Friends are important. They’re who you call when you have good news, want to share an experience, or need a shoulder to cry on. They’re the family that you choose. I was reminded of this when I walked into my surprise birthday party earlier this year. As the lights flipped on and a room of people shouted “happy birthdayyyyyyy” (and, to my chagrin, sprayed silly string all over me), I smiled wide at all of the faces I saw. These were my people. These were my friends who have stuck with me, grown with me, and been there no matter what. But then, I thought about the people who weren’t in the room.
I moved to a new city when I was 20 years old, and left behind a world of friends in my hometown. Today, five years later, I’m still friends with some of them. There are also friends who I choose not to call… because, well, we just don’t fit anymore. We grew apart. Some of us bonded over hobbies and career goals, and those hobbies and goals have evolved. Others started their own families — and I’m so happy for them — but as a single woman, I’m in a different life stage than my girlfriends who are married and have kids. And unfortunately, one of my friendships ended because I realized it was dragging me down. She argued with everything I said, the conversations were very negative, and every activity revolved around her. Letting a friend go isn’t easy. It’s painful, hard to talk about, doesn’t feel good. However, it may be necessary. Here’s why:
They bring you down
Friends are meant to build each other up, not tear down. So if you find yourself sad, downtrodden, or depressed every time you grab coffee with a close friend, you might not be in the right friendship. Sure, you can feel bummed out after they tell you about their tough day, but if the sadness you feel isn’t empathy, it may be time to break away.
The relationship is all about them
Relationships are a two-way street, right? Of course. If you text and call five times and receive one response in return, your friend may simply be busy. But if this is a normal occurrence, and he or she just doesn’t prioritize or value your communication and plans, you may have a problem. When a relationship is one-sided, it will cause you to feel sad and possibly neglected. If your friend only reaches out when they need something from you, the relationship will never be balanced or mutually beneficial. At times, one of you will need more support or space than the other – but don’t let them take advantage of you. You are more than a time filler.
Your conversations aren’t edifying
If you and your friends find yourselves having fun and enjoying your time together – but your conversations aren’t fulfilling – then it’s time to reevaluate. If you notice that you spend more time talking about others and catching up on the latest gossip in your friend group, your friendship might be doing harm to others. Bring this to their attention and provide alternative topics. If you find yourselves returning to gossip, it’s time to evaluate the purpose of your friendship.
If you have a friend and his or her negativity lowers your happiness, they continually focus on themselves, or they encourage you to gossip, it’s time to take a step back. Healthy and growing friendships are an essential part of our 20s. Take time to truly understand who is around you, who just doesn’t fit anymore, and then choose to surround yourself with the men and women who motivate you, support you, and bring you joy.