Being hurt by a friend once is hard, but being mistreated constantly by your friend can take an emotional toll on you and leave you feeling down. Psychologist Irene Levie aka ‘the friendship doctor’ gives her advice on when it’s time to end the friendship – and how to go about doing it…
Trust your gut
Friendships are voluntary, should be mutually satisfying and most of all bring joy to your life. Maintaining negative or ambivalent ones can take a physical and emotional toll on your health. If your only role is to be the sympathetic listener, or picking up the pieces in what seem to be a continual set of dramas, then maybe it’s time to end the friendship.
Changing circumstances can lead to a gradual feeling of being disconnected. The most common example is friends we meet through work. While we’re all in the same office, we have lots in common and, sometimes, work friendships can be lasting. Equally as we change careers, our own shared interests dwindle and one-to-ones become strained, try just seeing each other as part of a group, or know they were in your life for a season.
Is time-out needed?
We all have friends who are good in certain circumstances or when we feel in the right mood. Pushing a friendship beyond its natural boundary can be why certain habits – whether it’s their tendency to always switch arrangements at the last minute or go on a bit too long about their luxury holiday – begin to grate. Sometimes you just need to take a break from each other for a while. If that’s the case, be busy with work or family for a period of time, and let a gap occur naturally. Chances are, your friend may feel the same.
Question friendship motives
True friends give more than they ask, but there are also those that befriend because they want something from you. It may be an introduction into your social or even work inner circle, or they may just crave your attention. If you find yourself bombarded with SMSes, calls and social media messages from needy, or just insensitive, friends, pull- back on your responses, distant yourself and keep them on your outer social circle.
End off on an amicable note
When a ‘good friend’ mistreats you by betraying your confidence, sneakily exploiting a contact you’ve introduced to them or criticising you to a third party a row is likely to occur. If it proves to be the last straw, don’t end things in a blazing argument. Instead, do it at a time when you are both relaxed and not in a public setting. Chances are, you may both have second thoughts.
Words last forever
If you really feel you have to say something, keep it simple and take responsibility for your decision. Don’t use a split to deliver a litany of stored-up complaints – after all, she was once your friend. Just say you’d feel better cooling the friendship. Remember, whatever you say, this is a conversation that won’t soon be forgotten.
It is just between you and your friend
Don’t try to justify your decision by garnering support from mutual friends. It will only make them feel uncomfortable. If they ask what has happened, provide vague, non-specific details.
Push on, embrace healthy friendships
It’s natural to romanticise and remember the very best parts of a relationship after a break-up. You may also feel lonely if you had previously spent a great deal of time together. Don’t forget you made this tough decision with great forethought, to allow room in your life for more satisfying and rewarding friendships.’