Breaking up is never easy — but sometimes, it’s harder with a friend. Your friends are the ones who support you when that guy you thought was The One (capital “O”) breaks your heart, you leave your job, or a family member dies. They’re there to laugh with you about that one time at karaoke night back in college, or go to brunch, take a boxing class you wanted to try, or get a glass of wine after work when you just need one. As Samantha Jones so wisely stated, “We made a deal ages ago… men, babies, it doesn’t matter. We’re soulmates.” But as sad as it is, sometimes ending a friendship is completely necessary for our own wellbeing.
On the other hand, we’re all just humans, and humans make mistakes. Sometimes it is worth sticking through the problems and working through it with your friend. But how do you know if it’s simply a rough patch, or if it’s a toxic relationship? We have to be aware that some disappointment and anger is normal in any relationship. In fact, on account of that human thing, they’re pretty unavoidable. Not every relationship you feel like is unrepairable actually is, and not every friendship you feel the need to cling onto should be kept. Here are seven questions to ask yourself to be able to tell whether or not you and your friend have bad blood (thanks for the inspo, T Swift).
1. What is it you actually want from your friend?
If you’re ready to leave a friendship because you feel like you give more than they do, think about what would make you feel better. Would it be enough for your friend to just acknowledge the ways in which you give effort and thank you for them, would you want them to call you more, or does it have to do with how often they see you? Have you been giving more effort because your friend is requiring it of you, or is it because you simply wanted to put in that effort? Once you identify what you would actually and specifically need from your friend, ask yourself if you’ve ever voiced that need to them. If you haven’t, it seems unfair to expect your friend to change when they don’t know they need to.
2. Would you be able to give your friend what you expect from them?
Is the issue that they’re not supportive of your romantic relationship, or they don’t make enough time for you? Think about if you were in their position, with their life and opinions. Would you be able to support something for your friend that you didn’t agree with? Would you be able to see your friend every week if you had a grueling work schedule and a busy family life? Be sure that your expectations are not only reasonable, but are also fair and empathetic. Of course, we should expect to feel happy and loved in all of our relationships, but friendship is also about being compassionate and not expecting from them what we wouldn’t be able to give. However, if your problem with them is that they can be mean or dismissive and you know you give them kindness and support, then that’s a relationship that’s worth reconsidering.
3. Did they only wrong you one time, or is it a long pattern of things?
If your friend goes through something and acts distant, or said a hurtful comment to you in front of your other friends, or has bad behavior when they’re out that you can’t support, all of these things individually would be something worth communicating about and working through. But all of these things together? That might mean the relationship is bringing you more harm than happiness. Think about whether or not the problem is just temporary or if it’s been a longtime pattern, and if it’s just one specific problem, or if it’s multiple.
4. If you met them today, would you still be friends?
Sometimes, we hang on to bad relationships because we have so much history and memories that are hard to forget. But as we grow, we change, and sometimes two people grow apart rather than growing together. Are your differences or issues so detrimental that if you met your friend today, you would not like them at all? Asking yourself this question might show the difference between a friendship worth hanging onto and a friendship that is overexpired.
5. Does it have to be all or nothing?
Maybe your friend has let you down too many times, or maybe you don’t agree on something big. Think about if there’s a way to make the relationship a new one — meaning, enough distance where you no longer feel hurt by being let down or have to disagree over the issue. Does your relationship have to be BFFs or not talking at all? Maybe distance could be good for a relationship, but you can still have your friend in your life. Is there a different type of friendship you might still be able to enjoy?
6. If the relationship was a jar of pennies, would it be full or empty?
Whenever dealing with friendship troubles throughout my life, my mom has always asked me, “If your friendship was a jar, and you put in a penny for each time they made you happy, and took a penny out for each time they hurt you, how full would the jar be?” It has been the most helpful way to reflect on whether or not a friendship is worth hanging onto. If your jar is almost empty, meaning you feel more hurt than happy, the relationship isn’t bringing anything valuable to your life. But if you think back on all the happy times you’ve had together and realize the jar is a lot more full than you thought, the relationship might be worth saving.
7. What would forgiveness feel like in this situation?
The word “forgiveness” gets thrown around often, but what forgiving really means is accepting that someone did something you did not feel good about, trusting it won’t happen again, and then completely moving on. Sometimes, when it comes to the people in our lives that we love, we have to accept that they are who they are, and form a new relationship with them based off of this understanding. Imagine if you just forgot about the problem — would you be able to accept your friend for who they are? Would you be able to have a good, happy relationship again? Is the issue unavoidable, and there’s no other happiness in the relationship to go off of? Bottom line, life is meant to be enjoyed — surround yourself with the people that help you enjoy it. Forgive, forget, but don’t waste your life with people who aren’t worth it.