Knowing When to End Friendships

Single Woman Alone Swinging On The Beach

It’s always better to be alone than in bad company.

Do you know the one thing that I can guarantee you about every relationship in your life right now?

It will eventually end.

It’s true, isn’t it?

Every relationship that you’re in right now will end, either voluntarily or through death. That is the one thing that ties together every relationship that you currently have, or ever will have, for the rest of your life.

Whoa.

Some people might find this little fun fact somewhat depressing, but I don’t at all. To me, this is overwhelmingly positive because it reminds me to do two simple, but life-altering things on a daily basis:

1) Deeply cherish all of the enriching and healthy relationships in my life, because I don’t know when they will end.

2) Stop wasting my limited time on earth in unhealthy relationships that drain me and bring me mindless drama.

I know that this is painfully obvious, but the key to a positive life is to maximize the amount of healthy relationships in our lives, while minimizing the amount of unhealthy ones.

This all sounds simple enough, but it’s possible that you might have some negative influences in your life who you feel that you’re stuck with, like co-workers, family members or spouses (remember, you’re not stuck with them, unless you choose to be stuck with them.)

But what about our friends?

Having co-workers, family members and spouses who bring misery, pain and drama into our lives is bad enough, but aren’t we doubling-down on crazy by allowing friends into our lives who do the same?

I think so. 

Fountain or Drain?

Be a fountain, not a drain.” -Rex Hudler

When you think about the relationships in your life, ask yourself this:

Do they fill you up like a fountain, or do they leave you empty like a drain?

(Side note: Remember, relationships are two-way streets–it’s a worthwhile exercise to ask ourselves if we are fountains or a drains in all of our relationships too.)

In terms of the relationships in my life, I’ll admit that the struggle is real. The professional and personal relationships in my life are currently a mixed bag of fountains and drains.

When it comes to my friends though, I am proud to say that I only have fountains and no drains. I deeply urge you to do the same.

Do you have a friend (or worse, friends) who chronically complains, fails to keep commitments, limits your growth, discourages you, takes your kindness for granted, creates drama, treats you like crap, and makes you feel emotionally drained whenever you’re done talking to him/her? If so, then you already know what I’m going to ask you next.

Why are you doing this to yourself???

Life is hard enough without having to voluntarily stick with friends who are making it exponentially harder for you to be happy, peaceful and sane.

So, I don’t do it anymore.

If you are also committed to lovingly walk away from the “friendship drains” in your life, here’s what could be waiting for you on the other side.

Wow, You’ve Changed…

Even though I launched The Positivity Solution a little over two years ago, I’m not a newbie to this positivity stuff. I’ve been working hard on making meaningful positive changes in my life for the better part of this decade, and it hasn’t always been easy.

And as I’ve been working on myself, there has been a phrase that I’ve heard every now and then. It is usually said as a compliment, but sometimes it isn’t. Either way, I still hear it:

“Wow, you’ve changed.”

That’s true, I have changed.

I used to be a chronically complaining, gossipy, insecure, constantly terrified, self-hating, broken shell of a man who could have taught Doctoral classes on “How to fool everyone into thinking that you’ve got it all together when you’re really dying inside.”

So yeah, I’ve changed.

The changes that I have made in the past 10 years have saved me from slowly (and inevitably) destroying myself in every way possible, so in hindsight, I’m cool with these changes. Thankfully, many people agree.

But some people didn’t see it that way.

I’ve learned that whenever you decide to make a drastic positive change in your life (for example: losing weight, cleaning up your eating habits, quitting smoking, giving up chronic complaining, etc.) you will find that some friends may not be very supportive of the new-and-improved you.

Instead of encouraging you when you find the inner strength to skip your 10 a.m. smoke break, choose salad instead of the deep-fried chicken, or refuse to participate in the gossip session, they might get annoyed. Some may even try to sabotage your efforts. You may even hear the passive-aggressive line, “wow, you’ve changed…” in hopes of shaming you into staying the same.

Why would a friend do this to you?

Because, some people don’t like it when you try to leave the pack.

In my case, when I finally figured out that engaging in daily negativity was only adding to the problems in my life that I was desperately trying to fix, I decided to do something about it.

I asked my friends to stop talking poorly about people when those people weren’t in the room to defend themselves. I asked my friends what they could do to make their problems better instead of complaining about them while doing nothing. I asked my friends if they were interested in doing something active instead of sitting around eating Burger King while playing video games for hours on end (which we did practically every day.)

