone or judging their every decision is bad, but sometimes tough love is in order.

I’ve had friends dole out tough love to me and while I did not want to hear it at the time, I later thanked them for it. As I mentioned in a recent piece, any relationship, including friendships, are going to have periods when the two of you disagree and even times when you do not speak.

It’s to be expected.

If someone wants unconditional love and never any criticism, then I strongly advise them to get a friend of the four-legged variety and not a human one.

As someone who hates losing friends, I know first hand how hard it can be to end a friendship. However, just like I hope none of you would stay in a romantic relationship that isn’t working, I hope that none would stay in a friendship that simply is not working or is making you feel drained and unappreciated rather than adding to your life.

Ending a friendship—even a long term one—need not be dramatic or nasty. Simply saying that you no longer feel like there is a place in your life for it or saying goodbye and that it’s time to move on, while thanking them for the memories, may be more than enough.

Cutting negative friendships out of your life can help you focus more on the ones that are working. Treasure them like the precious gifts they are.



10 Types of Odd Friendships You’re Probably Part Of.

6 Ways to Spot the Energy Suckers in Your Life.



Like elephant love & relationships on Facebook.

Ed.: Catherine Monkman

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Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.


24 Responses to “3 Signs It’s Time to End a Friendship.”

  1. Barbara 不真 says:

    It's heartbreaking to end a friendship. But it can be necessary. I recently had such an experience with a friendship of over 15 years. He never moved on since when I first got to know him. The stories, complaints, his focus on life is exactly what it was 15 years ago. I did move on.

    Although the friendship once was deep, he would be among the first I would call if I ran in to trouble of any kind, I now perceived it as a burden. I stopped contacting him long time ago. He would call me occasionally. I would try to be as not interested as politely possible. The message never got through.

    So some minutes into our last phone call, I stopped his story and explained what bothered me. Wished for him to move on, to see himself, to take responsibility for his own life and his own actions (or rather the lack of actions in his case). He didn't take it well. He doesn't like to be criticized, which is exactly the core of his problems with and in life.
    I concluded I would appreciate it if he did not call me again. I wished him well and disconnected.

    I lost some sleep over that. I wasn't sure I did the right thing. When writing my Christmas cards last week, I came across his name and address. I skipped it and for the first time after the breakup, felt relieved. This was the right thing to do.

    I truly hope my friend of old times does well for himself. And I am glad I am not a part of his life any longer.

  2. David Moses says:

    4. Your friend just completely ignores you for almost no reason after over and over again trying to reach him/her 🙁

  3. A friend that ignores you when you try to reach out to them is not a friend. I think David Moses, you should wipe out #4, because that friendship is already over.

    Like the first comment, I had a friend once who used to call me and go through the same stuff over and over again. Each time, I would gently remind her that she was going over the same stuff and that I was just going to say the same thing to her. Our friendship got better and eventually she did move forward and I still consider her to be a very good friend.

    I find that criticism from people who love me and truly care about me is very easy to take. I add

    Your "friend" is constantly putting me down

  4. Sudeshna Sengupta says:

    … and if it is an old friend from years ago with whom you might even have shared a romantic connection at some point … worst combo when it comes to ending such a connection, even when you know it's toxic, it's killing you, and you have to let it come to an end.

  5. Liz says:

    I realize this article is about friendships and this totally deviates from the point,, but I couldn't get over the introduction to your article. I find your statement about romantic relationships to be the fundamental flaw in the mindset of people entering into a marriage: "The reason is that at some point, most of us are aware that romantic relationships (even marriages) may end, but many of us see friendships as being for life." You should also be entering into a marriage with the notion that it is a relationship that should last FOR LIFE. I realize that's not always the case (as with friendships), but that is the general concept ("'til death do us part," and so on).

    Regarding friendships, the truest and deepest friendships will last a lifetime, and they're rare. You might not stay in touch as often as you should, but when you do reconnect, it's like no time has passed. More often, certain friends simply fit into a certain phase of your life, and when that phase is over, they're naturally phased out, too. Perhaps a harsh way to put it, but true.

    • @makfan says:

      I am kind of figuring out your last point. I have some really great, long-term friendships and it is as you describe. We may not see or talk to each other very much for stretches of time, but then we get together and the conversation flows easily.

