Have you ever gotten a text message from a friend and felt your gut flip with a familiar feeling of dread falling over you? This knee jerk reaction to hearing from somebody who should be considered a friend is not what most people would call a reaction to a healthy friendship. But other than this “gut feeling,” how can we identify toxic friendships or friendships that have simply run their course?
You don’t enjoy their company anymore.
Just like romantic relationships, sometimes people just “fall out” of friendships. This is a normal part of growing, and while it can feel uncomfortable, it’s often mutual. Priorities change, and the friendships you struck up bar hopping in your early 20s may not hold as fast when you’re raising babies in your 30s. Likewise, childhood friends often go in wildly different directions, which is completely normal. While we can still grieve these lost friendships, we can also celebrate them for what they stood for at the time.
Boundary crossing without an apology.
There are certain boundaries that should not get crossed, and when a friend crosses one, it’s hard to come back from that action. It’s especially difficult to salvage a friendship when a friend crosses a boundary and then doesn’t apologize for it. These boundaries are different for everybody, but our friends should know what they are and know where to draw the line.
They don’t celebrate you.
You can’t expect all of your friends to celebrate you all the time, but if you get a big promotion at work, or get engaged, or announce you are moving to Australia to finally achieve your dream of being a surfing instructor – a true friend will offer sincere congratulations and celebrate these successes with you.
You aren’t a priority.
Yes, we know, we are all busy. This doesn’t mean you can’t make time for your friends on occasion – even if just for a 10 minute catch up phone call or a girl’s night every four months or so. If you are prioritizing your friends and they aren’t prioritizing you, this is a problem.
They drain the life force out of you.
This may be slightly dramatic, but if you feel drained every time you hang out with a friend it is a sign that this is a toxic friendship. It shouldn’t take all of your energy to spend time with a person, and that is a sign that it’s time for them to go.
Now that you’ve identified a friendship that has run its course, how do you hit that final nail in the coffin? It depends wildly on the friendship, and on you as a person. If you are somebody who is very practical, a straight-shooter, you will most likely want to go with the true honesty approach. And if we’re being completely honest, you probably don’t need this article as you have already pruned your friendships as necessary. This is more for the people who worry about how to express their feelings to other people when those feelings may initially hurt somebody’s feelings. While we would all love to be able to say what we mean without any negative consequences, unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. In general, telling the truth is always the best policy, but sometimes a white lie can be justified in the pursuit of ending a friendship without hurting feelings. Or, if you have extreme avoidance of conflict, you can go the avoidance route, which is to simply reduce the amount of interactions until the friendship peters out on its own. The most important part is to acknowledge when friendships are doing more damage than good, and backing out whichever way you are most comfortable with.