Thinking of defriending? When it's time to move on from a toxic friendship

It's hard letting go after years of friendship. 

Memories hang like precious pictures in your mind. From a distance those frozen moments appear glossy, striking, smile-filled, significant. But upon closer inspection, you can see the cracks, the colors that have smeared and faded, dull from years of attrition and somehow, somewhat devoid of meaning now. 

Parting with a friend is painful. Initially at least. But once you recognize this person is a placeholder for a future, better friend you will be at peace. It is okay to let go of relationships that no longer serve or satisfy you.

As the years pass, we evolve and so do our relationships. Sometimes we grow in the same direction like vines, dirt and leaves forging together to form a strong stalk that continues to grow, reaching toward the sky. Other times, we splinter, fall apart and wither.

How do you know when a relationship has run its course? It took time to compile this list, but these reasons feel right:

1. You feel bad more than you feel good

The purpose of companionship is to lift each other up when feeling down. If you find yourself hanging up the phone feeling depleted, ignored, misunderstood or judged frequently, it could be a good time to consider if this is a positive influence in your life.

2. Reciprocation

Do you feel like you are always the shoulder to cry on and never the one having a chance to do the venting or talking? A healthy, balanced relationship requires both sides to feel heard and respected. You're not their therapist, nor should you need to play one. If a friend constantly calls to discuss a laundry list of troubles or life events and never reciprocates by asking how you are - this may be a sign that this is a one-sided, unhealthy relationship, or that you need to start charging for your office hours. 

3. The Happiness Test

Sometimes it takes major life events like a marriage, baby or new job for you to gage how full your friendship tank is. True friends are joyful when good things come your way, and they should want to celebrate in your victories, as well.

When something less than ideal occurs in your life like a job loss, divorce or death, a good friendship is defined by being there to support you in your time of need or sadness. If they are a no-show, make it about them, have better things to do, concoct excuses, or never reach out - this isn't a friend. 

Don't torture yourself trying to pinpoint why this person can't be the friend you desire. Remember, you aren't a therapist. You know when something doesn't feel right and you deserve to examine what exactly that feeling is.

I know it hurts to let a friendship go. Especially if this friendship is a long-lasting one. But then again, it is more harmful to hold on to something that is toxic and troubling. You are only in control of your feelings and your reactions, not theirs.

I've learned that as the years pass, the meaning of a best friend changes. You can still love the person and wish them well, but sometimes you just need to cut the anchor's cord that's been weighing you down and set sail off into the sunset with a light heart.