Letting go of a friend can be a difficult and emotional experience. We often struggle with whether the friendship is still healthy, or if it is still working.
There are various reasons why it may be time to consider letting a friend go. Perhaps you’ve grown apart, the relationship has turned toxic, or the relationship lacks balance. It’s important to be able to recognize when friendships no longer suit you and move on.
In this article, I will explore some reasons why it may be time to let go of a friend, why it is important, and some helpful tips you can use when trying to move on from your friendships.
Why is it time to let go of a friend?
It is common for friendships to come and go throughout our life. Sometimes distance is a factor. Other times it’s a natural process of growing apart, or perhaps a friendship no longer enriches your life. Here are three common reasons friendships may come to an end.
1. You’ve grown apart
Whether you’ve grown apart due to distance or personality changes, it is not uncommon for friends to separate. Sometimes friends move away. While this may not mean the friendship is over, the physical distance can change the dynamic of the friendship.
Another common reason for growing apart is when one person enters a different life stage that the other finds difficult to be present in.
For example, having children often changes friendships. Again, this does not mean a friendship must end, but it does naturally shift priorities and routines for the individual, and if the friend is not understanding or interested, it can create distance in the friendship.
Trying to force a friendship that is naturally drifting can feel disingenuous and confusing. When you feel a friendship has reached the end of its course, it may be time to let go.
2. The relationship has become toxic
When a relationship has turned toxic and unhealthy, it’s time to let go. A toxic relationship can be defined as a relationship that consistently “makes you feel unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned or attacked”.
A 2021 study explored some of the common signs that a friendship has become toxic:
- You aren’t excited to see them when you have plans, and you feel anxious before meeting up.
- Your friend encourages unwanted or unhealthy behaviors.
- Your friends’ actions hurt your self-esteem, for example, making fun of you or consistently embarrassing you.
- You don’t feel good around your friend.
- Gaslighting, guilt-tripping, and manipulation are common in a toxic friendship.
3. Lack of balance in the relationship
Sometimes in friendships, there is a lack of balance, which impacts the quality of the relationship.
This can mean one party dedicates more time, energy, and empathy without much in return. This does not mean relationships are transactional, as it is natural for there to be times when one individual is more present than the other.
However, if it is a consistent issue where one person is not as invested in the friendship, it can leave both parties feeling frustrated and imbalanced.
Why is it important to let go of a friend?
Unfortunately, friendships rarely last forever and research proves it. It is important to recognize when it may be time to let go of a friend, as friendships can play a significant role in your physical and emotional well-being.
Letting go of a friend who no longer enriches your life can improve your quality of life. Rather than trying to mend a poor or toxic friendship, your energy may be better used focusing on your strong relationships.
Research shows that maintaining strong friendships can lead to less stress and quicker recovery from illness.
Strong friendships can even help you live longer! A 2010 research review shows that the impact of strong social ties on life span is twice as strong as that of exercising and equivalent to that of quitting smoking.
Another study shows that people who have a strong network of friends are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors such as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and successfully quitting smoking.
Remaining friends with someone who no longer suits your life can have detrimental impacts on your health and well-being. This is especially true when dealing with a toxic friend. Research shows that dealing with a toxic friend can negatively impact one’s health by increasing stress and inflammation within the body.
5 Tips for letting go of a friend
People change, and our lives are constantly shifting. It is normal to grow apart from friends, and it’s important to recognize when it is time to move on. Here are 5 tips to help you face the difficult task of letting go of a friend.
1. Allow yourself time to grieve
When you let go of a friend you are experiencing a form of loss and grieving is normal. Give yourself time, losing someone can bring up a lot of complicated emotions and it’s probably not something you will bounce back from right away.
There is no right way to grieve, be gentle with yourself and give yourself all the time you need.
2. Set healthy boundaries
Setting boundaries can be really helpful in ensuring that you are able to get some space from the friendship. For example, if you are the individual who wants to take a step back from the friendship, you may experience more calls and texts from them trying to reach out to you.
It can be really emotionally taxing to experience this, but remember, part of setting boundaries is being able to say no. You don’t have to answer calls or texts immediately and it’s okay to take a step back and give yourself needed space.
3. Seek professional support
You may have a lot of mixed emotions when moving on from a friendship. It is normal to need a bit more support during this time. A therapist can help you to explore your thoughts about the friendship and weigh the options for moving forward.
Perhaps you will decide it is best to let go, or maybe you want to try mending it. A therapist can help you create a plan of action for whatever way you choose to proceed.
4. Focus on your healthy friendships
When you’re letting go of a friend, you’re probably going to feel all sorts of emotions. Turning to your healthy friendships for support can be helpful in recognizing that you made the right decision.
When you are surrounded by strong relationships you may be reminded of the qualities you want in a friend, and why it was for the best to end a friendship that was no longer working.
5. Redefine your friendship
Not all friendships are toxic and end harshly. As mentioned in this article, sometimes you simply grow apart. These situations may be confusing to navigate because you may want to let this friend go, but perhaps not completely.
In these situations, you don’t necessarily need to cut all ties with your friend, but it may be helpful to relook at the role they play in your life.
For example, perhaps you have a friend who you previously spoke with daily, but this is no longer something you want. You can reduce the amount of time you dedicate to the friendship without completely cutting them off. Maybe they become a friend you catch up with every few months. Though their role will change, it doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate and love them anymore.
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Over time, friendships change and evolve. It’s common to reach a point when you wonder if a friendship is still right for you. When you take the courageous step of letting go of a friend, you may feel guilty, confused, or afraid. Remember, if you feel you need to withdraw yourself for your own good, and this person no longer fits into your life, you’re undoubtedly doing the right thing!
Have you recently decided to let go of a friend? What’s something you struggle with that I haven’t discussed in this article? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!