Although rare, some friendships truly last forever.
If you’ve found a friend whom you have an unbreakable bond with, you’ve found something far more valuable than money can ever buy. Unfortunately, the truth is that most friendships don’t last more than a few years.
There are countless reasons people grow distant or friendships fail. But what should you really be looking for when starting to doubt a friendship and wondering whether to let move away from it?
False friendship, like the ivy, decays and ruins the walls it embraces; but true friendship gives new life and animation to the object it supports.
– Richard Burton
Below are four signs that it’s time to let a friendship go. Each is different, but no less important than the rest.
1. It’s a transaction (or worse, theft)
People make connections for all sorts of different reasons.
It’s normal to have mutual business acquaintances and connections that can help you get ahead in your career. However, sometimes people masquerade as friends for these same reasons. They make you feel like they care about you and pretend to be your friend, when they’re just looking to get something from you.
When was the last time you needed something? Who jumped to help you and who didn’t make an effort? Who has a pattern of this behavior? This is usually pretty telling.
2. They’re supporting a bad habit
Are you trying to get fit and healthy? Or maybe you’re already in a good spot and you don’t want to find yourself backtracking to where you were before.
Whether that’s smoking, drinking, physical fitness, a healthy mind, or just getting off your butt to do something with your life, if you have a friend or friends who are enabling bad habits and show no desire to change, holding on to those friendships will make it very difficult — if not impossible — to progress.
3. They’ve stopped caring (or you realize they never cared)
Have you ever been in a friendship where the other person all of a sudden starts hanging out with another group of people? Typically, things like getting a new job or picking up a new activity trigger this.
You might notice that your friend is gradually starting to hang out more with their new group of friends — if they don’t outright ditch you or your group altogether.
When this happens, the person has sent a pretty clear sign that they don’t value your friendship any longer (if they ever did), so it’s time to value yourself and let the friendship go.
4. You feel like you can’t be yourself
This one is less about what they’re doing and more about you.
When you’re around the person, are you trying to be someone you’re not? It’s okay to be in a friendship with someone more successful or better than you at your craft or something else you want to get better at — that’s a great association that will make you better at what you’re working on. That’s not what this point is about.
What I’m talking about here isn’t being around people who have qualities you want to develop. I’m talking about being around people that make you feel like you can’t act like your authentic self.
Do you find yourself pretending to like or dislike something, like or dislike someone, or just pretending to display some sort of character or personality trait that isn’t true to who you are? Or worse, hide some aspect of yourself? This is a pretty big sign you need to let the friendship go.
Sometimes, this is harmless. However, a lot of times it’s really damaging. You’re suppressing your true self just to look good in front of another person or to stay in their favor, whether it’s because they’ve judged you in the past, they’re in control or are subtly bullying you, or you sense they would if you weren’t on good terms with them (see the cronies of every major fictional villain ever for an example).
In all of the above cases, you’re not being true to yourself. And any friendship that causes you to act like you’re something you’re not is not a real friendship.
There are many reasons why it might be time to let a friendship go. If you feel you’re in a relationship that harms you, holds you back, or keeps you from being yourself, you need to make a tough decision.
As difficult as it is to let a friend go, if they’re not good for you, they’ll only continue to hurt you. But by letting them go, you’ll be happier, healthier, and free to live your life in harmony with your values.