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When to “Call it Quits” with a Friend

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Most of us are probably familiar with the “season” concept of friendship, the idea that some friends are only in our lives for a certain period of time.

This would include friends we met during college, or a stint at a certain job, or an organization we volunteered at for a while. These are friends we really liked and enjoyed when we were in close proximity, but friends with whom we lost touch once that proximity was no longer a factor.

Seasonal friendships are common and completely normal, and I think all of us can think fondly of friends who we no longer keep in touch with, but who played significant roles for particular seasons of our lives.

These seasonal friendships usually end due to changing circumstances, moving on to the next chapter of our lives. And, again, I think this is a common experience for most people. But, I think there are a number of other reasons a friendship might end.

Below I have mentioned, several reasons that might even necessitate an intentional ending of a relationship. 

Perhaps a friend is consistently elusive and seemingly disinterested in spending time together. 

Sometimes a dynamic friendship changes and one person in the friendship is no longer committed to spending quality time together. There can be any variety of extenuating circumstances, which should certainly be discussed before a friend “break-up,” but sometimes there is an imbalance in interest or commitment that happens in some friendships, and this is not altogether unusual, even if sometimes disappointing.  

Related: 10 Signs You’re Falling in Love with Your Best Friend

Perhaps a friend is not willing or able to commit to a mutually satisfying emotional connection.  

Some people are not interested in or capable of being vulnerable in a relationship. This may be due to unresolved past hurts (and accompanying negative internalized message about intimacy), but regardless, a friendship that is not growing in connection will probably become stagnant and unsatisfying, especially if one person in the friendship desires this deeper brand of connection.

Perhaps a friend is consistently disrespectful or mean.  

It probably goes without saying that we all want and needs friends in our lives who are capable of providing support, affirmation, and care, or at least, NOT being mean. Life is too short to endure unnecessary negativity and pain, especially from those who are supposed to be our friends.  

Perhaps a friend is relentlessly competitive.  

Some people feel the need to “win” in every situation. They constantly compare their lives to the people around them, and they are not satisfied unless they feel they have more and better than everyone else. This can wreak havoc on a friendship, as it erodes the very foundation of emotional safety and acceptance. If one person always has to be the center of attention and makes little room for others, there is little to no chance a deep, mutually satisfying brand of friendship can be established.  

Related: 7 Types of Friendships you will form in your life

Perhaps a friend is consistently dishonest.  

Deep connections require trust. And trust requires honesty. If we cannot rely on our people, to tell the truth, then the relationship will never be able to flourish (and will more likely become a source of frustration and discontent in our lives).  

Again, there can be many reasons that a friendship becomes unhealthy, including, but not limited to, those listed above. Bottom line, though, any friendship that consistently contributes to our feeling disregarded, devalued, or disrespected should be reevaluated, and stepping away should be considered.

If we do decide to call it quits with a friend, this can certainly be done respectfully while still being honest and firm. While I think it is important that we clearly communicate what necessitated a stepping away from the relationship, I think we can be mature in our delivery of this information, especially if the person on the receiving end did not anticipate the “break-up” and might feel hurt or confused by our decision.  

Related: How To Move on From A Broken Friendship

It is also important to remember that not all friend “break-ups” are permanent. Sometimes friends find their way back to each other in a different season of their lives. They can reconnect and commit to creating a healthier relationship dynamic in that alternate time and space.

That being said, this is not always the case, and that is okay, too. The important thing is that we remain committed to finding and keeping healthy friendships. Friends who are able to be available, authentic, affirming, assertive, and accepting.  

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Gina Handley Schmitt , MA, LMHChttp://www.couselorgina.com/
Psychotherapist, Friendship Coach, Professor of Psychology, Author of Friending: Creating Meaningful Lasting Adult Friendships

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