Five signs it’s time to let a friendship go
Lots of friends want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down – Oprah Winfrey.
I’m sure it was the people-pleaser in me, but for most of my life, I believed that the more friends I collected as I moved through life, the more it would equate with me feeling more loved. It wasn’t and it didn’t. The experience of a decent amount of grief and abandonment had resulted in me feeling a deep desire to gather as many friends as possible, solely to ensure I would never be left fully alone again.
You can imagine the air of desperation about me back then. I cringe inwardly when I think about it now, but I can still recall the terror of an unanswered phone call, or a read but not responded to text. I was intense and very needy. I’m quite sure that in my attempt to draw them closer, I was in fact pushing them further away. In fact, I’m certain of it.
So I feel immensely proud to be in a position to write this now with a genuine feeling of before and after. I recognise that part of myself that was broken and very lost and I see her now from a wonderful place of strength and self-belief.
If you wondered what not being able to love yourself could look like, that version of me then was a pretty close representation. Back then, I had such a skewed view of friendship. Friends validated me, they made me feel wanted, important, needed and a little lovable. I became indispensable to them, I tripped over myself trying to help out, so that they could never leave me, I proved my worth over and over to them.
But you can imagine what all of that does to a person. You get so busy focusing on the needs of everyone else that you completely abandon yourself. This last decade has taught me so much about myself. I see the good in me, I even, at times, have spotted the great, and the interesting outcome is that I am now only interested in investing my time and energy in friends that can see that too.
Letting go of friendships is hard. At some point, you may feel that you and a friend just don’t connect anymore, you might find that you have less in common or even feel that they’re treating you differently and are taking from your life rather than adding to it. Similar to a romantic relationship, you may know that it’s no longer working for you, but when the time comes to end the friendship, to ‘break up’, it can be impossible to do.
What does a good friendship look like for you?
How do you feel when you are part of a good friendship?
What matters most to you with the friendships in your life?
What do you cherish most about the friends in your life?
For me, it’s about giving and receiving support; holding the space to listen and to be heard. It’s that connection that when you are with them you can be fully yourself. They get you and they don’t try to change you. Good friends are those who make your heart sing, they inspire you to be better and they energise you. They make you laugh. You must be able to laugh together!
We crave connection and to build a network around us. We may have different groups of friends that serve different purposes and that can be a really positive thing to have, but the reality is that sometimes friendships can just change. Letting friendships end, or fade away, can be incredibly tough, let’s not pretend otherwise, but keeping a toxic friend in your life can also be very damaging. In the long run, it’s much better to cut ties and to find people who truly appreciate and support you, as you are, right now.
They are dismissive of your feelings and opinions.
No person and no friendship is perfect. But you should always feel free to air your concerns when one of you feels hurt or needs to address a problem. If you find you aren’t able to do this, then it points to a problem with the friendship. If you’re told that you’re wrong, too sensitive or overreacting, this gaslighting behaviour needs to be reflected upon. A good friend, in comparison, may not agree with you on something, but they will always listen to your side. They’ll care about your feelings and your opinion. That’s what we are looking for, always.
The friendship is consistently one-sided.
If in your heart you know that it’s you who does all the running, if you’re the one expected to always be available to listen to their woes; but when you need them, you’re met with silence. Do you truthfully feel they take advantage of your good nature and yet whenever you need them, they’re nowhere to be found? What is this telling you about the friendship, what is it telling you about them?
You have little or nothing to talk about.
Sometimes, friends drift apart. It can be that simple. It may be because your life circumstances are changing, or you just have less in common. If there’s nothing for you to talk about anymore, it may be a sign that your friendship ‘as you knew it’ has come to an end. This may just require taking a step back for a period of time, not making any big announcements, but acknowledging that, for now, your life is taking you in different directions. It’s okay to do this.
They are put out when you say “no” to them.
Of course, there will be times when you find yourself having to say “no” to a friend, whether it’s regarding weekend plans or doing them a good turn, and it may not always be easy. It’s telling to see how they react when you do. Do they attempt to make you feel guilty, or refuse to take your first answer and try and talk you around? Watch if they make your decision all about them and see that selfish reaction for what it is.
They make you feel worse, not better.
The whole purpose of friendships is to have your own support team who allow you to be yourself, who you can laugh with, enjoy life with and help each other always to be the best version of themselves. If we don’t have that, then why bother? Our friendships should, by definition, make us feel better, but if you find that every time you’ve been with a certain friend, or friends, you feel worse afterward, then you really need to explore why this is happening? Ask yourself is this still serving you and then listen to the answer.
My friendships mean the world to me. While I have a lot less of them now than I used to, I am blessed with the ones that I do have in my life, many of whom I have known for over thirty years. They’ve watched me go through so many changes in my life, and while I may not be recognisable as the friend they met all those years ago, the friendships feel very familiar, safe and loving. Which is all I could hope for.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or visit niamhennis.com.