I have been having trouble trying to figure out whether or not one of my friends is “toxic.” She’s fun to be around at times but can also be very discouraging and unsupportive when exciting things happen to me. When I talk to her about how I feel, she makes me feel like I’m just being sensitive. How do you know when it’s time to step away from a friend and what’s the best way to do it?
You are in a really tight spot. Deciding whether or not to end a friendship is a tough decision.
One of the hardest parts of any relationship is knowing whether your current issues are just part of a rough patch, or if it’s time to end things for good.
Here are some questions to help you navigate this complicated friendship:
How to Know When It’s Time to Step Away
1. What is important to you in a friendship?
This question is essential because it helps you determine if this friend possesses the qualities you truly desire.
I suggest making a list of all the characteristics that your ideal friend would have. For instance, you mentioned that your current friend is very discouraging and unsupportive when you share exciting news with her. Realizing this might help you recognize how important it is for you to have friends who lift you up.
Once you have a list of your ideal friend qualities, see which ones your current friend possesses. Of course, it’s unlikely that she will perfectly measure up to all of them (nor should she). The point is for you to discover if this is a friendship that you really want to be in. In other words, are you sacrificing a lot of your needs by being friends with her? It’s up to you to decide how much you are willing to let go of.
2. Are you avoiding your friend?
You said that your friend is fun to be around at times. There’s probably a part of you that still enjoys doing certain activities with her (there is a reason you became friends in the first place). However, it’s not worth being in a friendship that’s only enjoyable 20% of the time.
Be honest with yourself. Sometimes we hesitate to admit how we truly feel because we don’t want to sound like a jerk. It’s hard to admit that you don’t enjoy being around someone anymore. But, if that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel. Trust yourself, and follow your gut.
If you find yourself canceling plans or being super hesitant to make them in the first place, recognize that. It’s probably a sign that you are ready to be done with the friendship.
3. How do you feel after you spend time together?
Your list from the first question might help you answer this one.
For example, maybe one of your ideal friend qualities is mutual support. But, you notice that whenever you are with your friend, she spends the entire time discussing her life and never asks you about yours. This leaves you feeling emotionally drained. At this point, you’d want to consider if this is a relationship that you can sustain.
4. Do you want to end the friendship or just set some boundaries?
This is all dependent on how fed-up you are.
You have a couple of options: you can end the friendship altogether, or you can just set some boundaries.
Setting boundaries might look like not spending as much time together or only doing specific activities with her. It could also mean that you don’t disclose certain aspects of your life with her since she does not react the way you would like.
Also, how does it make you feel when you share your feelings with her, and she tells you that you’re just being sensitive? You could try letting her know that it’s important for you to have friends who will celebrate your exciting moments with you.
Again, you have to determine if you would like to do the work to establish boundaries, or if it’s just time to let the friendship go.
How To End It
Here’s the hard part.
If you do decide to end the friendship, I highly recommend having a face-to-face conversation with your friend. Don’t text her. Don’t start ignoring her and just hope it all goes away. Woman-up and meet with her so you can establish some closure. This isn’t the easiest way to do it, but it’s the best way to keep your integrity and give your friend the respect she deserves.
It will suck. It will be awkward. She might be upset. But, in the long run, she will respect you for it (and you will respect you for it!). I promise you: it’s the most necessary and mature way to approach the situation.
1. Decide where to do it.
I recommend meeting somewhere that’s quiet enough where you can talk, but public enough where you can leave first if you need to.
I wouldn’t meet at a restaurant where you have to wait for your food or stand in line together. That will just make it more uncomfortable. A coffee shop is a nice choice because you can get there early, grab your drink and a table, and then wait for your friend to get there.
2. Write it out.
Try writing out some of the things that you want to say so you can process your feelings. Sharing unprocessed emotions never goes well. It doesn’t need to be scripted, but you also don’t want to go into it and ramble on with no end in sight.
Also, it will help cushion the blow if you keep your dialogue you-focused instead of pointing to all the ways she screwed up.
- “It’s really important for me to develop friendships where I feel like I can share my exciting experiences and be supported.”
- “You are never supportive when I tell you about something good that happened to me. So I’m breaking up with you.”
3. Let her know what your conditions are.
This could be another thing that you need to write down. What are the terms of your breakup? Do you want to stay Facebook friends? Do you expect to text each other on occasion and meet up for coffee once a year? Maybe you want to completely cut ties and never interact again. The choice is yours, but make sure to be clear.
Good for you for respecting your needs and recognizing what you deserve. Friendships are tricky, but they also make life meaningful, so it’s important to cultivate good ones. You are headed in the right direction.