Friendships: When and How to End Them!

Take a look at the friendships that nag you to no end and most likely you will see that, from your perspective, trust is the missing ingredient.
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Friendships -- they're something we all crave and it's no wonder; they provide us with support, comfort and security. They add joy to our lives, help us cope with adversity, stimulate our interest and make us feel connected -- as though we belong.

Friendships -- they often define who we are, where we go and how other people perceive us. They can motivate us, inspire us and develop us. There is considerable research on friendships indicating that those who have them enjoy social prestige, better mental health, better physical health and are more successful in life. For these reasons, we often value friendships as if they are gold.

Nobody throws out gold, especially these days; if anything, we invest in gold like we invest time and energy into our friendships. Most of us in fact, assume friendships are to be highly valued. Once you have one, you do your best to nurture it, to keep it. Naturally, this assumes that the friendship holds value.

Yet, for many people this is not true. For many, therapists will tell you, friendships are a source of pain, anxiety and turmoil. For these people, friendships might be gold, but in reality they are fool's gold.

Because friendships are so valuable, we assume we should hold on to them no matter what. We rationalize their value by remembering "all the good things they've done," or excuse their actions with "she/he didn't really mean it." We keep the friendship, but a few months later, or maybe sooner, the gold has turned back to "----." The assumption that we should hold on to friendships no matter what is far from valid.

When is it time to end a friendship? We all have our answers. For some, it's a lack of reciprocity -- they don't give back. Others say that "they never listen." Some say, "we've grown apart -- we have nothing in common." These reasons often end relationships, but I have found for most people, including myself, the major cause of ending a friendship is when there is a violation or betrayal of basic values, namely trust.

Trust, psychologists and their research will tell you, is the cornerstone of friendship. You might have common interests galore and lunch with your friend weekly, but it is trust that makes the friendship golden. It is trust that allows you to confide your thoughts and feelings and a lack of it that keeps the friendship superficial. In times of need, when you need your good friends, I bet your selection is based on those you can trust. In fact, most people have friendships where the frequency of meeting is rare or separated by thousands of miles, but the friendship is still strong because of trust.

Take a look at the friendships that nag you to no end and most likely you will see that, from your perspective, trust is the missing ingredient. If you are unsure, do a quick trust assessment of your friendships. Ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Do you feel comfortable sharing information that you do not want others to know?
  • Do you feel comfortable leaving the person alone with personal papers in the room or do you think they would snoop?
  • Have they broken confidences in the past?
These questions might seem trivial but are often the ones researchers use to assess friendship trust. If your answers suggest a lack of trust, your welfare in the long term might be better off if you become the terminator. Yet, this is where most people get stuck -- ending the friendship. For whatever reason, the majority of people hold on to these friendships with the consequence of inevitably being hurt and disappointed, followed by the cliche "I thought I could trust you." If you want to to take another course of action and end the friendship, you can use one of the following strategies:

1. The Put Off: When the ex-friend to be calls to get together, say you are busy. Create many excuses in advance to avoid redundancy. Keep conversations short without being rude. Designed for those who like to avoid confrontation and do not want to hurt the ex-friends feelings.
2.No Reply: Do not return phone calls no matter how many you get. It requires that you "harden up," and use the self statement: Nothing to feel guilty about. This is also good for people who want to avoid confrontation and do not want to waste anymore energy.
3.The Truth: Simply tell the person why you no longer want to be friends. Often the most difficult to practice, but it is usually the best as it provides the opportunity for your ex-friend to increase his or her self awareness as to what he or she contributed to your decision. A major advantage of using the truth is that it allows you to experience closure, and it gives a boost to your self esteem. For those of you who use the truth, you might find mentally rehearsing the conversation helpful, and remember to stay calm during the encounter.
4.Forgive, but do not Forget: This is for those who still want the friendship even though they have been betrayed. You forgive your friend, but never forget that they are truly not trustworthy. This will allow you to still enjoy his or her company.

We all need friendships, but you will be better off to keep the ones that are real gold, not fool's gold.

For those of you who have ended friendships, I would like to hear why and how you did it.