Last week, I finally did it.
I started cutting ties with people I know I need to leave in the past. It’s not as scary as you might think. In fact, it’s damn refreshing.
Some people will have you believe that burning bridges is some forbidden social faux pas, but I argue that feeling stuck in a ‘friendship’ that isn’t working for you is so much worse than breaking social norms.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t your ticket to be an asshole.
Especially if it’s a situation where you’ve just grown apart.
You don’t even need to explain to the other person why they’re getting phased out. The honesty is for you, whether you share it is your decision. The important thing is to get toxic people out of your life.
But how do you know who’s toxic for you?
I’m so glad you asked.
1. The One-Way Street
Friendships are based on two primary components:
- Your expectations for the other person.
- Your expectations for yourself.
Unfortunately, there can be a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between the two.
Some people will try to hold you to fairy godmother standards, while assuming that just showing up is doing plenty on their part.
It’s exhausting! It’s not a friendship, it’s work.
To recognize this person, you don’t need to keep score. It’s never really a good idea to do that in any kind of relationship. Nothing will ever be perfectly even, but it should be fairly obvious when things get way out of balance.
This is the kind of thing that gets waaaaaaayyyyy under my skin.
The bullshit artist. The person who is always down to agree to something, but can never follow through. Because you know, they’re sick, or their car broke down, or a friend randomly came to town, or they got the date wrong, or, or,or.
Or the truth: they’re always looking for a better option…and you’re the lowest thing on the totem pole.
They may spit a good game when you run into them at work, school, etc., but if someone always cancels on you or doesn’t make time for you, they don’t care about you. Period.
Stop eating their grade AAA bologna and walk the hell away.
3. They Bring You Down
Misery loves company, right? And if you can’t find misery, you can always create it. It’s more than a little contagious.
If someone spends all of their time telling you about all the things and people they hate, they probably aren’t looking for a friend, they just want someone to agree with them.
And it can be hard to tell this person no, because they clearly need help. It’s one thing if someone is in a temporary slump, but it’s a whole other ballgame if you’re dealing with Eeyore.
You will never be able to give this person what they need, and it’s not your responsibility either. Leave it to the professionals to help them come out the other side.
If every hang out session turns into a pity party, it’s time to say goodbye.
4. Values Change
Try to remember what you cared most about 5 years ago….it’s probably not the same thing you care most about right now.
Sometimes friends evolve in the same direction, and sometimes one of them starts talking about their unyielding support for Donald Trump. (I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative, that’s just crazy…especially if you’re Canadian).
When you’ve had a friendship for years, it can be really difficult to let go, but your values dictate everything about your life, and sometimes people start caring about things that aren’t compatible with you.
5. There’s No Trust
I feel like everyone has that ‘friend’ who’s been around since childhood another vulnerable time in your life, but just sucks as a person.
They’re ready to talk about anyone the second they leave the room, and you know (at least on some level) that includes you. But hey, that’s just how they are, and your bond goes deeper than that, right? And anyway, you just never tell them anything you don’t want getting out.
I would counter: what’s the point? Why put energy into someone you can honestly say you don’t trust? You could just as easily put that effort into building new relationships on a foundation of trust and mutual respect.
Why tolerate someone you think could stab you in the back at any moment?
6. They’re Abusive
Having control feels good. It feels really good. But some people take it too far and try to control everything and everyone in their life.
It could start small. They might brush off your feelings. They might start poking fun a little harder. They might tell you what to do. They might refuse to compromise. They might say something cruel to you in the name of ‘keeping it real’, or worse, ‘keeping it 100’.
But stuff like that tends to only get worse.
If you don’t feel like you have a say in your friendship, this is a BIG red flag.
When things start to get abusive, it’s probably not a good idea to try to confront the person (safety first!). Just let the relationship fade out naturally. Become the flakey person and let them end it.
Good friends are the people who pick you up when you’re down, who give you respect, who listen to you, who show up for you any time it’s physically possible to do so. If you’re not getting these things from someone or they’re actively disrespecting you, it’s ok to drop them from your life.
I’ve done friend purges many times throughout my life, and it’s always had a positive result. But I don’t really need to tell you when to end something. You know when it’s time to end it.
Just give yourself permission.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever had to end a friendship. Did you tell the person? Did you let it fade naturally? How did it feel?