How You Know When To Let a Friend Go

when to let a friend goIt was the night of my 23rd birthday when the friendship I had come to call my “best” quickly dissipated.  The night had spiraled out of control and I decided by the end of it that despite 10 years of friendship, we both needed to find happiness elsewhere.  Losing such a longtime friend was one of the hardest emotional processes I’ve had to go through, right next to the passing away of a high school sweetheart.  In letting go of a friend, you experience similar emotions as you do to one passing away: guilt, anger, sadness, and longing.  The only difference is when you let go of a friend, you have a choice.  Looking back, the signs are as clear as crystal that I was engulfing myself in an unhealthy relationship.  She provided companionship, attention, and a shoulder to cry on.  I have come to realize that sometimes the cons in the friendship outweigh the pros, and there comes a time when you need to put your well-being first.  Now, I am finally at the point where I can realize what was toxic in the relationship, and from that awareness, I have been able to establish healthier friendships. Hopefully what I have learned can help others to evaluate their friendships, even if that means letting a friend go.

Healthy friendships should ultimately help you grow as an individual and bring you happiness.  Sure, friendships are not always perfect but it’s about asking yourself if your friendship is helping more than hurting.  True friends don’t have to talk every day, they don’t have to shower each other with lavish gifts, they don’t get upset when you are unavailable, and they certainly don’t call you names.  They are honest with you about your faults, and celebrate with you your successes.  I have found through personal experience and research that there some serious signs that a friendship may be unhealthy.

You feel as if you are being judged:

It is completely normal for you and a friend to have different views or lifestyles, and this can be healthy to help one another learn and grow.  In an unhealthy relationship, one may feel their choices are being patronized rather than considered.  There may not be a definite right or wrong answer to the life decisions you are making, yet you feel the judgment from a friend is altering your perspective and changing your better judgment.  Once you’ve experienced a certain amount of judgment, you begin to rethink confiding to your friend about certain things, resulting in a lack of trust and communication.  Friends should embrace one another’s life path rather than patronize it. If a friend is self-destructive, it is still not appropriate to be judgmental or patronizing; rather it is constructive to be direct and honest in expressing your concern for their welfare.

You feel as if it is always your fault:

Do you notice that every time something has gone wrong in your friend’s life, it happens to be someone else’s fault?  Including yours?  This type of friend has become an expert at how to convince you that you are to blame, or maybe you are resorting to submissiveness because you feel you just can’t win.  In my past friendship, I was often called a terrible best friend because I couldn’t drive three hours for a function, or I changed plans at the last minute.  I ended up feeling so much guilt that I would give in to whatever was being asked of me.  To me, the friendship was too important to stand up for myself.  By doing so, I was drowning in the guilt and losing sight of what I truly wanted. Unfortunately, blamers usually perceive themselves as victims and do not see anything wrong with what they are doing. Often times believes that they are helping you to become a better person or friend, when in reality, your self-esteem is in jeopardy.

You feel as if you cannot fully trust them:

Maybe your friend spread a rumor about you, or maybe told a secret that you desperately wanted them to keep; either way, things have happened in the relationship that have destroyed the trust.  When this trust is broken repeatedly, it is a huge red flag that this friend is inconsiderate of your feelings and is possibly just looking for attention at your expense.  It got to the point where I was scared to be in a group setting with my friend for fear that she would bring up something embarrassing from the past, which became pretty normal.  A healthy friendship consists of two people who build each other’s confidence by speaking of their amazing attributes, rather than breaking one another down by public humiliation.

Judgment, blame, and a lack of trust are three of the most prominent characteristics of an unhealthy relationship because of the power that they have on an individual’s esteem.  If you notice that these are common occurrences in your friendship maybe it’s time to step back and reevaluate what you need from a friend.  Is the friendship causing you more stress than pleasure?  Do your other friends and family enjoy being around your friend?  There comes a point in life where you need to put yourself first, and if this friendship hinders you from doing so and makes you feel “selfish” maybe it’s time to slowly ease yourself away from that person.  I am not advocating ending a friendship immediately because you see a couple of negative characteristics; but if the friendship makes you feel worse about yourself rather than better, then chances are it is unhealthy for your development as a person.

 

Though I have not spoken to my friend in almost a year, I still think about her often.  I reminisce on the great times, and I do not feel anger for what took place throughout the years.  I realize that we are all different and that is the beauty of being individuals.  She has amazing qualities, as do I, but our qualities were not in sync which eventually led to an unhealthy relationship.  Just because you let go of a friend does not mean the caring stops, it just means that you have chosen to put yourself first.  When we let go of a friend, it does not mean that we are eradicating the impact that they have had on our life.  They were meant to be there for that time period in our life and meant to teach us.  From every friendship come valuable lessons, and once the pain of losing that friend ends, we can appreciate the beauty it held.  Once you let go and embrace the friendship as part of the past, you better understand the qualities you wish for in a friend for the future.