It didn’t go over very well. I’m sure that you can guess what I heard in return.

“Wow, you’ve changed…”

And they were right.

Seeing the Future

Show me your friends and I will show you your future.” -Anonymous

Over the years as I kept pushing forward on my personal positivity journey, I lost touch with all of those guys. People change, relationships evolve, and it’s all part of this crazy journey that we call life.

I walked away from those friendships not only because it was draining to continue, but I was scared of what my future would look like if I stayed in these relationships every day. I am convinced that the quote, “show me your friends and I will show you your future” is 100% true.

I don’t care if there’s a guy out there rocking spandex and a cape who proudly calls himself “Super Positivity Man,” I will bet next month’s mortgage payment that his future will be bleak if he surrounds himself with people who drain him every single day.

Here is what I know for sure:

Choosing relationships that encourage and enrich us is the foundation of living a positive life.

In a world where we settle for “good enough” so often, I believe that friendship shouldn’t be one of those things. We all deserve friends who lift us up instead of beat us down, challenge us to be better instead of accepting our excuses, and fill us up instead of drain us.

As I mentioned before, all of our friendships will eventually end. I’m confident that we’ll do what’s necessary to cherish all of our healthy friendships before they do.

The only question that remains is: Do we have the courage to end the unhealthy friendships when it’s necessary to do so?

Your Turn

Have you ever had to end a friendship that you determined was unhealthy for you to continue? Are you currently in a friendship that you know that you should end, but you haven’t pulled the trigger to do something about it? Either way, jump into the comments below and make your voice heard! 

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola

Latest posts by Shola (see all)

Comments

  1. What a great post for your return! Thank you, Shola and welcome back!!

    This really resounds with me. I have seen my friendships change and evolve a lot over my life. It is always painful for me to lose a friend, even one who was not good for me. I am not sure why I hold on to people so tightly, but I do. But this has been a great lesson for me to learn and I completely agree.

    Why allow someone to steal your energy or kill your joy? Those people do not deserve such power! I can’t claim to have been bold or to have told someone to their face that they needed to change or vacate my life, but I have made a conscious effort to simply not spend time with them. Is that bad? Maybe boldness is better?

    Anyway, thank you for your commitment to making our world a better place. I can attest to your success!

    Happy Monday, Shola!

    • Thanks for the very warm welcome back, Kathy! I am SO with you–life is too short to intentionally allow friends into your life who steal your energy and kill your joy. To answer your question, I don’t think that it’s any better to respectfully confront someone about their draining behavior, than it is to consciously stop spending time with them. Either option is cool, as far as I’m concerned. They key is to always play an active role in protecting your happiness, sanity, and inner peace by being conscious about who gets to be in your inner circle 🙂

  2. I can’t believe how timely this post is…do you have psychic powers, Shola?!

    Welcome back 🙂

    I just ran back into a person I was really close to in high school and college. I removed myself from our relationship 4 years ago because of her negativity. I explained to her 4 years ago that I my tolerance level for all the negativity, one-sidedness, and drama had changed and I could no longer be around it. Well yesterday after our last conversation 4 years ago about me removing myself from her drama, we ran back into each other. We greeted one another and I extended myself to give her a hug and we hugged. She wanted to rehash our last conversation from 4 years ago and I agreed. I told her the same thing yesterday as I told her 4 years ago that I’m not okay with one sided friendships and I’m not okay with maintaining friendships with people that complain and talk about their problems the whole entire conversation. I told her I didn’t mind listening to her problems but it started to go into the realm that she really needed to talk to a paid therapist and I was not skilled to be that person. Our conversations were nonstop her problems, I hardly ever got a word in, I started dreading talking to her because I knew at the end of our conversation I would be emotionally drained and I couldn’t take it anymore.

    I don’t know if she really got it or if me explaining myself to her was all in vain. After talking to her she still seemed the same, she talked the whole time yesterday… guess what, now I know that for the last 9 out of 10 years of her marriage it has been really rough, their credit is really bad, they may have one more child, his mom is in hospice and living with them, etc. I introduced her to my fiancé but she doesn’t even know how we met, how long we’ve known one another, or my wedding date because she didn’t even ask because she was busy talking about herself…

    Before we parted ways she asked if I was okay with exchanging phone numbers, which I agreed to because I have no hard feelings, no ill will against her, and I want her to live the best life. I also know that if she contacts me and I notice things are still the same I have no problem telling her the same thing I told her 4 years ago and yesterday.

