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“It is OK to break up with your friends, you know.” ~ Mom

I received this advice from my own mother when I was a teenager. Truer words have not been spoken. It’s a difficult concept, which often leaves one feeling very guilty at first. But it’s a reminder – or an awakening – many of us need. I’ve done my best to pass this advice on to other friends I see struggling in toxic friendships.

People become friends for all sorts of reasons, but at the core of each friendship is often a matter of convenience. Proximity, similar interests, similar social circle – these are some of the reasons people initially meet and become friends. You have a thing or two in common, you start chatting, and then before you know it you’re spending all sorts of time together. However, as with any relationship, the test comes when you take it to the next level. When you NEED something – I’m not talking about a ride to the airport – but a real emotional need. Something upsetting or even tragic has happened in your life and you need a friend to talk to, vent to, lean on for support. This is where the friendship shows its true colors.

If you have a friend who is repeatedly letting you down in the aforementioned arenas, despite your enduring willingness to bend over backwards for him/her, it might be time for a break up. Someone that is negative, manipulative, conniving, excessively needy, taking up all of your time, jealous, petty, self-centered … you get my drift … it’s time to re-evaluate things. There are times when friends hit low spots, and might treat us poorly for a bit. We forgive them and help them through it. But when that sort of behavior becomes a regular occurrence, when the friendship is no longer of any benefit to one party, a break-up may be looming. This is an exceptionally hard thing to do. You feel like a crappy friend – but this is only because you have tried so hard to be a good friend, to a bad friend, for so long. There’s only so much you can give. It’s important to recognize that.

What I’d like to point out here is that I’m not talking about friends with bad habits. You became close with someone and it turns out they have a secret drug problem, or are wanted for some violent crime. Those types of situations are often “no-brainers” in the terms of getting yourself away from sticky situations. Actually, no – sometimes it is still really difficult to see what’s really happening and make the right choice. What I’m discussing here is a much more nuanced situation. No one is doing anything illegal or blatantly destructive. What they are doing is just being a shitty friend.

Here are some things to remember if you think you have a friend that you think might need the boot:

  • Just because you have been friends with someone for a long time, doesn’t mean you always have to be friends with them.
  • Severing ties with someone who only brings negativity and frustration into your life does not make you a bad friend, or a bad person.
  • Being someone’s friend is not an obligation to be a punching bag every time things don’t go well for him/her.
  • Your feelings and emotions matter too.
  • You are in control of your own happiness.
  • If you must break up, be kind about it.

“People exit and enter your life, and sometimes exits are for the best. Do not think of ending a friendship as a failure.” ~Author Unknown