Five healthy (and five unhealthy) reasons to end a friendship
- Falling out with friends is never easy – and it can sometimes leave you with an unpleasant decision to make
- If a friend has seriously broken your trust, or shows a controlling or manipulative side, it may be wise to walk away
- Here, we’re listing five healthy reasons for ending a friendship – followed by five scenarios where it’s worth sticking by your friend and working through your differences
1. They give away your secrets
One of the most important aspects of friendship is the ability to speak in confidence, without worrying your friend will give away your secrets. If your loose-lipped friend is constantly telling other people about your private life, it may be wise to ‘edit’ your friendship, according to Professor Suzanne Degges-White.
“If you find out that a friend is broadcasting your secrets, take control of where the friendship goes: Edit what you share,” she recommends. “Edit the time you spend together. And edit your expectations. Let your friend know that what he or she is doing is not OK. And be clear about how you want the friendship to play out.”
And if your friend still finds ways to betray your trust, it may be best to cut ties. “When relationships are tested, they can grow stronger, or they can wither and die,” Degges-White says. “Weigh the cost of losing a relationship against the benefits of maintaining it. Decide what the best path for you might be – and take the high road. “
2. They’re constantly negative about you
Friends should help to build your self-confidence, not deflate it. Friends who have nothing but criticisms for you may be causing more harm than good in your life.
As the youth organisation Ditch the Label puts it, “Think twice about friendships where you feel criticised, ignored, gossiped about, judged, manipulated, made fun of or left out.”
3. It’s completely one-sided
Friendships take work on both sides – and if a friend doesn’t return your efforts, or doesn’t seem to care as much about you, it can be hurtful.
You can save a friendship by addressing these problems as they arise, by having an honest conversation about your feelings or by changing up your communication style. But when you’ve exhausted all options, a persistently one-sided friendship may not be worth your time.
“Instead of promoting a sense of connection, one-sided friendships can create distress,” Healthline warns. “One person can’t carry a friendship alone… Even trying to sustain the relationship can leave you exhausted, sceptical of their commitment, and even a little resentful.”
4. They push you around
Controlling friendships can be deeply harmful. If a friend is forcing you into unwanted situations or pressuring you into being someone you’re not, you don’t have to put up with it. Cutting ties may be the only way to distance yourself from a controlling or toxic friendship.
5. They let you down
It’s important to distinguish between big betrayals and small ones – but when a friend has broken your trust in a major way, it can be healthier to distance yourself from them.
According to therapist Melody Li, a minor betrayal may be fixed if the friend shows remorse – and if you proceed with some caution. “However, major betrayals – like seducing the friend’s significant other, cheating, or stealing money – are red flags,” she’s noted. “That relationship may not be worthwhile to reexplore at all.”
So when should you stick with a friendship and try to make it work despite a fight? Here are the situations where you shouldn’t necessarily end a friendship – and where a few simple changes might make your connection stronger than ever.
1. Poor communication
If a friendship is slipping, sometimes it just needs better communication. Whether you’re feeling left out, annoyed, or not enjoying the same old activities with your friend, talking about it openly and kindly can reap rewards.
“You are an active partner in your friendships,” the Mental Health Foundation points out. “If a friendship is not beneficial to both of you, you have the power to negotiate changes to the activities you have always done together.”
2. Your friendship is changing
When a friend leaves town, moves jobs or finds a new social circle, it may take some work to maintain the same level of contact with them. Your friend might play a different role in your life for the future – but it doesn’t mean the friendship is over. It’s never been easier to maintain long-distance friendships, so long as you’re sympathetic to their lifestyle changes and show the friend you’re here for them.
3. Petty fights
Think about whether a disagreement or fight is really worth the loss of a friend. While a serious breach of trust might cause irreparable damage to your relationship, petty fights rarely do.
“We probably should be especially cautious about going so far as to write someone off for life,” Professor Glenn Geher has pointed out. “All kinds of adverse, and often unintended, consequences follow from cut-offs, such as depression, a feeling of low social support, and anxiety.”
“When possible, genuine forgiveness is a truly empowering experience that is really something of a best possible solution for both parties,” Geher notes.
4. They’re going through a rough patch
A friend’s silence or withdrawal may be nothing to do with you. If your friend’s behaviour changes dramatically because they’re going through a rough time, you shouldn’t just give up on them, according to Mahzad Hojjat, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
“If you’re really interested and committed to that friendship, exhaust all reasons why that person is not calling you back or reaching out before you call it quits on the friendship,” she advises. “Stay resilient.”
After a major fight, you may be uncertain about whether you want to recover a friendship or not. Ending a friendship in the heat of the moment could cost you emotionally. In contrast, when you’ve cooled off, you may feel the friendship is worth saving after all.
“Cutting a friend out of your life because they have hurt you is a big decision to make when you’re feeling very emotional,” notes ReachOut, an Australian mental health service.
“Perhaps, when you’re feeling calmer, you’ll be able to work things out with your friend; only you can decide whether you want to save the friendship,” the site suggests. “A lot of people find, though, that with a little time and patience, friendships can grow stronger after moving through hard times together.”