Like any relationship, friendships evolve over time, and sometimes you must reassess the value they add to your life. Research shows that 70% of close friendships1https://www.jstor.org/stable/20430783?seq=1 end after 7 years, yet many of us keep holding on. This can be as confusing, frustrating, and painful as a romantic breakup. You keep putting in effort, to no avail. At what point should you stop reaching out?
If you have fake friendships, it might be time to pull the plug. Watch this and read on for more tips and signs it’s time to stop reaching out to a friend.
Here are the keys signs it’s time to let go, plus how to end a friendship, heal yourself, and move forward.
When to Stop Reaching Out: 4 Signs It’s Time to Let Go
Here are some factors to consider when grappling with the difficult decision of when to stop trying to maintain a friendship:
- They aren’t putting in any effort
Healthy relationships are founded on reciprocity. Friendships should be a two-way street. Everything won’t always be 50/50, but there needs to be a certain level of give and take. If you’re the only one…
- Making plans
- Asking questions about their life
- Following their journey
- Taking an interest in them
- Remembering important dates
- Showing up to important events
- Supporting their dreams or ambitions
- Liking their social media posts
… it could be a sign that the friendship has become one-sided, and they aren’t making an effort to be your friend anymore. Avoiding you, not responding, and canceling or flaking on plans are especially poignant signals that they no longer invest in your friendship.
- You have exceeded the 3 Text/Call Rule
There’s no official “rule of thumb” for when to stop reaching out, but it can help to think about one-sided conversations this way:
- The first time you text or call and they don’t respond, give them a free pass. They could be busy or have forgotten to get back to you.
- The second time you try to reach out or make plans and they don’t respond, take a mental note and wait a few days to a week.
- If you reach out a third time without a response, it may be time to stop trying. You could also be getting ghosted. This can be extremely hurtful and confusing because there is no reasoning or closure.
Key Caveat: Make sure you still have your friend’s correct phone number. You may reach out on multiple social media platforms. Check that they aren’t on vacation or in any extenuating circumstance before you jump to conclusions.
- You haven’t hung out in several months
If a long period has passed without hanging out, it could be a sign that the friendship isn’t going anywhere or you are going your separate ways. Sometimes, both parties stop reaching out to make plans because it doesn’t feel right. Other times, you may initiate contact and find that meeting up seems only to work out now. It’s OK to admit that neither of you has time for the friendship; just be sure to express this respectfully.
Key Caveat: This does not apply to long-distance friendships. It is also important to consider unusual circumstances, like a family death, extended vacation, a major move, or a job change, that could prevent you from hanging out.
- You don’t feel good around them anymore
The feeling you have around your friend is arguably the most important determinant of whether or not you should end a friendship. If you no longer feel like you can be yourself around this person, you may not want to have them in your life. Consider these emotional signals that you may not enjoy their company:
- You feel insecure or unhappy in their presence.
- You feel like you’re beneath them.
- You feel overwhelmingly anxious before meeting up with them.
- You feel relieved after leaving their presence.
- You avoid their calls or texts because you don’t enjoy talking to them.
Listen to your gut! This friendship may no longer be aligned, and that is OK.
6 Main Reasons Why Friendships End
Friendships can be an important source of support, companionship, and joy, but they can also be complex and difficult to maintain. Like any long-term relationship, communication, and effort are required from both parties. However, as people change and grow into different phases of their lives, it is natural for some friendships to end.
The most common causes for ended friendships include:
- Drifting apart
Psychologists agree that the number one reason friendships end is they just “fizzle out.” People naturally drift apart as their lives take different trajectories, and/or they become too busy to meet up. Often, this drifting can feel mutual on both ends. One person may be afraid to say something to the other.
If you still feel close to a friend and it seems they are drifting into new social circles or interests, remember that it probably has nothing to do with you. As people go through different phases of life, they may shift their identities, preferences, and activities. Think about how many times you have changed yourself!
- Lack of effort or one-sided efforts
If you’re the only one reaching out or making plans, it could be a sign that you’re in a one-sided or codependent friendship. Even the most likable people can end up in one-sided friendships wherein the other doesn’t seem to care.
When you’re putting in most of the effort or the conversations are constantly about them, take note of how it makes you feel. You deserve people in your life who choose you. Reciprocity is essential for healthy relationships of any kind.
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- Change in life circumstances
When someone starts a family, moves to a different city, or pursues a new career, it can significantly impact your friendship. If these changes lead to a major change in communication, shared activities, or commonalities, it may be a sign the friendship is fading.
For example, if you used to go out partying with your college friends all the time, graduation might shift your priorities. Similarly, if you recently had children and your single friends only want to meet up for happy hours, you may find that your life’s priorities no longer align with those friendships.
