Life is about change. We all change, and change brings with it beginnings and endings. To that end, we all experience that moment where we have to decide whether or not to stay friends with someone. It’s a gut-wrenching, heart-shattering moment when we finally have to accept the fact that someone we used to be “ride or die” with is no longer the same person we once knew. New associations, co-workers, even romantic involvements change us, and it changes our outlooks and opinions. Some friendships can survive, while others just don’t have the strength to do so. Not everyone sees eye to eye on what friendship is over the long haul, not everyone can balance conflicting emotions over friends, and not everyone wants to keep the same circle of friends.
While all friends fight, some fights are a clear indicator of fissures, fractures within the relationship which will only grow with time, and drive those individuals so far apart there is no way for the relationship to recover. Some friends stop talking for a time for whatever reason, but they do come back together and make up. Unfortunately, there are those who do not want to be around when times are really tough; some have good reasons for that (personal trauma resurfacing), while others simply don’t care because, to them, you are either not interesting or don’t fit their expectation of a friend. Don’t fall for the notion of “low maintenance friends,” either; even the least-involved friends find time to check on someone going through a dark night or bad run. Here are some warning signs that it may be time to push the eject button on a friendship, no matter how long it’s lasted.
- They make excuses for not talking to you. Do not confuse this with “ghosting,” which is a passive-aggressive cardinal sin which should result in an immediate ending of the friendship. Being busy with kids or a new marriage, or more responsibilities on the job is one thing. . This is in reference to people who decide to not give you any reason for why they are not talking to you beyond the classic “I’m busy” cover. In this age of digital interconnection and smartphones, that excuse should be less plausible than ever. When that happens, ask yourself if you are really that important to them. Chances are, you aren’t.
- They only make time for you when they can get something out of it. A friend who wants to talk to you only for advice, or to get your feedback on a decision, or wants to brag about their latest bedroom conquest is not the sort of friend you really need. Now, if in between those moments they ask how you are doing, offer a great new place to get a bite to eat, share a joke or two, or offer to help you with a problem in your life, that’s a true friend. Sometimes, they will give you a little nibble of that to get what they want. The ratio is often two-to-one in their favor, or worse. The moment you start having difficulties in life and lean on them, however, they run like hell. This goes for family too.
- They belittle your beliefs or you as a person. This is different from “knocking some sense into you.” Angry responses to your own passive-aggressive or attention getting behavior is one thing – that’s healthy and what a real friend does. It’s the ones who resort to name calling out of “love,” who completely and aggressively invalidate something you believe in – whether it is political or spiritual – and who, worse still, justify their behavior as “telling it like it is” who do not deserve your time. A true friend will smack you upside the head, tell you to “get a grip,” even block you for a while on social media to make a point, but will do so with an prefacing explanation (if you don’t pay attention to the explanation, that’s your own fault). What they won’t do is call you names or act “tough” with you to make their point. That’s bullying and it’s never acceptable. Talk to a friend who sees your real value, even if you are acting like a fool or lovesick idiot.
- They don’t respect your reasoning to stay away. If you are in a situation where you like a friend as more than a friend and need some time for distance because you don’t want to create an issue because you feel it brewing, that’s healthy. If you attempt to communicate it that way, a friend will respect it – they may not like it and take you to task for it, but they will respect it and disagree respectfully. If they try to shift blame and say it’s all your fault and they are blameless, it’s time to take a long look at the relationship and ask if it’s really just you who is the problem – remember, all relationships, friendships especially, are two way streets. Friends who expect things to operate in “one way” fashion have issues you can’t possibly help them with. Let them go and find their way.
- It’s no longer a happy friendship. This is critical. Friendships are there to build each other up and make each other feel better. A friend whose attitude brings you down, or who has an attitude towards you in which you feel drained and depressed afterwards is not a friend you need. That is a person who “collects” friends and hangs onto them like old toys in a cabinet. Eventually you have to decide if that friend is worth keeping, that the relationship is salvageable, or if you need to walk away for your own sake. Good rule of thumb; if you have tried to express your feelings and concerns and you worry they will blow up at you or end the friendship as a result, it’s probably a friendship which has outlived its shelf life, and it’s time to move on.
Yes, loss is painful, and it’s a part of life. We can’t stay the same because life is not static. What we can do is keep the good times, release the bad (you never really forget it, the human brain and heart are kinda funny that way), and focus on the horizon. Not everyone will feel the same way about friendship as you will, and many people will not agree with these points because, frankly, everyone has different expectations of what friendship is all about. Those who do understand you, stand by you, and are the “ride or die” types will completely understand how you tick. They will even forgive and forget the occasional transgression, but they will always be there when things get hot or dark, and will give you a swift kick to the head when you need it, but do it in a way where you aren’t left asking yourself “why did they do that and just walk away?” Bear in mind, the company we keep often determines who we keep as friends. You can say “nobody controls me” all you want – in the end, who we associate with does influence who keep as friends some folks just don’t like the idea of losing a bunch of friends to stay loyal to the one.
That’s the difference between a healthy friendship and one which has been on life support a little too long. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is pull the plug, mourn, and wake to a new day with friends who are there every day.