“When it’s time to make a change the universe will make it so uncomfortable for you that you will have no choice but to leave. ”
— IDIL AHMED
There’s a squa-squillion Thought Catalog-y articles on figuring out when it’s time to end a friendship. But these usually only talk about the toxic friendships, they don’t really cover the friendships that were, by and large, pretty good. They don’t really cover the friendships that you had for years with a person you actually liked; a person you went out with, danced your arse off with, got drunk with, had incredible girls’ trips with. They don’t really talk about the person you shared secrets with and basically had a romantic relationship with, minus the sex. These friendships are the toughest to decide if they need to end.
I had a good friend with whom I couldn’t decide I want to remain friends. I felt inauthentic because sometimes she was great. She was truly there with me in the trenches, ready to respond to my messages at the drop of a hat. I knew she had my back. But then she also invited drama into her life — and mine — and was as thoughtful as she was forgetful. She’s one of those people who stuff “just happens” to. Out of all of my friends she was the only one who consistently lost things but accepted that this is how she is: scatty.
If she loses her phone or her bank card, instead of feeling shit about it and/or staying in until she gets replacements, she’ll go out anyway and rely on someone else to sort out the practicalities for her. She’ll come to a group dinner when she’s waiting to be paid and not mention it until we’re at the table. We’re all then put in the awkward spot of being forced to cover her meal, which we don’t mind doing because we’re her friends, but no one likes to be manipulated into a situation, particularly by their friend.
If this person would have said something beforehand, you know, a, “Guys, might have to sit this one out tonight if my pay doesn’t come through in time,” then we would have instantly, collectively cried, “Omg don’t be silly, we’ll cover you, no sweat!” It wouldn’t have been an issue at all. But it’s the expectation that we’d pick up the pieces – or check, in this case – that really fucked me, and a few of our friends, right off. Especially because this isn’t the first time she’s done this.
But before I go into it, I suspect that on some level, this is resonating with you. I suspect that you’ve got a mate in mind who you’re not sure you want to keep around, or who doesn’t quite feel like the friend you want them to be. Whatever the reason, whatever this thing that’s missing, the thing you can’t put your finger on, this is why you should drop them A$AP Rocky.
Why? Because chances are…
1. THEY DON’T RESPECT YOUR TRIGGERS
A leopard never changes its spots, and you can’t get mad at a leopard for not being a cheetah. But if you’ve repeatedly and calmly explained to your leopard that something they do bothers you or is really important to you, then out of respect they should show you that they’re at least trying to be like the cheetah.
Ultimately it’s not the actual cheetah behavior that you care about, it’s the acknowledgement that your leopard heard you, that they listened and are responding to something that matters to you. This effort is them demonstrating to you that they are sympathetic to your triggers. If they don’t adjust their behavior after you’ve explicitly stated your sore points, then they don’t care about you enough to not selfishly continue on in life as if you weren’t in it. Facts.
2. THEY INVITE DRAMA INTO YOUR LIFE
Friendship, along with any significant relationship in your life, should be easy. It should be calming. Your friends and family are the people to escape to when the world’s not playing ball. They shouldn’t be the source of stress or anxiety. If your friend makes you feel this way, and you’ve already brought it up to them yet things remain the same, well, it ain’t good.
It shouldn’t feel like they consistently bring agg into your life. Yes, the occasional drama is fine — that’s life; shit happens, etc — but if the common theme is some dilemma that they’re involving you with or some crappy situation they’re putting you in, that’s not a positive relationship to be having, I don’t care how long the friendship.
You remember that friend who I mentioned before, the scrappy-but-dependable one? Straight after said group dinner I was meant to get a lift with another friend who was at din, but scatterbrained one’s car was closer and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by saying I’d prefer to go with our other friend. A couple of minutes in, we get into a car crash. In all fairness it wasn’t her fault, but I was in the front seat with her and saw that the damage could have definitely been minimized, if not avoided.
She’s absent-minded at the best of times, so describing how the people at work were “bullying” her was enough distraction from seeing the oncoming car start to turn into us before their light went green. As soon as they hit us she jumped out of the driver’s seat, screamed abuse at them for totalling her car and then burst into tears. Having also got out, she turned to me and in a panicked tone said, “What do I do? I don’t know what to do! I don’t have insurance, I can’t afford this!” I sighed and thought, Right, so this is how it’s going to go.