- Patterns of hurtful behavior
Some situations are downright hurtful or rude. If your friend betrays you, harms your self-esteem, or disrespects you, these are signs that the friendship has run its course and may not serve you in the next chapter of your life.
For example, if your friend constantly puts you down or makes you feel beneath them, it may be time to stop reaching out to them. They should be lifting you up and celebrating your accomplishments.
However, it’s important to take inventory of your own actions as well.
- Are you engaging in playful banter as part of your friendship dynamic? Have the jokes turned more serious or hurtful?
- Do you feel genuinely hurt by things your friend says?
- Have you considered confronting them about how you feel before ending the friendship altogether?
- Do you ever put them down or feel envious of their success?
- Romantic involvement
Things can get messy quickly when a platonic friendship treads into romantic waters. Maybe you have strong feelings for your friend, and they don’t feel the same way, or vice versa. Confessing romantic love for a friend is vulnerable and courageous, but it may be best to stop hanging out altogether if the feelings are unrequited.
Alternatively, romantic changes outside of the friendship can also shift the dynamic. For example, your friend may get a new boyfriend, and he becomes concerned or jealous about her hanging out with a male friend.
- Disapproval by friends or family members
Do you have that one friend that none of your other friends or family members seem to like? Perhaps they are a bad influence on you or regularly gossip about important people in your life. Maybe your close, supportive friends confront you about how this person is holding you back or encouraging you to engage in bad habits.
When someone doesn’t fit into your social group, it may be time to assess if the friendship is going anywhere. Do you only hang out in a particular setting, like at the bar? Do you only discuss certain topics, like gossip or negative opinions?
Ultimately, the people you choose to keep in your life are your decision. But, if your closest relationships get a bad feeling about your friend, it may be worth listening to.
How to End a Friendship Respectfully
When you’ve realized that a friendship is no longer serving you, it helps to create closure for both parties. To navigate the process of ending a friendship in a respectful and healthy way, consider these key phases:
- Reflection and clarity: Take time to reflect on your feelings, reasons, and expectations for ending the friendship. Being honest with yourself will help you communicate your decision more effectively. Consider journaling about it or drafting a letter with what you’d like to say to them.
- Avoid ghosting: Going silent on someone, or “ghosting” them, can be very emotionally painful because your old friend will be left without any closure or answers. Rather than suddenly cutting off communication, consider ending things directly. Even just a brief text message is a kinder ending than disappearing without a word.
- Honest communication: Have an open and honest conversation with your friend, expressing your feelings and concerns. Choose a calm and private setting, and avoid blaming or attacking them.
- Use “I” statements: When confronting somebody about ending a friendship, use “I” statements to express how you feel. “You” statements can seem accusatory and may lead to defensiveness. Focus on your perspective when expressing how you feel and why the friendship no longer serves you.
- Let it fizzle: Alternatively, if they have not contacted you, you can stop reaching out and avoid the intense discussion.
- Set boundaries: If you remain acquaintances or cut ties completely, establish clear boundaries supporting your well-being. This may include limiting contact, unfollowing or unfriending on social media, or avoiding places where you are likely to run into each other.
- Return any items: If you have borrowed books, clothes, or other items from your friend, kindly return them when the relationship ends. You don’t necessarily need to give back gifts or tokens of your friendship, but you want to ensure you’ve tied up loose ends with borrowed or lent possessions.
- Be prepared for their reaction: Everyone reacts to bad news differently. Mentally prepare yourself with deep breaths, relaxation, meditation, or another grounding technique. If the person might be volatile, consider ending things via phone.
- Move forward gracefully: Every human relationship is an opportunity to learn and grow. Wish your friend well, and try to move on without any resentment or anger. Reflect on what you learned from the friendship, the mistakes you made, and how you can apply those lessons to future friendships. In short, close the chapter with peace.
Remember, ending a friendship doesn’t diminish the positive experiences and memories you share. It’s a natural part of life’s journey, and by prioritizing your own well-being, you create space for healthier relationships to enter your life.
How to Emotionally Heal: Overcoming a Friendship Breakup
Ending a friendship can feel just as emotional and challenging as a breakup. You are completely valid for feeling upset or lonely after losing someone who was important in your life. Grief, guilt, and self-doubt are common emotions.
Here are some strategies to help you heal and get back to your core, vibrant essence.
- Lean on your support system
Ending a friendship can be emotional. You shared so many fun times and memories together! You may have even felt like part of your social identity has been lost. This is an important time to lean on your support system. When you express your feelings and show some vulnerability, it allows the most important people in your life to show they care about you.
Confide in trusted friends, family members, or seek the help of a therapist who can help you process your emotions and restabilize after a friendship breakup. If you need a licensed mental health counselor, here is a great resource.
