How To Know When It’s Time To End A Friendship

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woman sitting at a table with friend

Knowing when to end a friendship is just as important as knowing when it's time to leave a love affair.

We spend a great deal of time thinking about, reading about, and talking about our primary love relationships — a romantic partner, spouse, or lover — and understanding whether or not those relationships are salvageable or worth keeping whe the going gets rough.

But what about our friendships?

RELATED: How To End A Toxic Friendship (Without Ghosting Like A Jerk)

Some research states that when it comes to our needs and emotional intimacy, we tend to go more to our friends rather than our main love objects. Supposedly, they are more neutral and less threatening.

There's truth in that. You don't live with your friends on a daily basis, nor do you live with them 100 percent of the time to experience their foibles.

Thus, having good and solid friendships is critical support in our lives and other relationships.

Before evaluating when to end a friendship, do you know what makes a friend a true friend?

A solid friendship is "green and growing." In a healthy friendship, it's safe to be who you are, to have needs, to share feelings, to disagree, and give honest-to-goodness feedback to them about how their behavior affects you.

A friend listens without judgment, takes responsibility for their half of the relationship, gives advice only when asked for, lends strength in difficult situations, and most importantly, all of what you share with a friend is kept confidential.

A true friend accepts you unconditionally and you know you can count on them at difficult times. Their words and actions match, they treat you with respect, and they act in integrity.

But what about ending a friendship?

Just as in romantic relationships, a friendship may need to end. That may be as difficult as ending a love affair.

Here are 21 signs that it may be time to end a friendship.

1. Someone's pulling back.

You or the other person starts to pull back.

2. There's hesitancy to open up.

You feel hesitant to talk about problems that once were easy to talk about.

3. Discussions are a dead-end.

When you discuss problems, you seem to get nowhere.

4. There are power struggles. 

The relationship is fraught with power struggles.

5. They're demeaning.

You somehow feel demeaned at the end of an encounter.

6. You hide your true self.

You begin to hide true thoughts and feelings when around your friend.

7. You can't say "no." 

You stop feeling safe to say "no" in the friendship.

8. You become incompatible.

You see that you and your friend stop being compatible.

9. They're two-faced. 

The person talks about you behind your back.

10. Trust is broken.

The person shares information they promised to keep confidential. Or, your friend makes and then breaks promises. Eventually, you stop trusting the person.

RELATED: 4 Steps To End A Friendship On Good Terms

11. They're defensive.

When you bring up problems, the person becomes defensive or withdraws.

12. They're critical.

You are blamed or criticized for problems or disagreements.

13. They bombard you with unsolicited advice. 

The person gives you advice when not asked for.

14. They're not there for you.

The friend is not there when you need them most.

15. Their friendship is conditional.

You're being cared for begins to feel conditional on your pleasing them.

16. They are an energy vampire.

The relationship begins to zap you of your life energy.

17. The friendship is one-sided.

You are putting more time into the relationship than they are.

18. Compassion and understanding are lacking.

The relationship lacks a compassionate understanding.

19. Your intuition flares.

Your intuition says it's time to end it.

Talk about it with your friend.

If you assess your relationship and find a few of these signs that indicate it's time to end a friendship, the first thing to do is talk about how you're feeling about the behaviors present.

Use the sandwich approach for each: positive, negative, positive.

"I really value our friendship, but when you don’t return my calls or texts, I feel disrespected and unimportant. I would like our friendship to continue, and what I need from you is to return my calls and texts."

If you feel heard and the friend takes responsibility for the behaviors, indicating they want to change, then you can see how it goes.

Take responsibility for your part.

If there are more than three of the above behaviors and you have let things build up, you need to take responsibility for not speaking up sooner.

Unfortunately, when we collect bad feelings, we are less apt to be rational when we present our case.

Be sure you're in a place where you can discuss without spewing out your bad feelings in a way that you are not likely to be heard or regret later.

The process of how we say things is more important than what we say as it can make or break the conversation.

If there are seven or more of the above signs, it's time to consider ending the relationship.

My belief is that it is quality, not quantity of relationships, that's important.

If you have a handful of true friends you know you can count on no matter what, you are lucky. Rid yourself of those who are toxic or unreliable.

RELATED: Ending A Friendship Is Perfectly OK — It Means You're Growing

Brenda Schaeffer is a licensed psychologist, sex and love addiction specialist, trauma expert, international speaker, communications consultant, spiritual teacher, trainer of therapists, and author of Is It Love or Is It Addiction? For more information, visit her website.