      However, other friendships probably arose out of convenience, or perhaps an unmet emotional need at the time. Often, these seem to end when the friendship drifts. One person might move on before the other, which results in those texts or calls not being returned, but eventually both people decide to move on (maybe even subconsciously).

  6. Sam says:

    I've had a couple friends who contacted me only when they needed something. I think I was too quick to say yes with the honest intention of helping. But I think at some point I tipped it to enabling. And I became nervous about calling either just to talk or get together.

    So I made the effort to be more honest and suffer the consequences. One friend quit calling me just to ask for things, andgradually started calling me just to get together. Not every time, but things came into balance and I am able to say yes when helping is possible and call her just for fun. The other friend quit calling. I called her, but the friendship eventually fizzled.

  7. Kate says:

    I ended a friendship in May with someone I had know for 14-15 years (since middle school). It took me a long time to realize how toxic of a person she was and just how narcissistic she was (and that is not a term I throw around lightly, I believe she had genuine NPD in hindsight). She had been dealt many traumas in her life and I wanted to be supportive and during our friendship I had my own issues and dealt with my own problems but I chose to overcome them. Our friendship was rocky for several years but in the last few years (thanks in part to social media) we patched things up despite the fact we lived on opposite ends of the country.

    To make a long story short as short as possible, I found that I grew weary of listening to her sabotage and make destructive decisions and blame her bad decisions on others or the past. I found that having contact was draining me and not energizing me and that her negative attitude was influencing my own thinking. Plus in the end, I discovered she had lied to me about many things including her career. The drama never ended with her and she made up drama when there was none in her life. Her behavior was toxic.

    Along with realizing I would never trust her again, I realized that I deserve friends in my life who are positive and uplifting. I realized that it’s okay to walk away and not have friends who trample over my boundaries and that a good friend respects those boundaries. Even now, I still have some guilt and I fear for those around her. There are moments when I am still angry at her for being dishonest and angry at myself for wasting my time and energy on her but as time goes on they are fewer and farther between. When these moments happen I remind myself to be grateful for all of the wonderful people that I have in my life and the healthy friendships I have cultivated over the years. I learned from this to be more mindful of how I feel when I am around someone and to be careful of reforming friendships via social media.

  8. karen katz says:

    I ended two friendships this year-one person was deeply narcissistic-and always in crisis. The other person was fundamentally a very wonderful person, but also always in crisis. I have had to deal with some very significant issues the last few years, and had to start conserving my time and energy for dealing with my own considerable issues. In the past I would have felt more guilty about this-but I recognize that I have to take care of myself, and my emotional and physical energy is not limitless.

  9. tomatotomahhhto says:

    Why do we need to criticize? Why is that acceptable human behavior? Maybe we should all try to be like those of the four-legged variety when it comes to unconditional love rather than just accept ourselves as critical creatures.

  10. inkkedlunae says:

    I disagree with criticism. Yes, regarding to those specific situations to where you think the friend isn't making the right choice or something, but… You still have to be constructive about it and still realize that sometimes you just have to shut up and know it's not your place to "know better." A healthy friendship can give opinions, not criticism, but only when you judge it's necessary.

    Also, giving yourself away to criticism is an easy path to fall into. In one situation of mine, a former friend of mine decided to criticize me based on my own personality attributes and like similar stuff (which was unnecessary).

  11. @chambah says:

    The most important signs that you have to end a friendship relationship :
    1. When your "friend" betrays you : he allies with your enemies and/or try to do you harm without your knowing
    2. When your "friend" talks shit about you behind your back
    3. When your "friend" is jealous of you and/or competes with you
    4. When your "friend" criticizes you or blames you all the time
    5. When your "friend" gets in touch only because he is in need
    6. When your "friend" complains that you're not an enough good friend

  12. Ma66 says:

    While I find most of this spot-on, you fail to mention a VERY important fact in your "telling secrets" section: I don't care HOW close to a friend I am, if they tell me something that they're doing that is harmful or dangerous to themselves, I am going to tell someone about it. If you have a friend who cuts themselves, does drugs, or runs off with strangers from the internet and won't even tell their family where they're going (while living with said family,) and you get the phone call asking where they're at, would you actually *lie* for that person, so that should they wind up raped or dead, you're now responsible because you held your tongue? No, I'll take the friend ending the friendship, over not speaking up and having the guilt should things go poorly. I've been blamed for this very thing before, and you know what? I'd do it again, even when it ended a 24 year friendship, because I truly care about that person.