- Try to remove reminders of them
It’s hard to get over a lost friend when you see reminders of them everywhere. It can help to hide or remove anything that triggers old emotions or memories. You can:
- Reframe your perspective of places where you used to go together. You may want to avoid going there for a while. Alternatively, create new positive memories in those spaces so they don’t always remind you of them. It’s important not to repress your emotions while still taking the time you need to heal. Try to explore new restaurants, parks, and hangouts in your town.
- Put gifts, photos, or tokens in the back of the closet where you can’t see them.
- Alternatively, give away or throw away relics of the friendship, especially if it was toxic to your well-being.
- Delete or archive old photos from your social media account.
- Unfollow them on social media. Seeing photos of your ex-friend online can be emotionally painful. If the friendship ends in a dramatic way, you may even consider blocking them for your own peace of mind.
Pro Tip: If you had a really close friend you consistently went in public with, people might notice when you’re not with them anymore. If someone asks, “Where is Caitlyn? I thought you two always hung out together,” or “What happened between you and Brian?” it’s OK to respond with a vague answer like, “Oh, we’ve both just moved onto new things.”
- Don’t take it personally
It’s important not to take it personally when someone stops responding or reaching out. When someone isn’t investing in your friendship, it may not have anything to do with you. Their lack of effort could be due to social anxiety, lack of confidence, or outright selfishness.
While you cannot control their reactions, you can work to improve yourself. Perhaps you dominate conversations or have a negative attitude at times (it happens to the best of us!)
Pro Tip: Redirect your focus by reading a self-development book to help improve your confidence and mental state after a friendship breakup. The Four Agreements is a phenomenally helpful book about freeing yourself from the habit of taking things personally. Ultimately, how people treat you reflects their own decisions, opinions, and inner climate. You can only control yourself
- Pour into yourself
When one door closes, another one opens. All the energy you put into a one-sided or toxic friendship can now be redirected into something new and positive for yourself. Instead of pouring into someone who didn’t reciprocate your efforts, you can take these small steps to fill your own cup:
- Take yourself out on a solo date to do something you love to do but haven’t had time for. Maybe it’s a trip to the nail salon, a game of golf with your buddies, a night at your favorite restaurant, or a shopping spree.
- Learn how to love yourself through mirror exercises, creative outlets, affirmations, and meditations.
- Try out new hobbies or creative activities like these 19 Amazing Ways to Be Creative (That You’re Not Doing).
- Boost your self-worth with these 20 Ideas to Build Self-Esteem, like creating an empowering playlist, texting 3 people, and making a “learning bucket list.”
- Start a side hustle or passion project with this guide.
- Meet new people
When it feels like you are drifting apart from a close friend, a great course of action is to redirect your focus to people that are drifting toward you:
- Who do you know that has recently started a hobby you can do together? If your old friend no longer likes to play tennis or go out dancing, maybe another friend has coincidentally started taking an interest in your favorite hobbies.
- Of your current acquaintances, who shares your taste in music, art, or food? When old friends shift their tastes, remember that plenty of people still love the things that you do. Reach out to acquaintances to bond over mutual passions.
- If you’re changing or losing interest in things you used to do with this particular friend, maybe it’s time you try something new. Here are the 33 Best Social Hobbies to Meet People (Even For Introverts).
Need more? Here are 12 Steps to Get Over a Friendship Breakup (Effectively!)
What Are The Benefits of Having Friends?
Quality friendships are scientifically proven to make you happier2https://www.adultdevelopmentstudy.org/grantandglueckstudy, healthier3https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.1511085112, more successful4https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0883902600000690, and live longer5https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316. However, a toxic friendship could do just the opposite. True friends are the ones who know you inside and out and fully accept you for who you are. They are there to make you laugh when you’re feeling down, listen to you vent when you feel frustrated, and celebrate your greatest moments.
“A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.”—Lois Wyse
Friends are so essential to humanity that the quality of your friendships can directly impact your physical and mental health, as well as your career, finances, social network, self-esteem, and longevity.
Here’s more about the 7 Science-Backed Reasons Why Friends are Important.
Key Takeaways: Reflect On How A Friend is Adding or Subtracting From Your Life
Ultimately, your mental health and well-being are the most important factors in any relationship. If a friendship is causing you stress, sadness, or negative feelings, it could be time to let go. You may simply be growing into a new phase of your life where you need new friends to support you.
Remember these key signs that it’s time to stop reaching out to a friend:
- They aren’t putting in the effort. Your relationship has become one-sided.
- You’ve consistently reached out 3 or more times, and they haven’t responded.
- You haven’t hung out in several months and have drifted apart.
- You don’t feel good around them anymore.
- You are moving into a new phase of life that you can’t see them in.
Check out this guide to Outgrowing Friends? 6 Signs You’ve Outgrown Your Friendship.
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