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When to end a friendship: How to identify when a friend is toxic and needs to be purged from your life

Updated on July 6, 2011
Like some bad business deals, a toxic friendship is better ended sooner than later.
Like some bad business deals, a toxic friendship is better ended sooner than later.

Some persons enter our lives for a reason or a season – maybe both. Not all friendships last a lifetime, and it would be incredibly optimistic to hope for that anyway. Committed relationships fall apart, and friendships do as well. However, timing is important if you recognize the need to exit any relationship. You must be able to identify when it is necessary or beneficial to end a particular liaison.

While we can identify certain signs that a friendship needs to end, it is important to recognize that some obstacles in our relations are not insurmountable. They only need to be managed well for an optimal result. Generous amounts of patience, understanding and wisdom can help to keep a friendship alive, but those factors also help you to choose the right moment to exit. The following situations outline sound reasons to end the friendship season.

You had a false notion of your friend or friendship

When we meet someone and decide to be friends with them, we don’t truly know them that well. While one can only know so much about anybody else (or even oneself), assumptions are made as one gradually gets to know others. Technically, we are in a fool’s paradise more often than not. Sometimes, a situation or incident arises that show different dimensions of our friends. Perhaps you realized that you were used conveniently or that the person was never genuine. This may change everything; depending on how serious it is, you may be well advised to end the friendship.

The friendship no longer has a reason

While it may seem cold, we interact with others because it serves us in some way. This doesn’t mean that you’re using people – it’s just that whether you just like to hear a friend’s voice or feel good when you keep in touch are a reason or benefit. Some friendships were forged because the person worked with you or they enjoyed going to clubs. If circumstances change, some alliances change with it, unless there are other reasons to sustain the friendship.

The friendship has an overall negative effect on you

Relations with others will not always be fair-weather. There would be some nadirs and some zeniths. However, the good times should usually outweigh the negative ones. That’s when the friendship has a draining effect on you. You feel like a crutch or an extra pocket for your dependent friend. They transfer their negativity to you, and the interactions are skewed in their favour.

Julius Caesar's assassination was the greatest betrayal of all.
Julius Caesar's assassination was the greatest betrayal of all. | Source


In Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” the great Emperor’s last words were “And you, Brutus?” That is one of the greatest betrayals in history and there is nothing worse than that. Keeping friends close and enemies closer is only helpful when you can distinguish friend from foe. Betrayal can single-handedly erode trust and other foundations of a friendship. Indeed, a true friend should not ever betray you without good reason (such as personal peril perhaps).

Your friend disrespects you repeatedly and without remorse

Mutual, sincere friends care about each other. That caring extends to each other’s feelings. Deliberately trampling on another’s feelings or not minding whether you do is insensitive and apathetic. Such behaviour has no place in a friendship. Even if you have a friend who is rude to you frequently and tries to apologize every time, this can be untenable. You may need to end this and stick with those who respect you, your feelings, secrets and thoughts.

Your friendship is a nuisance

Friendship is non-exclusive, but not all friends realize this. Some friendships interfere with other areas of our lives – including other relationships we have. Should your friend create rifts, discord and imbalance in your life, you may be forced to reassess the worth of that friend or friendship.


This list is not exhaustive and, as mentioned before, some situations can be resolved without giving your friendship the Guillotine. However, if you’d be happier and more comfortable without a friendship than with it, it’d be a good idea to end it. Just ensure that you end it in a civil manner, without being bitter about it.


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