    • Hey PhillyL–I’m so glad to hear that my timing is still on-point after a couple of months away! I hate to say this, but from my experience, it’s really hard (not impossible) for people to break out of a habit of chronic complaining and negativity–it’s like an addiction. Unfortunately, after all of this time, it looks like your former friend hasn’t changed too much. More importantly though, good for you for having the guts to create boundaries with her, and now that she has your cell number, make sure that the boundary stays crystal clear!

  3. Welcome back Shola!! I am happy to read your post, this one totally hit home for me. I have seen friends leave or simply vanish in thin air. It hurt me a lot in the past, but now I realize this is all part of life. People evolve, change and move on with their lives. I agree when you mention that all relationships have an end. I can proudly say that I enjoyed every friendship/relationship that I had, but also felt bad when they ended. Now I am learning to simply flow with life and accept this rule of life: Nothing lasts forever.

    It might sound depressing, but it has a lot of truth behind it. Its a remainder for us to cherish each moment and to never hold on to people or something. Easier said than done, but its not impossible! what do you think Shola?

    Have a wonderful week!!!

    • Oh, I completely agree Sofia. The fact that nothing lasts forever is a huge part what helps to keep me positive and present. For example, the fact that my daughters won’t be little forever keeps me focused on enjoying every moment, because I know that these times will eventually end. Same with friendships too. I appreciate and love each of my friends, because I don’t know when/how our relationships will end. That may sound depressing to some people, but for me, it keeps me ruthlessly grounded in the present while also being filled with gratitude for their presence in my life. So far, so good!

  4. Shola this was off the chain. From general to specifics it felt like you were revealing yourself and being intimate with the reader.
    While you thoroughly covered friendships perhaps you can spend some time exploring family relationships that can be crippling to one spirit in the future.
    This article was well worth the hiatus you took to replenish. I hope to hear or see you somewhere soon in the future.
    Have you thought about recording theses pieces so that we can hear these lessons on our mp3 players while we exercise at the gym?

    • Thanks so much for the very kind words, Bert! Believe it or not, you hit on something that I’m deeply considering in the future–podcasting. Just like you, when I’m at the gym, I have my favorite podcast/TED talk/motivational recordings filling up my earhole while I’m getting my workout on. I would LOVE to provide motivation to others while they’re driving, exercising, working (etc.), just like others have provided motivation to me. So yes my man, please know that this is officially on my radar. Stay tuned… 😉

  5. Hey Shola,

    It was so wonderful to see your email in my inbox – nice to have you back. Fortunately I’ve found it easy to walk away from friendships that don’t enhance either of our lives. I’m a very loyal person but not to the detriment of my sanity, which has given rise to criticism that I’m unsocial and a weirdo – so be it. If we are afraid of ourselves and being alone we hold on to unhealthy relationships. Love yourself enough to just be with you.

    Have a beautiful week everyone.
    Kat

    • Kat, that is such a life-saving skill to have. It took me many years of renting out space in my life to friends who sucked me dry of every drop of energy (and sanity), before I was able to find the sense to walk away. You nailed it perfectly–it’s all about loving yourself enough to choose being alone over being in bad company 🙂

  6. Patty Alarcon says:

    Hi Shola,

    Welcome back I’ve missed your blog and your topic today hit home for me as I really needed this today. Your so on point and your positive personality is amazing. I will share this with my FB friends as I believe this message can touch so many more.
    Thank you for being so amazing and continuing to inspire us all.

    Kindest regards,

    Patty

    • Hey Patty, it’s so great to see you here! Thanks so much for sharing this with your FB friends, and I’m thrilled to know that the timing of this blog post was perfect for you. Thank you so much for your VERY nice words and I’m glad that this topic was useful for you!

  7. Margaret Bannerman says:

    A very warm welcome back, Shola! I have just ended a Facebook friendship with someone who, on the face of it is a nice, intelligent person, always making available to us, valuable educative information. Turns out she is terribly narcissistic, shoots down well meaning comments and worse still, very gossipy. She accesses friends through their inboxes and bad mouths people. Took time for some of us to realize this terrible behavior. A financial analyst with a very strong accountancy background. Yes, soon as I realized I was onto some toxic friendship, I blocked her off and buy, do I feel so relieved! Thank you always for bringing stuff to the fore!!

