Assessing when to ditch a friendship

Some friendships can feel seamless when there rarely appears to be any problems in maintaining a good connection. Other friendships can feel like they are hard work. Knowing when to ditch them or invest time and energy is the key issue. Some friends will have been with you through key times in your life and you may feel heavily invested with them. Others might have been more recent connections.

To know when your friendship is floundering you could consider the following:

  • You begin to feel like you are doing all the work such as leaving phone messages, making social plans and arranging social occasions with others. Your friend just seems to tag along.
  • Your friend may interact with your social media posts but you begin to resent their lack of commitment to your friendship together in the real world.
  • It feels like hard work staying in touch with them. In spite of leaving messages on their voicemail they don't seem to be reciprocating in the effort stakes. Your messages typically go unanswered.
  • They say that you both must meet up and that you both should schedule a call. This leaves you feeling like you need to have personal assistants in order to make it happen. Even then phone chats fail to materialise.
  • They say they will call or visit but don't. 
  • If they do visit they complain that it took them ages with the heavy traffic or the trains running late. You are left feeling that they don't prioritise your friendship.

When you accept that your friendship is floundering it can be useful to ask yourself a number of questions. These questions can focus the mind about what is really important:

  • Do you still want this person as a friend or do you need to see them as someone that maybe belongs to your past?
  • Is there something stopping you from confronting them about their lack of commitment to your friendship?
  • What would it mean to have a confrontation with them where you express your dissatisfaction with them?

Friendships can change over time and the most robust friendships will withstand life changes. However, sometimes friends might be envious of your new lifestyle. Perhaps you have developed a new happy relationship or have been promoted at work. Or they might be feeling that you are the one prioritising others in your life ahead of them. This is commonly the case when someone has a baby or gets married or starts a new job. However, the resilient friendships will cope with the changes and your way of relating will adjust accordingly.

Sometimes it could be the case that you are placing too much emphasis on your friendship. You could ask yourself whether you have realistic expectations about your needs with this person. Might you, for instance, be seeking to place too much weight on them meeting your needs for moral support? Could there be others in your life who could provide that role instead or do you need to boost your social support network.

Counselling and psychotherapy can help you to assess the quality of your relationships and friendships. Is there something in your past that prevents you from maintaining contact or do you react badly when others are not available? Spotting your own victimhood and how it can limit your outlook can bring about transformation. Feeling heard can bring about a form of healing especially when you get into a constant pattern of attending. The process can also help with improving the quality of your friendships by learning how to confront when appropriate.

You might need to reach out and find new friends when you consistently access the voicemail messages of everyone in your contact list on occasions when you feel you really need to speak to someone for moral support.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SE1 & SE26
Written by Noel Bell, MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP
London SE1 & SE26

Noel Bell is a UKCP accredited psychotherapist in London who has spent over 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel is an integrative therapist and draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the psychodynamic, CBT, humanist, existential and transpersonal schools.

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