Filling your life with supportive friends is seriously good for your health. In fact, one 10-year long Australian study showed that participants with solid friend groups were 22% more likely to live longer, and researchers at Harvard concluded that happiness was almost “infectious” amongst friends who lived within a mile of each other.
Every now and then, however, a friend grates at your patience, sanity, and overall happiness. While small infractions often pass, or can be resolved by talking it out, sometimes it comes time for a friend “breakup.” It's something many women dread or delay—but why do we hang onto friends that are clearly no good?
“There’s a social stigma over ending friendships,” says Dr. Irene S. Levine, psychologist and author of Best Friends Forever. “There are no scripts or rules, so people are at a loss for how to go about it.” If you’re in denial, here are a few warning signs to watch for. Recognize a friend in one of these scenarios? It might be time to have “the talk.”
1. She needs you for absolutely everything.
While a friend who depends on you doesn’t seem like cause for concern, too much neediness can exhaust you and use up one of your most important resources: time.
“Women tend to rely on their friends more heavily for emotional sustenance,” says Levine. “But if someone is constantly depending on you, that’s when it’s toxic.” That neediness can range from acting as her consultant on decisions both big and small, to, in more extreme cases, becoming her main source for financial assistance. We all lean on our friends for support, but if you’re persistently serving as her crutch, beware.
2. You dread seeing her, and you’re relieved when she leaves.
Keep in mind: “Friendships are voluntary relationships,” says psychologist and self-help author Dr. Laura Sapadin. “Nobody makes you be a friend.” So if you’re purposefully ignoring her calls or trying to come up with excuses to get out of your lunch date, it might time to break up.
3. You’re both in constant conflict (and not just the obvious kind).
It’s not just about arguing all the time—although if you two have started to make the Real Housewives seem tame, that’s definitely cause for concern. Conflict can manifest in other places—like your schedules. If your friend doesn’t make time for you the way you carve out time for her, then she might not value your friendship.
4. You suffer from “friendship whiplash.”
Some toxic friendships jump back and forth between great and awful—that inconsistency can be a red flag.
“The unpredictability takes a toll on you,” says Levine. “It can make you anxious, nervous, or depressed when you don’t know what to expect from a friend whom you’re supposed to rely on.”
5. You’re experiencing “symptoms.”
Friendships can boost your mental and physical health, but bad friendships can do the opposite. According to Levine, if you begin to suffer headaches or stomach cramps after getting together or in anticipation of seeing your friend, the relationship is doing more harm than good.
6. She can’t see her own flaws.
Sapadin calls this “enaction”: You finally confront your friend for being accusatory and demeaning, and she fires back with, “You’re too sensitive!” A good friend should seem open-minded and willing to acknowledge problems.
“If the response shows they don’t get it, then you know this relationship is not one you want to continue,” Sapadin says.
7. She betrays your trust.
“Women get very invested in their friends because they share so much of their lives with them,” says Levine. So, when your friend betrays that bond, don’t ignore a gut feeling that tells you it’s a big deal. Trust isn’t trivial—and any betrayal is a sign to reevaluate the relationship.
Sapadin agrees: “This can abruptly end a friendship, and it only has to happen once.”