  13. feistycuban says:

    The older I get the more I realize it's better to cultivate old friendships than it is to try to make new ones. Unfortunately, the older we get the more we can accept learning from prior mistakes and embrace HOW WE LEARN from our mistakes (hopefully). I can't expect a stranger to know my idiosyncrasies like my true friends do. It takes too much time and energy (which I do not have) to make new friends. In terms of criticism, I don't need to take advice from a person who constantly criticizes me when he/she doesn't have their own life figured out. That's just too ironic for me. When it comes to unconditional love, that is something I reserve for my father, siblings and my child. Unconditional denotes that no matter what the other person does, we will still love them. Um…if a friend continues to show me a side I don't like I will give them a second chance but after that, there's no need for us to have a friendship. I think it's important to listen to our inner voice or intuition to determine when then time is right to end a friendship.

  14. Carly says:

    this post made me realize a lot of things that have been going on with some friends but I think i just can't end my relationship with them they mean so much to me and I can't afford to lose them, I'll let them read these article too and maybe we can work some things out.

  15. Liawana says:

    A lot of talk about taking or getting what we need want
    I'd rather focus on what I can give to a friendship whilst holding healthy boundaries .
    Tend to find the law of attraction works best this way
    Live in loving kindness and compassion and be your own best friend


  16. sharon says:

    Like this article! I wanted to say that paying attention to these areas and how you feel about them in the relationship might be a way to become better friends in addition to being a diagnostic criteria about ending the relationship . I tried to "break up " with one of my friends rather than tell her how I was feeling in a kind way about about three years ago. She would not accept that, and our friendship is now even deeper and more real having delved into the issues rather than my more easy default route of disposing of the whole thing and starting over with someone new. (I am not proud of that method, did not realize it even was my method…growth has occurred. ) It is a Work in Progress however.

  17. bonnie crowe-hillman says:

    Crossing the line too many times can end a friendship .
    There is a Line Of Respect that we should not cross with people .
    If you take liberties too many times with people in this respect , it will be over for sure .
    For example : making comments about their personal life when they have offered no information to you from the onset .

  18. Steph says:

    I cannot be friends with someone because who is judgmental and thinks that the way she does things is always right. Why would I want to be friends with someone who is belittling me all the time implying that my thoughts and feelings are inadequate? Even when my father passed away she told me to keep be happy because he was in a better place. I mean, there is boundary between overly positive and being insensitive.

  19. CoolDepot says:

    but WHY do we have friends?

    I think a friendship is a job that benefits both parts at a psychological level.
    A friend will work with you on your mental image of yourself, your self steem, your dreams, your projects… at a psychological level.
    Your friend may also help you with money or your actual work, but only because that will help you at a psychological level.
    A friend will make you feel safe, sane, confident and with a purpose because he/she will ¨remind¨ you your best moments, your past desicions, your past passions, and so on, in ways only your friend knows how to by means of empathy.

    It is increasingly difficult to stop a friendship the older or more intense it is, because we are losing all those ¨reminders¨and potential boost with it and we may even be dependant on them at some level.
    A friendship should end (or stop for x amount of time) when it becomes a psychological drain rather than a psychological boost.
    This happens when the empathy connection between the friends lives weakens due to a change in compatibility, which is natural because we constantly change while we pass through the stages of our lives, so we will eventually de-sync.

    If a friendship is developed well enough it will understand this and be able to stop it for x amount of time until the friendship becomes compatible again, or to mold the friendship along the changes to keep it stable.
    If not i will rupture by necessity.

    So the key SIGN to monitor is Empathy.
    Is your friend been as empathic as you need he/she to be?
    Are you been as empathic as your mate needs you to be?
    Can you or can he/she fullfill the empathy needs?
    Yes or no?

  20. Yonks says:

    I agree with Tomatotomahhhto – what gives us the right to criticise others? Essentially criticism boils down to judging people and Surely unconditional love is about the opposite of this. I’m a fan of openness & honesty, yes, but judgement and criticism, no. I would reverse your number 3 and actually say goodbye to critical / judgmental people. If people are honest and open in their feedback and ask really good questions to help their friend grow then criticism need not be necessary and says more about the criticiser rather than the criticised.

  21. Tom says:

    Someone who reacts with defensiveness, denial, and/or complete lack of concern when you tell them flat out something they have said or done is hurtful to you. Game over.

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