Breaking Up With a Toxic Friend

How to know if a friendship is just going through a rocky phase or if it's time to throw in the towel.
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When Meili and Lisette first met, they bonded immediately, forming a fast friendship and becoming practically inseparable. But according to Meili, Lisette became controlling and manipulative, ultimately turning Meili from BFF to unwitting accomplice in some extremely dangerous and illegal activities. Next thing she knows, she's charged, convicted and sitting behind bars.

While I don't know too many women who can say their "frenemy," a person who says she's a friend but acts more like an enemy, has landed them in the clink, many -- including myself -- can relate to having a friendship with someone who's more than a little toxic.

Take my former friend, Jennifer*, for example. As 20-something singles, she was the perfect compadre. She'd somehow get us into the best parties, could score a reservation at the hippest new restaurant and would flip an ordinary Monday night onto its head and make it feel like the biggest night of the year. But as the years -- and a bit of maturity -- began to change us (as it often does), it was beginning to become clear that our relationship had shifted and we longer found ourselves on the same path.

As we headed into our 30's, my friend turned apathetic toward my new marriage and was visibly uncomfortable with my impending motherhood. She'd fall off the face of the earth -- that is, unless she were experiencing her crisis du jour. Then, I would suddenly become the most important thing in her life, earning me two-hour phone calls and impromptu late-night unannounced visits.

And while I would resist the idea that having kids had changed me even a little bit, like so many other things in my life (see: shaving my legs), I no longer had the time or energy for my job as her personal, unpaid therapist. I had limited time for even my mutually-fulfilling friendships.

So, for the first time in my life, I broke up with a friend.

My story isn't uncommon. In fact, bring up the topic at a party or in the carpool lane at school and women will come out of the woodwork to share "breakup" stories. Childhood friends, former roommates, an ex-sister in law... some hardcore, long-term friendships have dissolved, creating a messy situation. But, for the most part, the breakup has ultimately left the "dumper" with no regrets, just a feeling of relief.

But how do you know whether a friendship is just going through a rocky phase or it's time to throw in the towel? Stacy Kaiser, relationship expert and author of How to Be a Grownup, says it's actually quite easy to determine whether a friendship is worth fighting for.

3 Signs It's Time to Break Up

• You get very little back (or nothing) for what you give -- it's very one-sided.

• You spend too much time gossiping about her. If she's the topic of conversation on a regular basis and has you so frustrated that you can't even think straight, that's a big, red flag.

• You've already gone a round (or two) and forgiven her in the past. There comes a point when you realize it's a pattern and it's not going to change.

OK, so now you've decided the breakup has to happen, but how to you do it? Kaiser says if you're feel like the relationship has run its course, the only thing left is to be clear and honest -- but also kind and respectful. Because while it's important to make decisions that best fit your own life, don't lose your dignity in the process by hitting below the belt.

Have you broken up with a friend?

*Name has been changed because I'm not a dummy.

For five warning signs you're in a toxic friendship, visit

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