Your friendships impact a lot more than your happy hours and weekend plans. They affect your health, happiness and general well-being. And the research proves it.
Your friendships impact a lot more than your happy hours and weekend plans. They affect your health, happiness and general well-being. And the research proves it. In a 10-year Australian study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health in 2005, older people with strong social networks lived longer than those without these ties. A 2000 study by UCLA researchers found that women's social circles help them respond better to stress. And a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2008 revealed that social connections may help delay memory loss in the elderly. But as important as they are, friendships can also be a source of stress and conflict. Sometimes they just fizzle out. If you have a relationship you're on the fence about, keep reading to determine if it's time to call it quits.
1. Your Friend Is Unreliable
Does your friend show up late or not show up at all? Does she make plans and then break them at the last-minute? If you answered yes, it's a sign you might be in a friendship worth reconsidering. "Perhaps your friend simply has a time-management problem and overextends herself," says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., friendship expert and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. "If this is a consistent pattern, you need to speak about it openly, explain how it makes you feel and set limits and stick to them." For example, Levine recommends telling your friend that you'll wait no more than 15 minutes for her at a restaurant before leaving. If the problem persists, you're better off finding a friend who respects you and your time.
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2. You Feel Dragged Down by Your Friend
Dana Kerford, friendship expert and founder of GirlPower, Inc., compares healthy friendships to healthy food: "Healthy food gives you energy and helps you grow and be strong. Healthy friendships are the same. They give us what we need, they help us become stronger, they help us grow, they lift us up," she says. But friends can be like junk food too, offering little in the way of nourishment and sapping your energy. "Unhealthy friendships drag us down, they don't make us feel so good. They don't give us what we need." If your friend is willing to listen to your needs and change her ways, the relationship might be worth saving. If not, skip the drive-through and look for nourishment elsewhere.
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3. Your Friend Can’t Resolve Conflict
"All friendships and relationships have conflict," says friendship expert Dana Kerford. It's how you deal with conflict that defines your friendships. If you have a disagreement with your friend and he becomes defensive, yells at you, attacks your character, blows things out of proportion, won't listen to you, refuses to talk to you or becomes physically violent, these are signs that he has poor conflict-resolution skills. "A healthy friendship manages conflict in a respectful way where both parties are heard," says Kerford. Nobody's perfect, but if your friend doesn't at least hear you out, remain calm and apologize when necessary, there's little hope of having a healthy, fulfilling friendship.
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4. Your Friend Talks Too Much
Your friend talks constantly about her life and her problems, and you can't seem to get a word in edgewise. Even when you have an important topic to discuss, your friend won't stop long enough to listen to you. This might be a sign that your friend is self-centered and doesn't care about you, but it may also have deeper psychological implications. Licensed social worker and therapist F. Diane Barth writes on PsychologyToday.com that people who talk too much may do so because they find it difficult to deal with emotions that arise when listening to another person. Barth recommends putting a time limit on listening to them and being more aggressive about being heard. If your friend continues to talk over you, however, look for a friendship with a little more balance.
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5. Your Friend’s Lifestyle Is Unhealthy
You've been friends for years, but lately you've been paying more attention to your health, while your friend seems to be stuck in his unhealthy habits. He always wants to eat out at fast-food restaurants, but you gravitate toward salad bars. You'd rather spend your time at the gym, but your friend is a couch potato. Sometimes a little encouragement can help your friend change his unhealthy ways. If not, be careful his bad habits don't drag you down with him. A 2007 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that obesity can spread through social ties. In their 32-year study, the researchers discovered that people whose friends became obese were 57 percent more likely to also become obese. That's a hefty price to pay for friendship.
6. The Friendship Is Unbalanced
Nine out of 10 times you're the one to call your friend or suggest spending time together. You're always buying tickets to a concert or play. You've cooked dinner for him several times and he's never even invited you over. "It's not about counting the number of times a person asks you to hang out versus how many you ask them," says friendship expert Dana Kerford. "It's just feeling like there's fairness in the friendship and you both are giving the same amount." When there isn't that equilibrium, you're likely to feel hurt and resentful, which isn't healthy. If your friend doesn't make more effort after you've voiced your concerns, it may be best to save your energy for a friendship with more reciprocity.
7. Your Friend Embarrasses You in Public
It's almost as if your friend can't control what comes out of her mouth. At parties she's either rude or too loud, and you find yourself ostracized from social circles because of her. Although she's got other great qualities, she's impeding your ability to maintain your other friendships. You've asked her to stop, but she isn't willing or able. "You probably can't change your friend's personality and upbringing," says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry. "Perhaps, you've outgrown her and need to only have occasional contact." Schedule more one-on-one time outside of large group gatherings or parties where you're less likely to be embarrassed. If that's not possible, the friendship may not stand the test of time.
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8. Your Friend Is Too Needy
Last week your friend's car broke down and she asked to borrow yours. Then she got in a fight with her boyfriend and kept you on the phone all night. The week before, she got held up at a meeting and needed you to walk her dog. "Everyone is needy from time to time, and friendships involve give and take. But if your friend is leaving you feeling drained and exhausted, you probably need to learn to say no," says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry. Levine also recommends cutting back on the friendship so you aren't the only one she's relying on.
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9. You’re Just Not That Into Her
If someone asked you the five things you liked most about your friend, what would they be? Can you even name five? How about two? If not, it's a sure sign that it might be time to let the friendship go. Sometimes people hold on to fizzling relationships way longer than they should out of a sense of loyalty or a fear of loss. But as with a romantic relationship, feelings can change. If you're just not into it anymore, ask yourself why. Make a list of things you like about your friend and a list of the things you don't like. If the "don't like" list is longer than the "like" list, tell yourself it's OK to let this one go.
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Should You Stay or Should You Go?
Ultimately, whether to maintain a friendship or let it go comes down to whether the friendship makes you feel good or bad. "If something doesn't feel right, that's reason enough," says friendship expert Dana Kerford. "You don't have to be able to explain why, and you don't have to be able to articulate it: Feeling bad is reason enough. Trust that feeling."
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What Do YOU Think?
Do you have a friendship you're considering ending? Have you recently ended a friendship? What made you decide to sever ties? Do any of these reasons remind you of a friend you currently have or have ever had? Have you ever rekindled a friendship? Give us the details! Share your thoughts and comments in the section below.
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