"Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you;
be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them."
W. Clement Stone
As you may have read in "Best Friends Forever?: Lessons on Friendship (Part I)," I've been struggling a lot lately with one of my friendships. This particular friend and I have had our ups and downs, but lately I've started to wonder whether there were more downs than ups. Or, rather, the downs were much lower than the ups were high. That being said, anyone who has ever been in this type of situation knows how hard it is to end a friendship. It's different -- harder, in some ways -- than a break-up with a significant other is, especially when you've spent a great deal of your formative years with this person.
You see, with friendships, you're dealing with someone you've shared everything with (even the most embarrassing things, even details about your romantic life). You're dealing with a person who has probably see you at your god-awful worst, someone who knows the best of you and the worst of you. You're also dealing with someone who you obviously click with in some important way. It's not all that easy for most people to find close friends, so the thought of losing one can be terrifying.
Ending a relationship with a friend is something many people don't have to think about doing; it often just happens gradually -- two people drifting away slowly as their lives change. People change and grow and often they grow apart. That's okay and completely normal. What doesn't feel all that normal is when you encounter a situation in a friendship where you're wondering, "Is this worth it? Is the hurt I'm feeling worth the friendship I'm saving?"
Those are the big questions. The change-your-life questions. Because, let's face it, friends have a huge impact on our lives. Whether you realize it or not, the friendships you have shape who you are. That old saying "you are who you hang out with" really does ring quite true. Which is why it's really important to evaluate your friendships and determine who you want to spend your time with. Life is short and you should surround yourself with people who bring you up, who make you happy, who strive to make you the best you that you can be.
Unfortunately, you might find, as I have a time or two, that a friend just isn't doing those things for you. S/he is hurting you, bringing you down, causing you pain. You might realize this, but you might also share good times with that person. Ups and downs are normal, but when the downs are lower than the ups are high, it's time to move on. Here's how you know when it's time to go:
Should I End This Friendship?: Must Ask Questions
Does your friend act in a way that embarrasses or hurts you?
Does your friend put you in uncomfortable situations?
Does your friend leave you feeling emotionally drained?
Does your friend bring out the worst qualities in you?
Does your friend make you feel de-valued as a person?
Does your friend create negative emotions (anger, hate, envy)?
Does your friend encourage you to take part in harmful activities?
Does your friend treat you with disrespect and unkindness?
Does your friend put zero effort into the friendship?
Does your friend seem to be in constant competition with you?
Does your friend make you feel smothered and confined in any way?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you're probably in a toxic friendship and it's probably in your best interest to get out of that friendship as soon as you can. Of course, it won't be easy. Breaking up a relationship of any kind never is easy, but it's something that must be done if you want to live a positive life and enjoy the present moment. Being positive means being around people who bring you up -- and if you answered yes to the questions above, you're not with someone who is bringing goodness into your life. Here are some tips for how to make the end easier:
5 Tips for Ending a Friendship
1. Create some space. The first thing you should do when you know a friendship needs to come to an end is give yourself some space. Don't make plans with your friend and find other things to do when s/he makes plans with you. Space will help you get some perspective and make the break-up easier. It might be hard to do at first, but it will get easier with time.
2. Be open and honest. If at all possible, be honest with your friend. Explain to him or her why you can no longer spend time together. This is a very hard thing to do, but honesty really is the best policy. At the very least, be open and honest with yourself as to why you're ending the friendship. You should be well aware of why this relationship didn't work so you can avoid trouble in future friendships.
3. Spend time with others. Losing a friend can be very painful, so while you're letting go, it's important to spend time with other people who bring you up. Don't waste time talking about your old friend; instead, focus on the present and do enjoyable activities with those who are positive influences on you. It won't completely heal the sadness you feel, but it will certainly help you.
4. Focus on you. Realize that this friendship has ended (or is ending) because you have recognized the importance of having positive, uplifting people in your life. By choosing to end a toxic relationship, you are showing yourself love. As you're struggling with the end of the friendship, focus on the good things about yourself and treat yourself with kindness.
5. Allow yourself to be hurt. There's no denying it: losing a friend sucks. It's a really tough thing to go through (sometimes even harder than a break up!) and it's okay to be hurt. Allow yourself to feel upset, hurt, sad. Feeling the loss is okay and perfectly normal. Allowing yourself to feel down is the first step to getting back on your feet again.
Ending a friendship can be one of the hardest experiences. Just getting to the point when you realize it needs to end is difficult enough, but actually ending it -- and dealing with the emotional aftermath -- can be devastating. Coming soon in "Best Friends Forever?: Lessons on Friendship (Part III)," I'll tackle the issue of how to cope with the loss of a friendship.
Have you ever had to end a friendship? If so, how did you go about it?
Feel free to share your ideas, suggestions, and resources
on friendship in the comments section below!