As we enter the second holiday season in the midst of a global pandemic, I realize how many folks I thought were actual companions were in fact much more casual friends. Pre-pandemic, I had thought we were engaging in what pastor and author Deborah Loyd describes as “boundary collapse,” whereby you and a friend trust each other enough that you can be fully present and share intimate details of your lives. But once the stay-at-home orders hit, most of my social circles podded up or self-isolated.
Initially, the collapse of my personal and professional worlds made it tricky for me to differentiate between the loss of my social life overall versus those particular instances where my relationships with certain individuals shifted.
[Read: “5 Ways to Declutter Your Social Life.”]
In hindsight, I can see some signs that perhaps we had more of a transactional relationship than a genuinely close friendship, but I also found myself searching for resources to help me decipher when it’s time for a friendship to end. During a recent conversation with Loyd, we explored why some of our friendships have faltered. Here’s what we came up with:
Signs That It’s Time to Break Up With a Friend
1. The Relationship Is One-Sided
Do you do all the work in arranging get-togethers? Does your friend do all the talking? Believe it or not, there are some friendships that are completely lop-sided when it comes to sharing. If you feel you aren’t able to express yourself enough and aren’t getting the kind of feedback you’re giving, it’s probably not a healthy friendship for you.
2. They Don’t Respect Your Needs
You might enjoy the amusement and drama a certain friend brings to your life, though you find yourself leaving your encounters exhausted and at times regretting your actions. Loyd stresses the importance of honoring each other’s dignity. She suggests asking yourself if a friend respects your requests. For example, do they encourage you to binge on food or alcohol even though they know you are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle?
[Read: “How to Be Empathetically Present for Another Person.”]
3. You Don’t Feel Better Being Around Them
While we can’t expect a friend to always make us feel happy, check in with your body after you meet with a friend. If you tend to feel stressed out, irritable, angry, or some other negative emotion, then it’s high time to re-evaluate this friendship.
4. Your Past is No Longer Present
While you once bonded over shared mutual interests, one or both of you has shifted to the point where this relationship glue no longer holds. You remember your past together fondly but have little else to talk about.
5. Mean Girl Moves
Even though you’re both well beyond high school, being part of a certain group seems to matter more than being your friend. Despite calling you their “soul sister,” or “gal pal,” you notice you’re seldom if ever invited to their private soirées. Along those lines, they put you down in front of others and may be engaging in gossip about you.
6. Putting Politics Over People
The 2016 election saw a rise in people becoming increasingly strident about their opinions on a range of hot-button social issues. If whatever bonded you and a friend initially seems to have been replaced by the messaging from their latest cause du jour, you may want to reconsider. Try as you might to remain in touch, sometimes the “unfollow” or even the “unfriend” button is necessary to achieve peace of mind.
7. You No Longer Trust Their Judgment
You find yourself judging a friend more and more over their lifestyle choices, such as their romantic partners, their child-rearing practices, religious beliefs, or political causes. Whenever you reflect on your friendship, you find yourself feeling unhappy and sad.
Are You Breaking Up for Good?
When an emotion gets stuck in your body, it can fester and grow, which is why it’s often healthier to rid your body of that which does not serve you. This includes saying goodbye to friendships that no longer enhance your life.
However, don’t rule out unexpected reconnections
with folks you’ve lost touch with, including friendships that ended on less than favorable terms. For now, it can be enough to go silent or walk away. This can even allow space for previously tangential friendships to blossom.
Want to be close to someone? Ask these 36 questions.