“Recently, I’ve begun to feel that a few of my friendships aren’t as much fun as they used to be, but I’m not exactly sure what’s wrong. How do you know when to end a friendship?”
It’s normal to lose friends. Research shows that it’s common for friendships to only last a few years, and even best friends don’t always last forever. In this guide, you’ll learn when it’s time to walk away from a friendship.
It’s not always easy to tell when you should give up on a friendship. Here are 22 signs that it might be time to stop being friends with someone:
If one of you often or always has to make the first move, your friendship may have become unbalanced. When one person starts relying on the other to do all or most of the work, the person who has to make more of an effort often starts feeling resentful and disrespected. Being stuck in a one-sided friendship can make you unhappy if you are expected to always take the initiative.
If your friend has betrayed your trust, for example, by speaking badly of you behind your back, it’s hard to feel relaxed around them. When you can’t open up to a friend because you worry they will repeat everything you say to someone else, you probably won’t be able to enjoy a close friendship.
If you often feel drained, gloomy, or pessimistic after spending time with your friend, it could be time to reassess the friendship. Ask yourself, “How did I feel the last time I saw my friend?” Maybe hanging out with them has begun to feel like something you have to do rather than something that makes you happy; if so, you might want to move on and find people who make you feel good about yourself and life in general.
Long silences and uncomfortable conversations can be a warning sign that you and your friend have nothing in common to talk about. Or you might always talk about the same memories and shared experiences from a long time ago because you have nothing in common in the present.
If you can only tolerate someone when other people are around, it might be time to distance yourself. For example, if you always invite mutual friends along when you hang out with your best friend, ask yourself whether it’s because you no longer have fun when it’s just the two of you.
Friends help each other out in times of need, but if your friend goes from one crisis to the next and always talks about their problems, you may begin to feel as though they are using you as an unpaid therapist. They might ask you for advice but never take it on board, which can be frustrating.
If your friend changes the topic or denies that something is wrong when you try to talk about any problems in your friendship, they may not care about your feelings. It can be awkward to ask your friend to change their behavior, but a real friend will want to improve your friendship even if it means having some difficult discussions.
If you feel annoyed or anxious when your friend calls or messages you, it may be time to end the friendship. In general, you should be pleased to hear from your friends and look forward to seeing them.
It’s normal for friends to occasionally feel envious of each other. But if they struggle to be pleased when things are going well in your life, they are not a true friend. Real friends celebrate each others’ successes. If you have recently taken a positive step forward in your life—for example, graduating or buying a home—and your friend can’t be happy for you, it may be a sign that your friendship is unhealthy.
Some people are naturally overbearing or bossy, but if your friend keeps ignoring your boundaries and doesn’t listen when you ask them to change, it’s probably time to cut contact. At best, people who overstep boundaries are rude and thoughtless; at worst, they can be abusive.
It’s normal to want time to be alone, especially if you’re an introvert. But if you find yourself repeatedly turning down invitations to hang out, you may no longer be invested in the friendship.
Real friends make you feel good about yourself. They don’t make you feel as though you need to hide your true personality, feelings, or opinions. Even when they disagree with you or think you’ve made a bad decision, a good friend will still respect and support you. If you find yourself behaving out of character around your friend or doing things you don’t want to do, it may be time to let go and find people who accept you for who you are.
Friends do each other favors from time to time. But if someone often asks you for help without giving anything back, they might see you as a useful resource rather than a friend. Over time, this can make you feel resentful.
It may also be time to walk away from a friend if the situation is reversed and you have been using them. It can be hard to admit that you’re only friends with someone because the friendship makes your life easier, but it’s best to be honest with yourself. If you only keep someone around because they often help you out, take a step back. Give them the chance to invest their time in more balanced friendships.
Abusive behavior is never acceptable in a friendship. If your friend is abusing you, it may be best to drop them.
For example, an abusive friend might:
- Threaten you with violence
- Try to emotionally manipulate you, for example, by threatening to hurt themselves if you don’t do what they want
- Try to undermine your other friendships, for example, by spreading lies or gossip about you
If you often feel as though you are going crazy after talking with your friend, they may be gaslighting you. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where someone makes you question your memory and judgment. Healthline has a useful guide to gaslighting and how to deal with it.
If your friends or relatives warn you that your friend isn’t a very nice person, it’s a good idea to pay attention. Your friend doesn’t have to like all your other friends or relatives, but they should be polite and respectful around them. If a friend is often abrasive or rude, you need to face the possibility that they aren’t a positive influence in your life.