    • My pleasure Margaret! That sounds like the epitome of a toxic friendship, and props to you for recognizing it and for blocking her. Isn’t it amazing how freeing it is to walk away from toxicity? Keep walking in the opposite direction, and don’t look back!

  8. Tricia Ramsdell says:

    I always ♡ your posts so much! This one is practically the story of my life over the last 2 years. Fortunately for me, I had a friend that was a fountain and continued to help me cut off the drain. I am blessed! Thank you for sharing your life and your love!

    • That’s awesome Tricia, you ARE blessed to have a friend who is there to help you cut off the drain! Cheers to healthy and enriching friendships, and for having the courage to walk away from the ones that do the opposite 🙂

  9. Welcome back Shola! I really missed you this summer, and I did my best to hold down the Positivity Fort on my end. This friendship topic is I think, underrated. Most of us spend more time with friends than most of our immediate family, and their fountain or drain effect has a huge impact in our lives. I learned from somewhere, that it’s not really accurate that you can tell a true friend by who sticks by you in bad times. Actually, you can tell a true friend by who sticks by you in good times. Man, have I had negativity overflow from “friends” when I’ve lost weight, got a promotion, met a great guy, got married, bought a house, chose to quit partying, etc. Amazing how many of those people first criticized or made snide remarks, and then dropped me when I stuck to my positive changes. This used to hurt so bad, I’d actually feel deeply betrayed, and cried over these failed friendships. I guess now I have a more practical viewpoint, and I just keep doing what I’m doing. You want to come along? Great. You’re not interested? Great. We all are adults and we do what we want to do, and don’t do what we don’t want to do. So it’s not surprising that we all go off in different directions eventually. I think we all think that if we are a loyal friend, our friendships will last forever. Thank you for reminding us that is not usually the case, and it’s ok, even beneficial, to let go.

    • Donna, I missed you too! It looks like your insight is still as sharp as ever during my time away ;). I couldn’t agree more with you–you know who your true friends are during the really bad times and the really good times. The ones who bail on you during the bad times are obvious, but as you mentioned, it’s interesting to see how people react when really good things happen (e.g., buying a house, losing weight, finding love, etc.) Any friend that would choose to drain you with snide remarks and jealousy when things are going well, is definitely not worthy of my friendship these days. Keep doing what you’re doing, my friend!

  10. Nice post Shola, really gets you thinking! I’ve also been obsessing over the shortness of every relationship (and life in general) lately, and realized that you really do need to cut the poisonous people out of your life!

    Because after all, time is our most precious commodity, and wasting it on miserable people is one of the biggest mistakes we can make!

    Nice write-up!

    • Well said, Mathias! Just like you, I have also been pondering the shortness (and unpredictability) of life, and realized how important it is to cut out the unhealthy relationships from my life, ASAP. So far, it has been working out beautifully. And like you said, time is too precious to waste on those who bring us misery and drama. Thanks for the comment!

      • Years ago I had a best friend who rescued me & gave me a place to stay when I split with my husband.
        Sadly though, she later couldn’t stand that I had found my purpose in life, when neither she nor her husband had. He came from a wealthy family so neither needed to work, and their lives were rather purposeless.
        She told me she didn’t want to be friends any more because she had to initiate all of our times together. I was in school, working two jobs and trying to spend a bit of time with my kids. So I no longer had the free time I used to have.
        Years later our paths crossed & she told me how much she missed our friendship. And asked if I wanted to hang out & be friends again.
        I declined, she had already shown me who she was.
        I told her I would always be grateful for her kindness to me in my time of need, but my schedule continued to be very full & I didn’t think I would have the time to spend with her. I didn’t want to be waiting for her to brush me off when our relationship didn’t meet her standards. It was sad.

  11. Shola,
    This reminds me of a poem that I read a few years ago. From what I can find, the author is unknown but it is so very true, I know in my life.

    “Life is a theater so invite your audiences carefully. Not everyone is worthy of having a FRONT ROW seat in our lives. There are some people in your life that need to be loved from a distance.
    It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you let go, or at least minimize your time with draining, negative, incompatible, not going anywhere relationships, friendships, fellowships and family!
    Everyone Can’t be in Your FRONT ROW.
    Observe the relationships around you.
    Pay attention to: Which ones lift and which ones lean?
    Which ones encourage and which ones discourage?
    Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are just going downhill?
    When you leave certain people, do you feel better or feel worse?
    Which ones always have drama or don’t really understand, know
    and appreciate you and the gift that lies within you?” — Author unknown.

Speak Your Mind

*