About the Author

Alexandra McKellar-Kirchoff Alexandra graduated in 2012 from UCSB with her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Applied Psychology.  She has always enjoyed studying psychology, specifically human interaction.  She is currently implementing her leadership experience through her retail management position, while at the same time, interning for Psychalive.  Her passions include writing and singing, and she aspires to get her Master’s in Sociology.  For now, she is staying busy and constantly planning for her future.

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13 Comments

Rebecca

I really needed to read this today (hence why I googled, ‘how to know when to let a friend go.’
This girl has been in my life for such a long time (Ive known her since I was 3, and am now 30) She is the last remaining of my girlfriends from school, and Ive found it really hard to pin down whether I was the person who was doing wrong in the friendship, or whether it was a toxic situation.

I always feel responsible to her, and it has gotten worse over the years as she has developed a medical issue meaning she cant drive. Anytime we are invited somewhere, I feel guilty if I dont offer her a lift (she has told me off in the past for not considering her in this respect) I feel guilty if I dont agree with her, and I also find it hard to discern whether its my point of view thats the issue, or whether her expectations are unrealistic.

The other point is, things between us seem to have gotten worse since I got married about 18 months ago; whilst she is a girl with a lot of friends, she has never had a partner. People do seem to genuinely like her, (in particular, she has managed to stay close to girlfriends from school- which I havent), which makes me self-doubt all the more. Whilst people can see she is difficult, overall she always seems to be invited to things that I am not. But I dont see her treating these people in the same manner she does with me, and I think thats because we have known each other for so long.

Ive talked this over so many times, but still I feel guilt and question whether its not just me that needs to change. But this article has helped me see there’s some fundamental issues in our dynamic that arent working right now. Perhaps some space between us will do us both some good.

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Rocky

I think you stick by someone no matter what. I have had the same with my best friend ditching me via email and text. Tried to say sorry but everything I do she just gets mad and I get mad back. I have depression and so do her other friends but she never GIVES up on them always me . She accuses me of hassling her and I can’t see I am any different from anyone else apart from the fact that I am single and don’t have kids! Could this be the reason?

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Lauren

I Would also like to add something to the list if this friend is a guy and you don’t feel the same way as he does let it go if you like him it won’t be good enough to be just friends after a while you might feel resentment towards him or if he likes you and you don’t like him back that’s another problem

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kendra

I had to let go of my friend. She got a new friend and kinda kick me out. Spending more time with her new friend. I know this women just useing her. My friend has a disability she can’t do to much for her self. But she does for this women what she can’t do for herself. I tryed talking to her but she won’t listen. She does not take care of herself. I miss her what do I do

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Drew

Glad that I read this. I needed it. Been friends with this person for over 25 years. We had a situation with my wife who was at a crossroads and I let her go to see if what she was feeling was real. It was against everything I believed in however my wife and I worked it out. My friend felt a particular way about it and made a judgement call on my wife. We ended up in a huge argument because I brought up her past, I may have been wrong but I was trying to make a point that in all her decisions whether good or bad I never judged her. But in bringing those things to light she felt that I did judge her. I guess by bringing up her past it made her feel a certain way. But I now know I have to take care of me and my wife and that as much as it pains me I have to move forward.

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Monique

Thank you for writing this article. I recently was longing some old friendships of women I haven’t talked to in 10 years. I still think of them too. I was wondering if it was all my fault even though I know it’s never on one person. Some of those friendships I wish I never developed and others I wish I was more honest about before it disintegrated. I wish I wasn’t afraid to speak my mind and stand up for myself, not let myself be misused. I also wish I wasn’t desperate to make those people like me. I love this part in your post: “When we let go of a friend, it does not mean that we are eradicating the impact that they have had on our life. They were meant to be there for that time period in our life and meant to teach us. From every friendship come valuable lessons, and once the pain of losing that friend ends, we can appreciate the beauty it held. Once you let go and embrace the friendship as part of the past, you better understand the qualities you wish for in a friend for the future.” I can rest assured that they think of me too and that comforts me, knowing they still probably care too.

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Annika

I was in a group of girls who were my very first friends in college. It started off as refreshing and fun, but as we entered the second year I found myself being scared of raising my opinions, blaming myself for all of their issues and basically bringing myself down. A single negative message from them had the capacity to ruin my whole day. I eventually let them go, but it still feels like a fresh wound. While I haven’t spoken to them since, I am feeling much lighter now.

