Should You Break Up?

Readers often ask me if they should break up with their best friend. They’ll run me through a list of offenses–she’s draining, she puts me down, she expects everything of me but never returns the favor–and then ask if it’s time to end the friendship. It’s not really a question I can answer. On paper, it seems pretty obvious. Someone who makes you feel bad about yourself all the time isn’t exactly a friend. But I know there’s backstory, and more to it than that. And while I write about friendship, and have come to consider myself pretty knowledgeable on the topic of making new friends, I’m not a professional in the accredited sense. I’m not a therapist. I can give advice, but I’m not a relationship doctor or anything. Just want us all to be clear on that.

A month ago, I wrote about Self magazine and The Today Show‘s new survey on toxic friends. The gist of which was that 84 percent of women say they’ve had a toxic friend at some point. A companion piece in last month’s Self  offers a quick run down of the questions to ask yourself to decide whether or not should sever the ties.

Says Self:

Break up with her if…

– When you’re with her, you mostly feel drained or irritable.

– This is not a phase, but a regular pattern. Things have felt not-quite-right for as long as you’ve known her.

– You put up with the friendship solely to avoid confrontation.

If, for example, your friend annoys you sometimes but mostly makes you happy, if she seems to simply be going through a rough patch, or if you stick with her because deep down you love her and there’s history, then a break up might not be the solution. But if the relationship meets the criteria above, says Self, you might want to board the train to Splitsville.

It’s a pretty good three-pronged test. How do you feel? How long has this been going on? Why do you stay?

If you have a relationship that’s been causing you grief, maybe now’s the time to rethink it.

Are you in such a relationship? Do this mini friendship test give you clarity? What’s the verdict?



Filed under The Search

6 responses to “Should You Break Up?

  1. Cherie

    That’s a great list, but what do you do if the answers to those questions say “break-up,” but you just don’t want to make that final call? I’m thinking about my relationship with my cousin….. I could justify nwc

  2. Cherie

    Ran out of space … Was going to say I could justify never talking to her again, but she’s the big sister I never had, and it be worse to cut her off than to put up with toxicity…..

    • That’s the tricky part, isn’t it? But to that I would say that your answer to question three is “no,” right? You don’t maintain the relationship solely to avoid confrontation, but because there is a history there.

      There are some people who–no matter how tough your relationship–it’s virtually impossible to cut off without a huge fallout. I’d say that family members fall under that umbrella. My personal suggestion would be to keep this person at a distance, but don’t cut her off. Try to keep your get-togethers infrequent, and make your boundaries clear. Here’s what Self says: “If cutting ties completely would cause too many negative consequences, take a step back by downgrading her to an acquaintance. Continue to be cordial when you run into her, but don’t return her phone calls right away, and don’t make plans to see her.”

  3. I’m in the midst of “making the call” – and it’s proved more difficult than I ever thought it would be! I love all these tips and tests. There’s never going to be one answer across the board, but it sure helps to put things in perspective!

  4. As someone who recently unloaded 300 pounds (two people) of dead weight, I can say, “Oh, how good it feels.” Seriously, as I get older, I just think, my time is valuable. So I should surround myself with people who I enjoy. My test turned out to be, if I leave each get together thinking of all the things they said that annoyed me vs. all the great things we talked about, it’s time. Granted, that had to happen for a few years before I mustered the courage. But man, I defriended them on facebook and it’s so nice. They were so draining and so frustrating. History only takes you so far.

  5. Melissa (danz) Best

    This is really pertenant to where i am now with a couple of friendships. I am a pretty positive person, and have gained a couple of friendships with negative people. The challenge is they are a few people out of a larger group that I really like and feel comfortable around. It’s a tricky situation, trying to break up….maybe I’ll just see about a trial separation and see how that pans out:)

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