My default stress response of robotic-like problem-solving mode really flared up and I told her to get a pen and paper and take down their details of the other driver, and that they’re the ones who have to pay for it because they were at fault. While she’s doing this I take photos of the damage and call up the local police station to inform them of the crash and the shrapnel that’s strewn across the intersection.
Because her phone battery’s about to die (of course), I also call up a tow truck company to come and remove her now-written-off car. She then freaks out because, “What if the cops come? I’ve got weed in the backseat!” Double sigh. Obvs I wasn’t going to chastise her for this in the moment because she already felt like crap, but it was like, Commmmeeee onnnnn. Seriously, why won’t you learn?
Her fiancé (whoooole other story) then arrives and I hand him the hysterical baton that is my drama magnet friend. We check in with one another later that night and it’s all good. I make sure she’s fine, but not reeeeally wanting to know about the status of anything else because it’s merely icing on the cake of several years’ worth of shit my hippocampus has just reminded me I’ve dealt with.
The next day I go out to dinner (sensing a theme here…) and see she’s sent me a message. I open it. It’s a huge paragraph and I figure I’ll reply later when I get home. But when I get home I read it and it’s her going on about how she thinks I’m unhappy being back in our hometown (untrue) and is worried I only like her with distance (true). I decide I’m not in the mood to write back at this point in time and resolve to do it in the morning.
I then wake up to two new messages, both huge paragraphs of increasing irrationality and insecure verbal diarrhoea. I’m over it. I was going to calmly reassure her but this I think, Nup, I’m bloody over it. I tell her I love her and that I always will but it’s just too much. I tell her that she invites chaos into her life — these unnecessary abusive messages, case in point — and it’s too much. Too. Hard. Basket. She sends two follow-up responses berating me and I don’t reply. Not long after, I’ve been blocked on all forms of social media. Real mature, Scradley.
It’s clear that she can tell I’m no longer going to cop her dramz on the chin, I’m not going to be her emotional dumping ground. Which brings me to…
3. THEY TREAT YOU LIKE A THERAPIST
Yes, your friends are meant to use you as sounding boards and you are them. Yes, they should be able to come to you for advice and talk about their problems. But when they take it too far and use you as the vessel to catch their stream of issues and petty problems, you’d best start charging, because you’ve just become their unqualified therapist.
It’s your duty as a good friend to put up with their emotional breakdowns and humor their monologues about why so-and-so is such a hoe or the latest way the fuckboy they’re dating hurt them. What you don’t have to put up with, however, is hearing the same continual rant about why their boyfriend sucks or how much they hate their job and are going to quit (but never do).
Becoming their therapist, without the financial perks, puts you in a no-win situation because you, as an outsider, know exactly what they should do, yet have to stifle the swelling irritation that they’re bitching about something you’ve told them the answer to. Meanwhile you feel like you have to pretend that you’re not bored of hearing the same dull shit because you’re pretty sure you’ve done the same, right? Right? Sure that’s right. The thing is: Everyone knows what they’re meant to do.
In our heart of hearts, we don’t need an outside influence telling us what we should do. We ask for other people’s opinions to get validation for what we already know we want to do. We keep asking different people until we, collectively, get the outside answer we want, the conclusion we’ve already reached before we even asked the question.
This is why your friend keeps talking to you about the same shit over and over again: They’re looking for you to change your opinion to finally give them the validation that your thoughts/feelings about the issue at hand match theirs. A friend who keeps revisiting the same matter and doesn’t move on from it is looking to abuse your relationship with them to complain, they’re not really looking for a conclusion.
If this happens often enough, you’ll slowly get that feeling in the back of your mind that something’s not quite…right.
4. THEY JUST DON’T FEEL QUITE RIGHT
But really, what it all boils down to is that you just know. Deep down you know when it’s time to end it. Just like a romantic relationship, you know when a friendship is done. The wind changes. Suddenly you’re both swept off in different directions and you can tell in the moment when it’s time to diverge. If you don’t recognize this moment, though, I guarantee the universe will make you realize it. Hopefully it doesn’t take a car crash to do so, but something big will happen and you’ll feel the change.
Sometimes people aren’t meant to stay friends forever. Psychologists say that if your friendship lasts over seven years, it’ll last a lifetime. But for others, like me, the Seven Year Itch will sound the death knell. And you know what? That’s okay. You will have learned so much about others and yourself. As long as you end it wishing the other person nothing but good fortune, that’s all you can do.
This is how you end a friendship with grace.