How to know if a friendship is not serving you anymore

friendship is not serving you

Have you ever found yourself sipping coffee with a friend, laughter ringing hollow and conversation feeling forced? It could be that this particular friendship is not serving you anymore.

I liken it to an outfit I've outgrown, comfortable in the past but now constricting. We invest so much in relationships that it's easy to overlook when they turn toxic, stagnant, or unrewarding. 

That aha moment led me on a journey of self-discovery, where I learned to differentiate between friendships that uplift and those that drain.

Admitting that a friendship might have served its purpose in a world that champions' connections can be tough. We're told to weather the storms, but what if the storm is the friendship itself? 

This isn't about casting blame; it's about acknowledging the dynamic and making choices for personal growth. 

In this article, I explore the signs of a friendship that has run its course. I hope it helps you make sense of your feelings when a friendship is flagging.

Further reading: 8 Best friend-finder apps in Australia.

Negative energy 

Have you ever found yourself becoming too critical, complaining a lot, stressed, restless, or simply feeling constantly negative after meeting or talking with certain friends? Well, you might want to rethink the people you're surrounding yourself with.

While it's not normal to be positive all the time, every time, it's also very unhealthy to be in constant communication with negative people. Anger, complaining, gossiping, judging, negative self-talk, sadness, and other negative energies that others project have adverse effects on your mood, emotions, and health.

If you think you have friends who do not serve you because of too much negativity, you might want to take a step back. Sometimes, the negativity is just a phase and will eventually sizzle out, so don't kick your friend out of your life just yet. But if the negative energy persists, I highly recommend reviewing your social circle.

Different values

If you were ever in a romantic relationship with someone whose values are in complete conflict with yours - the operative word here is "complete" - I bet my bottom dollar you have already broken up. Or if you're still together, you're a bit unhappy with all the compromising.

Any relationship is less complicated when both parties share a similar moral code.

I'm not saying you should only be friends with people who are exactly like you. That's not just boring; that's weird! But imagine trying to live a healthier lifestyle, and your friends smoke and party all the time. Or, imagine being friends with someone with completely opposite political beliefs.

All that conflict will most likely lead to endless arguments, and, worse, a loss of respect - for your friends or for yourself. When you find yourself asking why you're always standing back or starting to doubt your value system, you've identified that this friendship is not serving you.

Lack of mutual effort

Ever felt like you're the one doing all the work to keep the friendship going? Sending the texts, making the calls, and planning the hangouts?

If that rings a bell, it's a hint that your friendship might be a tad one-sided.

I've been in that boat and decided to put it to the test.

I challenged myself to stop being the one to check in with a certain friend, just to see if she'd notice and maybe take the reins for a change. Can you believe it took her more than three months to get in touch?

That little experiment opened my eyes. I wasn't quite ready to kick her out of my friend group, but I did realise I should ease up on the effort. Our friendship naturally shifted to occasional texts every few months.

This switch-up actually gives me more time to hang out with friends who are all about actively staying connected.

Constant criticism

It is normal for friends to be honest and give constructive criticism. (Like when they tell you it's probably not a good idea to date Peter because he just got divorced last week.)

However, if these constant criticisms become a pattern, you should reevaluate your friendship.

If they constantly insult or cut you off in front of other people, they're inconsiderate and rude. If they're quick to judge your life choices or parenting style, you might need to find a new set of friends who won't make you feel like a failure.

While criticisms are not inherently a bad thing - they should help you grow and be better - the never-ending disapproval and fault-finding from friends who do not serve you can be toxic. I've been there, and trust me, you don't need such negativity in your life.

Feeling used

I get it. We are all users when it comes to relationships. After all, a relationship is a transaction. If you think about it, we forge bonds with people who benefit us somehow.

They make you feel safe in the neighbourhood? They have made your new workplace less intimidating? They boost your confidence and mood with their support and sense of humour?

The difference is that, if a friendship is not serving you, your mate will abandon you after getting what they need. Often, they already have a motive from the get-go - to use you as a stepping stone from something yet out of their reach. Once they get it, you don't serve any purpose anymore. (Or they may keep you around, just in case.)

I am childhood friends with the most popular girl back in high school. Naturally, many boys and girls wanted to be friends with me to get to her. At first, I accommodated everyone because they were nice. But as I grew and saw through their true intentions - having been tossed aside or, sometimes, intentionally ignored once they've made their way into my friend's circle - I decided they were not true friends. (Good thing my childhood friend is not like that, and we're still close friends.)

Remember, friendship is a give-and-take process. If you give and give while all your friend does is take and take, this is not a mutually beneficial relationship.

Constant drama

We all need a little drama in our lives occasionally. But if your friendship seems like a soap opera with its endless cycles of conflicts, it's not healthy.

No friendship is perfect. But if a friendship is not serving you, emotions are always intense. It's emotionally and mentally draining when there are always tears, quarrelling, and hurt feelings. Even when you communicate and apologise to each other, the drama happens over and over again.

Remember, life is already hard as it is. Especially as single mums, we already have too many responsibilities on our shoulders. Friends must be there to share the ups and downs, not to add unnecessary drama to one another's lives.

Lack of trust

I was once very open about my problems with any of my close friends. Whether dealing with heartbreaks, family issues, or struggling at work, I would voice them out to the people I trust.

But this changed when this particular friend broke my trust. This was a person I thought I could trust. They told the person I was talking about everything I told them in confidence!

Violating the rule of trust too often is a red flag in any relationship.

It’s OK if a friend accidentally slips up and reveals your secret to other friends. But if they are not even bothered constantly divulging things you told them out of trust, then this friendship is not serving you, and it might be time to let them go.

That gut feeling

You know when you have this heavy, nagging, unexplainable feeling that something will be a disaster? When it comes to any relationship, including your friendship, you're better off trusting your intuition.

Although gut feeling can be inaccurate - in fact, it can be misguided and subject to inherent biases a lot of times - intuition can also be very helpful. When your inner alarm bells are ringing around a person, that's your survival instincts protecting you from potential harm.

Friends are people that should make you feel comfortable. If you feel something is off or uncomfortable, you should take a step back and look at things objectively. There might be something you're not seeing in close proximity.

Final thoughts: How to know if a friendship is not serving you anymore

I hope you have learned a thing or two from my past friendship experiences. 

If there’s one takeaway that I should live by is that when friends do not serve you anymore, it's okay. We have to understand that outgrowing friendships is a common life experience.

In navigating these realms of connection and disconnection, we learn that friendships, like life itself, are transient and transformative. We must be attuned to the ebb and flow of these relationships, understanding that their value lies not just in how long they are, but in the lessons they teach us along the way.

As we bid adieu to friends who do not serve us, we make space for new connections that align with our evolving selves. In the symphony of life, each friendship contributes a unique note, and as the composition shifts, we find harmony in both letting go and embracing what's to come.

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Sally Love

About the author

Sally Love is a pseudo single mum author who has been writing about single motherhood, separation and divorce for 8+ years. She has been a single mother for 10+ years and has two daughters, one of whom she co-parents and the other she solo parents. Sally has experienced all aspects of single motherhood from legal, financial, parenting, dating, travel as a single parent, re-partnering and re-building a career. She is an integral part of the Beanstalk community chatting and helping single mothers across the globe, as well as sharing her expertise, experiences and genuine reviews with major national newspapers and appearing on nation-wide television shows.

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