One of the best parts of life is walking through it with a great friend. There’s something almost magical about spending a day experiencing belly laughs with someone who ‘gets’ and accepts you, fatal flaw and all. But what about those relationships that feel forced or imbalanced, or worse, stressful and toxic? Those people who ignite anxious tummy tumbles when their names show up in your WhatsApp because, for whatever reason, you don’t want to respond.
Though we tell ourselves that we need to be ‘polite’ and engage every text that pops up on our phones, the reality is that we all have different values and expectations, and quite frankly, not everyone is meant to be our friend. Still, let’s face it; even when we know deep down disengaging is the right thing to do, we often don’t make a move. Sometimes this is because we aren’t sure how to do it without hurting someone’s feelings and other times, we fear suffering some kind of social backlash from mutual parties, but according to experts, the most common reason is simply that setting boundaries makes a lot of us feel guilty.
“Many of us do not trust ourselves when it comes to ending relationships because we are worried we may be overreacting or being ‘mean’,” explains Relationship Therapist, Jennine Estes, MFT who says this can happen when someone is perfectly nice but not your cup of tea (such as that sweet coworker who keeps asking you to hang out after work)or when dealing with someone who knows how to ‘flip the switch’ on their behavior. “Pulling back from a healthy person might make you feel bad, but they will usually respect your decision. But when you’re dealing with a highly manipulative person, such as a narcissist, you may be love bombed as soon as they start feeling you pull away. This can leave you feeling confused and questioning your initial assessment which is why they do it,” she says. Ultimately, knowing when to walk away comes down to how the relationship makes you feel. “Just like your home, you have a right to decide who comes into your inner circle and who you share your life with. Exercising that right doesn’t make you a ‘bad’ person, it’s an essential part of being a healthy adult and practicing meaningful self-care,” she says.
While no one can tell you who you should and shouldn’t have in your life, I have put together a list of 16 traits that I personally feel are good reasons to walk away. Take a look and share your tips in the comments below.
You can’t trust them. Listen, everyone tells a fib now and then (cough: late trains, Zoom fails) but there is a big difference between saying the stain on your friend’s dress doesn’t look as bad as it does and making up entire narratives about yourself, or worse, others. Healthy relationships are based on trust and people bond through vulnerability and intimacy. If you can’t count on the person to be who they say they are and do what they say they will do, what’s the point of having them in your life?
They make you feel negative about yourself. Whether it’s a friend who constantly makes backhanded compliments, the pal who only wants to talk to you when no one ‘cooler’ is around, or the relative who refuses to stop reminding you of past mistakes, hanging out with people who devalue you not only feels terrible, it’s bad for your health. A University of Michigan study from 2016, says that “stress and [negative] relationship quality directly affects the cardiovascular system”. A study from the British Civil Service supports this research and showed that ‘adverse’ personal relationships cause a 34% increase in the risk of developing heart problems, even after taking weight, social support, and other factors into consideration. Bottom line: if someone is constantly lowering your mood and raising your cortisol levels, it’s time to walk away.
They don’t acknowledge invitations, cancel at the last minute or worse, just don’t show up. When someone asks you to join them in celebrating a milestone or offers to host you at a special event, they are telling you that you matter to them. The least you can do is give them the respect to graciously acknowledge their kind gesture and give them a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in a reasonable amount of time. Using silence as a no is cowardly and childish and cancelling last minute with some lame story is just inexcusably rude. Give a big thumbs-down to that energy — and their spot to someone else.
Social climbers. Oh, the love bombing. The discarding. The using. Embarrassing for them. Exhausting for us.
That friend you’ve outgrown. While we are all for lifelong friendships, we also understand where Helen Gurley Brown was coming from when she equated holding onto all of your old friends with hoarding all of your old clothes. A friendship doesn’t have to last forever to be meaningful, and if you no longer have things in common or it feels forced, you’re not doing anyone any favors by pushing yourself to engage. In fact, you are very likely making the other party feel bad as energy doesn’t lie. Being honest about the fact that you’re not feeling the friendship may feel harsh in the moment, but much like giving clarity and closure in dating, it is the right thing to do.
The people in your past who hate on you for bettering yourself. Muhammad Ali was onto something when he said, ‘The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.’ The whole point of life is to experience it, to grow, learn, develop and evolve. While some people may challenge your desire to level-up, you don’t need to apologize for it or explain your reasoning for wanting to become a better version of yourself, and frankly, asking you to is weird.
The ex you stay in contact who is no good for you. We are not saying that exes can’t be friends, but there’s a big difference between maintaining a real friendship and staying connected to someone who brought toxicity and drama into your life. If you’re responding to messages or staying connected on social media because you feel like you have to be a good person (or you’re waiting for them to become a better one) it’s time to unfollow online — and in real life.
The ‘friend’ who is just f%cking hard work. You know the ones I am talking about. The ones who never give you the benefit of the doubt, demand your full attention at all times, compete with your other relationships or make everything some kind of drama. Life is complex and friendships should be a refuge. If you’re stressing every time you get a text or are scared to share some good news, it may be time to reconsider how ‘friendly’ this relationship actually is.
People who are up their own a**. If your friend is constantly treating every conversation like they are reading their latest press release, it may be time to unsubscribe.
Anyone who abuses you in any way. This is non-negotiable, and no, they will not change.
Toxic family members. Saying it loud for the people in the back: Just because you share someone’s DNA doesn’t mean you need to spend your life at their mercy. You are here on this earth to have a life experience that belongs to you — there’s no real honour in wasting your precious moments allowing yourself to be disrespected out of some misguided sense of obligation.
‘Bird in hand’ relationships. Staying in relationships with people because you don’t want to be alone isn’t fair to them or to you. It also doesn’t make room for the right fit, but you already know this.
The mate who makes you do all of the work. Whether it’s their life circumstances or their feelings about you, if you are initiating contact more than 60% of the time, they are simply not as invested in your relationship as you are.
People who are rude (to you or waiters). Grown-ups worth knowing are those who can use their words in a way that gets their point across without coming across like a bully.
Those dating-app pen-pals you never meet up with. We hate to break the news to you but MikeLDN44 is probably married.
Anyone you just don’t want in your life. Period