If your feelings for your friend are getting in the way of your friendship—for example, if you can’t bear to hear about their boyfriend or girlfriend because you get jealous—it may be best to see or speak to your friend less often. You don’t necessarily have to stop being friends with them forever, but taking some time apart and meeting new people may help.
A real friend will not bully you, and neither will they stand by and let someone treat you badly. For example, they should not laugh when someone else makes you the butt of a cruel joke. Someone who is OK with seeing others treat you with disrespect is not a trustworthy friend.
Possessive friends get jealous when you spend time with other people. Their demands for attention can quickly become exhausting, and they might continually ask you for reassurance. If you’ve asked your friend for more space, but they still make you feel smothered, it may be time to break up with them.
Sometimes, friends that you’ve known for a long time might not seem able to realize that you aren’t the same person that you were many years ago. If you often feel annoyed because your friend insists on treating you as though you never changed, it might be best to let them go.
For example, you may have been shy in high school but gradually became more confident in your twenties. If your old high school friends keep treating you as though you are still shy, you’ll probably feel frustrated with them.
If you make plans with your friend but secretly hope that they will cancel, it’s probably time to move on. It can be simpler to go along with your friend’s wishes and meet up, but it’s hard to pretend that you are enjoying yourself. Eventually, your friend will probably notice that you’d rather not be around them.
If you can’t remember the last time you had fun with your friend, you may have grown apart. Your sense of humor might not match theirs anymore, or you might not like the same activities. If your friendship isn’t bringing any joy to your life and hasn’t been fun for a long time, it may be time to give up on it.
It’s difficult to be friends with someone if you don’t respect them. You can lose respect for many reasons.
For example, perhaps your friend has made a series of poor choices, and you’ve started questioning their judgment. Or maybe they have started spending a lot of time with someone you think is a bad influence. When your friend is friends with someone you don’t like, you might lose respect for them if their other friend appears to be a toxic person.
If you recognize some of these signs, you may wonder how to end the friendship with minimal drama.
Here are your main options to stop being friends with someone:
- Gradually reduce the amount of time you spend with your friend and withdraw contact until the friendship fades away. If you’d prefer to end the friendship without confrontation, this is usually the best solution. You can also check this article on signs that it’s a good idea to stop reaching out to a friend.
- Have a “breakup conversation” or write a letter to formally end the friendship.
- Cut off your friend without explanation if they are abusive and make you feel unsafe.
You might need to combine these approaches. For example, if you distance yourself from your friend, but they don’t take the hint, a direct face-to-face conversation may be necessary. We have an article on how to end a friendship that contains in-depth advice on this topic.
Here are 4 tips when you want to end a friendship:
- Avoid using mutual friends as messengers. Do not ask someone to tell your former friend that you want to dump them. Involving a third party makes drama and misunderstandings more likely. When you want to end a friendship with someone in your group, it’s usually best to do it alone.
- Do not gossip about your ex-friend or spread rumors. If someone asks you why you are no longer friends, keep your explanation brief, factual, and polite. Speaking badly about your ex-friend, even if they mistreated you, can make you come across as immature. If you have mutual friends, continue to see them as usual and allow them to decide whether they want to be friends with you, your ex-friend, both of you, or neither of you.
- Be prepared for the fallout. If you are ending a friendship with someone toxic, they may react badly, for example, by getting angry or spreading malicious gossip about you. Try to accept that you cannot control how your ex-friend will react. Depending on the situation, you may need to block them on social media or be prepared to walk away if they confront you in public. You may want to choose someone to confide in. Ideally, this should not be a mutual friend—try to avoid putting someone in a position where they feel they have to choose between you and your ex-friend.
- Focus on making new friends. Ending a friendship can be upsetting, particularly if you have known your ex-friend for a long time or they were your best friend. Making an effort to meet new people and grow your social circle may help you move on.
On average, we lose half the people in our social circle every 7 years. Although some friendships can last for decades, it’s more usual to make new friends during different stages of your life. For example, when you graduate college, you might make new friends at your first full-time job.
It’s possible for best friends to last for a lifetime, but it’s not the norm. Over time, your life circumstances will probably change, and this can affect your friendship. For example, if you don’t see each other very much, you may grow apart.
The average person has 15 people they can call on for advice or sympathy in times of need, including 5 people in their close social circle. But these numbers can vary depending on several factors, including a person’s sex, with women tending to have slightly more contacts than men.
It depends on personality type and preference; there is no universal rule. Research shows that extroverts usually have slightly larger social networks compared to introverts. However, most of us need some social interaction for good mental health, and friends can meet this need.