Friendships, especially for women, are woven into our fabric and are vital to our sense of well-being. The threads of friendship come from sharing experiences, growing together, and divulging our innermost thoughts and deepest secrets. We create a sisterhood. When relationships like these fall apart, knowing when to move on from a friendship can be hard—and it can hurt.
Breaking up with a long-time friend can be just as difficult as ending a marriage. You suffer the loss and grieve in a very similar way. In both cases, it often takes more than one significant experience before you realize your time as friends may need to come to an end.
Relationships, like friendships, are delicate and need nurturing. Besides, they need flexibility and understanding. Most of all, friendships are at their best when they are reciprocal, sharing mutual trust. When some of these critical elements start to erode, you can start to see nubs in the fabric of your friendship, where once it was smooth as silk.
There are often tell-tale signs that the erosion has begun if you are paying attention. At first, you may make excuses for the behavior saying, That’s not like her; she must be having a bad day. Or, I know she didn’t really mean what she said in the way she said it.
As time goes on, you may start to put two-and-two together and begin to notice a trend that makes you feel as if something big has changed in your friendship. At that point, you may want to look back and see if any of these tell-tale signs may also be happening—helping you to know when to move on from a friendship.
A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime Friend
I believe this: people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. It is one of the beliefs that has helped me let go and heal when friendships end.
More often than not, as I look back into the history of my friendship, I notice that she came into my life for this particular reason and that reason is no longer present. Or, the season has ended. There have been a few long-time friends whom I thought were in the life-time category, only to discover their season in my life just lasted longer than most.
I have a few lifetime friends, whom I cherish because I can tick off all the boxes about what I need from a friend and the value they bring to my life.
Is it Time to Break Up with a Friend?
If you have a person in your life you have called friend, yet lately, they have been behaving as if you were their enemy, you might like to see if any of these behaviors match up with your friend’s. Is it the case for you? It might be time to break up.
Do They Contribute to Your Well-being?
How important is your well-being? Are you happy around your friends? Do you feel comfortable? Having a small circle of friends who support you unconditionally will add to your overall sense of well-being. They are members of your personal board of directors.
If being with a friend starts to make you feel uncomfortable, and as if you have to act like someone you’re not, the friendship has taken a turn for the worse.
Do You Feel Worse after You’re With Them?
Friendship is not intended to hurt. Admittedly, there are times when you will need to have a tough conversation with a good friend because hearing the truth and telling it can be hard. When this happens with a true friend, though, it will end in a hug with a thank you for helping me to see the light or a different perspective.
If more times than not, you are feeling worse after being with your friend, it may be time to consider spending less time with them—or letting them go altogether.
Do They Find Fault With Everything You Do?
Have you ever been with a friend who tells you about everything you’re doing wrong and never finds anything good or right to share? Do you get a sense that she is jealous of you? When you are happy or excited about something good that has happened for you, does she not share in your joy—taking you down every time?
A friend is a person with whom you share a deep bond, made up of mutual respect and affection. If that’s not what you are receiving, it may be time to move on from the friendship.
Do They Spread Stories Behind Your Back?
True friends will lovingly say what they have to say to your face, expecting that you will be as truthful in return. When people tell stories when you are not there to defend yourself, especially if the stories are untrue or embellished, they are showing disrespect for you. It’s a sure sign that this person is not a good friend.
Are They Unsupportive of Your Needs?
Friends are concerned about you and what you need. Conversely, they understand that you care about them too. There is mutual support in the relationship.
If you have a friend who only talks about all that’s going on for them and never asks how you’re doing or how they can help you, it’s another sign that things have shifted in the friendship.
You No Longer Share Things in Common?
You may have grown up together or were roommates in college. That means you’ve been together for a lot of years sharing lots in common. As you mature and build lives that are separate from each other, it takes more effort to maintain and sustain the friendship. Sometimes, so much has changed that you lose your common ground. This is natural. Another one of those seasons has ended and it’s time to let go—without judgment or guilt.
Have You Lost Trust in Them?
Trust is a highly-valued element in most relationships—friendship is no different. When trust is eroded, everything changes. Believing what they say becomes difficult. Trusting your inner wisdom to know when to move on from a friendship can be hard, too.
When to Move on From a Friendship—the Final Questions
When all else fails, the answers to these questions should make it quite clear.
- Does your friendship bring value to your life? Make a list of the value you derive from this relationship.
- What about the relationship works for you? What doesn’t work? Make another list.
One of the things I’ve learned over my years as a life coach, and as a friend when it comes time to move on from a friendship, there are lots of emotions tied up in the decision. You might feel guilty about breaking up with a friend. The loss you feel can be deep, longing for how it used to be when it was good. The grief can be prolonged.
Two Simple Ways to Heal after Moving on from a Friendship
Two simple ways (although they may not be easy) will help you to heal.
- Write a letter to your friend, getting everything out onto the page. That might include what happened that brought the friendship to an end, how it made you feel, the part you played, and she played. Include what was best about your friendship and what you will miss. Get it all out. Then shred it or burn it, letting go of it with dignity and grace, for yourself and your friend.
- Talk about it. If you have another good friend or family member, coach or therapist you trust, talk it out with them. Avoid the blame game as you talk—just get it all out. Then let it go. Forgive yourself and forgive your friend.
Like I said, simple but not easy.
Moving on from friendship can be hard—and it can hurt. But, when the relationship turns toxic and it feels harder to be with your friend than without them, it can result in you feeling better about yourself, more supported and valued.
As you choose to let a friend go, there will be a hole in the fabric of your life where your friend used to be. Darning that hole will take a bit of time, mourning the loss and grieving. In the long run, you will heal, become more resilient, and have more energy for the people and things in your life that lift you, rather than drag you down.
Step Onto Your Bridge
When life-changing moments, like mourning loss, flip your world upside down, I create a bridge so you can turn chaos into calm. You build resilience and learn to live a life guided by your values and vision. Are you ready to take the first step onto your bridge? Do you want to explore how change can impact you? Would you like to learn how to move through it with more dignity and grace? I’m here to help. Get my free ebook From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition.
Excellent article with very specific symptoms of a declining friendship defined.
I found it extremely reassuring to read this article (months after a friendship break-up.) The points here are so on-the-mark that even though I am feeling down, I’ve been remind of why the friendship could not continue as-is. Thank you. This great article is very much appreciated.
Sandy … friendship break-ups are so hard. I’m happy this article helped you make some sense of it for you. Thank you for sharing your comment. ~Maria