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Bessy

Me and my bestfriend have been bestfriends for nearly 5 years now. I love my bestfriend, she’s one of the people I love the most, and i dont think anyone else could ever make me happier than she can. We talk everyday either in social media or in person. People would call us “friendship goals” they’d dream to be like us especially when they see us having so much fun together and the things we sacrifice for each other are quite big. But it doesn’t mean we have a perfect friendship, we would also often get into conflicts. As a Christian I have an accountability. I shouldn’t always tolerate and support her with her choices, when I know it’s not right, I’d always try to correct her, but sometimes her pride and ego is very high and she would think that I’m judging her. Sometimes she would end up turning things around and making it look like its my fault when all im trying to do is just correct her wrong doings.
But I really just intend to make her a better person. I would never have intentions to destroy her. When i read this article, our friendship had some characteristics of a toxic friendship, but i don’t want to let go, if only there were some ways to fix it.
I love my bestfriend so much and I don’t know what i would do without her.

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Lois

My friends and I went to dinner, and two of us was telling the other about her need for speed of driving. In turn later that night as we were going to another store she(the one we were talking to bout speeding) made a commitment stating all of us could use exercise, meaning we’re fat! I felt she did these because of our earlier conversation and she was tit for tat- meaning you talk about me I’ll talk about you. I didn’t like this bad use I now the intention are, if you can talk about me I can do you too. Should I leave our friendship alone. I was left with and uneasy feeling, not because of what she said, but because of the intentions behind it.

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Lulu

I’m thinking about ending a friendship which really isn’t a “friendship”–older man who is friends with The Mom and took me under his wing. BUT he’s very snarky, judgmental, makes snide comments and spreads rumors, all the while calling me sweetie and telling me he cares about me and would do anything for me. Well, that is as long as I always agree with him! He’s gay so there’s NO attraction. Anyone had to deal with snarky, judgey ones? I don’t like talking to him or generally being in his presence.
Am I rushing to judgment? Should I let it go?

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Alex McKellar

I personally say, go with your gut. If he is a close family friend, he can remain that way in the sense that you may see him at gatherings. However, I believe that if a person is making you uncomfortable to the extent that you are feeling down about yourself or your qualities, then you should evaluate whether you need to distance yourself when possible.

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Brave Ayeoung

I just found this. Im feeling quilty, anger, sadness and sometimes i miss her too. All the reasons why i should let my best friend go is all stated. There are times where i rarely trust her. She once pranking me(kinda bad ones since it playing with my feelings) , lie to me but still, since others doesnt really close to her, so i decided to become the closest one to her. She helped me a lot esp when my brother died, a shoulder for me to cry, someone who pick me when no one can pick me from school, she ia very kind… But her ego is above everything. I am the one who always hear bad things around me about her, she is this, she is that..i get sick sometimes. They say, i should not friend with her, but i come to think, she doesnt have anyone if i left. Until we separate during our university life. I rarely contact her. Just… I dont really text anyone…we call sometimes…our friendship was fine until a day, she said im not supporting her, i hate her, because of my silence… We have group whatsapp consists of good friends sincw high school, if we wanna text, we text in that group, so we can know how everyone are doing.. Having a busy life…i dont really look through properly any messages..i missed it sometimes. I reply too but sometimes… She doesnt really understand that. There was time i reallly want a truth because of our misunderstanding…i want to correct her, to express everything honestly if i am ever hurt, about her, what i dislikes, what people tell me, i want to start a great friendship again. But she couldn’t accept it. She shows a sign denying it, she thinks she is better. I really hope she could change. Theres something she need to change, i am hurt too, a lot..in the past, but when i think she as my best friends, i just ignore what i felt. Since that day, we doesnt become close anymore. She keeps updating status, like she is the victim of this scenarios around..meanwhile im the one who hurt and getting bullied by her…she doesnt even say sorry…i say sorry to her so i could end all this misery …but she just keep playing as victim and pretending, lie, to me . I was very hurt so i decide to get far away from her… She has someone new i think..a new bestfriend? I decide to move on. Im not on her priorities anymore. But she got jelous when she see me happy with friends.. My same university friends… I only have them now, even we are not that close and im still considered myself a loneranger… But im grateful…sometimes i could still laugh together with friends… But still im longing for her. I decide to stay far, not to text anymore, but i never block her or mute her ..i keep watching her activities she updated, on ig story.. Just a silent reader and watcher , but im always pray for her.i hope she will do her best in future.
Im sorry im not good in expressing something.but im way too hurt.
Sorru if u cannot understand, sorry if its complicated…i just want to express it. Its my first time typing long text like this ? and i hope i can find my happiness as well.

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Alex McKellar

Thank you for sharing! I believe that if anyone brings toxicity toward your life, we have to learn to let them go. Sometimes we have to because it may be what they want as well. This is not an easy thing to do by any means. Sometimes it can be more difficult than a breakup with a significant other. It is especially hard when they helped you through some of your most difficult times. However, it takes two people to maintain a friendship, and if the other person is playing the victim and not willing to admit their wrongdoings in a friendship-it may be time to distance yourself and start the healing process.

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