Friendships, just like all relationships in life, can have major ups and downs. And while not necessarily a bad thing (we're all only human after all), it's important to be able to recognize (and end) a toxic friendship when needed. Otherwise we can repeat the same unhealthy cycles for years.
In a piece for Prevention, Irene S. Levine, a psychologist and friendship expert who runs The Friendship Blog, said, "It's almost like a marriage sometimes. You get so used to being with someone that you just accept them with their frailties or limitations." Levine went on to note, "You should clean out your friendships like you clean out your closet—you can't just keep collecting things without going through it."
As callous as it sounds, I've personally found that there's a lot of truth to Levine's comments. Sometimes we outgrow certain friendships, or sometimes we just realize that the other person isn't even that good a friend in the first place. I've spent a lot of time in life justifying bad friendships by saying, "We've just been friends for so long," as if that somehow meant we always had to be friends. It often lead to me getting walked on, or devoting time to people who never seemed to devote it back. If you're starting to feel like you may be in a bad, or even toxic friendship, here are nine ways to know for sure that it's time for a friend breakup.
1. You're Unhappy After You Hang Out
This first one is a personal tip, but I think it's basically one of the most important questions to ask yourself when assessing a friendship. How does the friend make you feel? If it's usually a negative emotion, like anger, annoyance, or even just boredom, it could be time to reevaluate your reason for investing time into the dynamic.
2. You're Constantly Apologizing For Them
In that same Prevention piece, Levine noticed that if someone is so habitually rude or bad mannered that you're often embarrassed to be seen with them — or worse, you feel like you need to constantly apologize on their behalf — it could be time to end it. I once decided I no longer wanted to be friends with a person after I saw them be rude to a waiter one too many times. And I've never regretted it!
3. They Drain You Of Energy
This is another personal tip. I once had a friend who always came to me whenever she had a problem or needed a pep talk — and for nothing else. Whenever she texted out of the blue and asked if I wanted to grab coffee because it had been "too long!" I grew to understand it was really because she just wanted a human sounding board. I would leave our encounters feeling emotionally exhausted, and yet never felt like she was willing to return the favor. Once I realized I never felt good after our encounters, I didn't feel too bad about slowly phasing her out of my life.
4. It's One-Sided
This tip from teacher Jinhee Junis on Tiny Buddha goes hand-in-hand with that last point. "To me, a friendship is like a seesaw. It takes two people, and each needs to give and take a little to balance out the ride." It's a definite friendship red flag if you feel as though you're always giving and the other person is always taking.
5. They Make You Feel Used
A compilation piece on AllWomensTalk.com reminded us to watch out for a friend who seems to always be using you for something. Do they only surface when they need something, like money, concert tickets through that work hookup they know you have, or a place to crash? If the answer is yes, it may be time to seriously reflect on what you're getting out of the relationship.
6. They've Changed
That same AllWomensTalk.com compilation piece also noted that it's entirely valid to end a friendship if you feel like the other person has changed and is no longer the person with whom you initially became friends. Sometimes people change and grow apart, and it's entirely OK.
7. They're Possessive
I've had to learn this one the hard way. If a friend — no matter how close they are — seems to be jealous and possessive when you spend time with other people, it could be time to hit the brakes. And I know this is easier said then done when it comes to your closest friends; in fact I've even been the jealous party at one time or another. However, I've found that in the long run, it's always worse to allow a possessive dynamic to continue. The reality is other meaningful people will inevitably enter your lives outside of your duo, and if the friendship can't evolve, it likely can't last anyway.
8. You Feel Like You Have To Hide Your Accomplishments
In a piece for MindBodyGreen, inspirational speaker Rebecca Butler noted to be careful of people who make you feel like you need to hide your accomplishments. If a friend is threatened by your success — as opposed to supportive and happy — they might not be the friend you think they are. "True friends will celebrate with you, hold your tissues while you cry, and listen to your needs. They won't do this out of obligation or pity. They will do this gladly because they love you as you love them," Butler said.
9. You Don't Trust Them
In a piece for CBS News on recognizing toxic friendships, Karen Valencic, founder of Spiral Impact and an expert in conflict-resolution, stressed the importance of feeling like you can trust the other person. If you don't feel like you can confide in a friend, or trust that they won't turn around and blab your personal secrets to other people, it may be time to reevaluate the friendship; or at the very least have a serious conversation.
While friendships always have their ups and downs, on the whole they should make us feel happier and enriched. If you're starting to feel like a friend is routinely bringing you down or making you feel bad, it might be high time to let them go.