5 ways to know it’s time to break up with your BFF, even if it feels scary

My decision to break up with one of my best friends a few years ago was far from easy. I weighed the pros (she was fun!) and the cons (she was selfish!), which ultimately led me to choose the best path for my mental health—ending the friendship. Along the way, though, there were questions I asked myself, substantiated by a therapist, that were more in-depth than a simple pro and con list. Through these queries, I learned that sometimes you have to be self-serving when it comes to matters of your heart and mind. If you, too, are thinking of breaking up with your best friend but aren’t sure whether or not it’s the right decision, consider the prompts below.

1Are they adding value to my life?

Whether it be with technology (how is social media serving you?) or people (how is your best friend serving you?), I started asking myself this question when I began to put my mental health and my happiness first. If your BFF is adding more bad energy than good to your life, you should ask yourself why you’re still sticking around. Clinical and health psychologist Dr. Priyanka Upadhyaya says that “friends are the soul food that make our lives richer, meaningful, and buffer us from loneliness and isolation—which are linked to physical illness and depression.” So, if they’re not feeding your soul, it might be healthiest for you to break up with your best friend.

2Are they helping me grow as a person?

Like a plant without water, people are capable of stunting your growth. Your BFF may be someone you keep in your social circle or emergency contacts simply because they’re someone you’ve known since childhood. You feel guilty letting them go. But if they’re holding you back from manifesting your own destiny and becoming the best version of yourself, you’ll always wonder who’s waiting for you on the other side. The person waiting for you may be someone you’re more proud to be or it may be a friend you’re more proud to know. 

3Are they bringing me down?

If your friend is constantly putting you down and gossiping about you, reconsidering your friendship is your healthiest bet. “When I turned 40, I sat down and took careful stock of the friendship because I’d realized that I’d spent the entire friendship feeling she undermined me often, made jokes at my expense, and never found a lick of joy in my successes and accomplishments as my other friends traditionally always did and do,” says Donna Molesworth, a writer from New York who broke up with one of her best friends. “Many things in my life blossomed after I walked away from her negative energy.”

4Is our relationship a two-way street?

You’ve heard it before: creating a give-and-take relationship is crucial to sustaining a marriage. Well, the same principle applies to friendships. If your BFF is constantly seeking your advice, personal belongings, energy, and time but never gives those elements back in return, your friendship is only moving in one direction. If you feel you’ve been given the short end of the stick in your friendship, it’s time to have a mature discussion about it. Hopefully, your friend will be receptive and try to improve. But some relationships don’t have the dynamic for conflict resolution. If your friend tunes out your constructive criticism, you should consider telling them to hit the road so you can make space in your life for someone who puts in the same amount of effort as you do.

5Can I rely on them during difficult times?

“We all can be happy, helpful, and available when things are going well. But so often I work with clients who lose close or ‘best’ friends when life throws a curveball,” says Dr. Upadhyaya. They may be a fair-weather friend—those who you can have fun with, but who drop the ball when a difficult situation comes up. If they’re not there when you’re going through a divorce, physical ailment, mental health issue, loss of income, or other major life circumstance, they’re not a true best friend. “After a year of listening to utterly draining nonstop drama about her affair, I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting on a very big medical test that I had told her about and she called and texted repeatedly because she wanted to discuss a falling out with a mutual friend. She was done!” says 34-year-old Stephanie, a writer from Georgia who broke up with one of her best friends. If friends truly are the family we choose, we should be choosing wisely.

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