Important questions to ask before you end a friendship

The friend breakup is as difficult and painful as any other. We all know this. Throwing away years of friendship seems so drastic. It seems so dramatic. For lack of a better, fancier word, it just seems so sad. But sometimes, it’s necessary. Sometimes, no matter the years spent in the friendship, no matter the secrets shared, no matter the number of times they pulled you out of the metaphorical gutter, you need to move on. But how can you tell if it’s time to end a friendship? How can you tell if this is a small rough patch or if the friendship has become nothing but rough patches?

It’s so incredibly hard to weigh a friendship to decide whether it’s worth keeping. It feels like some sort of betrayal. You feel like a terrible person for even letting the thought cross your mind. There are so many “buts” here. But what about the time she did this for me? But what about this time when she was there for me? But what about forgiveness? It’s nearly impossible to be logical and unemotional about the situation, and we all know it’s even more impossible to make good decisions when your emotions are involved. Here are some questions that will help you decide if this person is a healthy addition to your life, or if it’s time for you to move on without them.

If there was a fight, what did you fight about? More importantly, what did you really fight about?

We have been trained to avoid conflict and fight through subtext. Instead of telling someone what is really wrong, we pick at something else that’s easier to be angry about. If this was a petty fight, it pretty much goes without saying that it will blow over and your friendship will continue. Friends fight. It’s OK.

But if the fight was about something deeper, you need to ask yourself if it is something can be fixed. Like, maybe it’s less about them accidentally staining the dress they borrowed, and more about being felt taken for granted. Ask other friends about it. Chances are, they will have some insight because they can view it from the outside. Don’t try and make them choose sides (no matter how tempting it will be to hear someone take your side), but try and get some honest outside opinions about how or if you can move forward.

Is this friend willing to work on it with you?

This is really important. If the friend in question isn’t willing to talk or listen, then there isn’t much you can do. It’s about more than simply saying “sorry,” or “I was wrong.” Apologies don’t fix problems. Apologies are like band-aids that cover the wounds until you talk enough (or enough time passes) to actually heal them. Apologies are important, but it’s more important to explain and discover why an action happened rather than just covering it up with an apology. If you hurt a friend, or they hurt you, it didn’t happen without reason. People (outside Bond films) don’t wake up hatching evil plans to hurt you or your feelings. If you can talk openly and honestly and apologize accordingly, then perhaps your friendship has a chance of growing.

Are you just looking for an apology? Are they just waiting for an apology?

Apologies are emotionally satisfying after fights because they tell you that you were right. It’s essentially winning the fight. But that’s not what true friendship is about. If you just want to win, or if you suspect that they just want to win, then perhaps it’s time to move on. This may suggest that you don’t value the friendship as much as you value being “right.”

Admitting fault is one of the bravest things we can do as humans. Many times, it takes more guts than jumping off a cliff with your eyes closed sans parachute. However, anyone can speak the words, “I’m wrong. I’m sorry.” Will “sorry” ensure that it will never happen again? Will proving that you were right make you feel better if the cost is your friendship? The real strength comes after. Okay, you are sorry. But what are you going to do to fix it? Friend fights are usually much more complex than someone being right or wrong.

When you think about why you like them, are most of your memories in the past?

Sometimes we clutch onto relationships because, at one point in time, they were solid and seemed to be without flaw. Friendships are no different. If you take stock of your friendship and you see good times in the past, but you struggle to find any in the present, then it may be time to move forward. You can still love them, but life is too short to spend your time with people who bring you down. It seems selfish, but we can’t grow as people if there is weight on our roots.

Ultimately, how does this person make you feel?

Overall, does this person make you happy? Do they make a good addition to your life? Do they support you? Do they stand by your side? Do they make you feel stronger? Are you happy when you are around them? If you pause before any of these questions, or if you really have to search to find positive examples, then this person is probably not a positive addition to your life anymore. But if they’re usually a force for good in your life, take a minute before you decide it’s time to put the brakes on your relationship.

Do they treat you the same way you treat them?

It’s fairly easy to slip into a one sided relationship, romantic or platonic. Take a quick stock of your relationship. This doesn’t mean keep score. It’s counterproductive to line up each other’s mistakes against one another. Everyone makes mistakes, but true friends learn to forgive. True friends set aside judgement and help you fix your mistakes or at least move beyond them. Beyond the slightly more trivial things (like one of you always pick up the cab fare, or one of you is always traveling to meet the other), is your relationship equal? Do you feel they support you the same way you support them?

Do you feel you can be honest with this person? Do you feel you can trust them?

This can be about anything. Sometimes we’re scared to tell our friends the truth because we don’t want to hear the harsh truth back. For instance, when we are in bad relationships, we are tempted to avoid telling our friends about whatever crappy thing our person did. We avoid it because we know they will give us an honest opinion. Good friends will tell you that you deserve better and should leave the relationship, but it’s quite scary to face this kind of truth. This is normal. Sometimes we aren’t ready to hear the harsh truth from our best friends. But, if you are afraid to be honest about things because you are scared they will judge you, or get angry with you, than it’s a problem. Further, if you feel you can’t trust them with your thoughts, secrets, feelings, what have you, then it’s an even bigger problem. All relationships need trust. It’s the oxygen they survive upon.

Good friends are incredibly sacred. They are your chosen family. You owe it to yourself and your friend to try and mend whatever broke between you. But there’s still a line. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel you have exhausted all your options. Your friendship and the good times won’t just disappear. They will always be there, but unfortunately people change and so must the times. You can still love them and wish them well, but you need to care for yourself. You need to surround yourself with others who care about you just as much. You deserve it.

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