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How to Break Up With a Bad Friend

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How to Break Up With a Bad Friend

The teenage years can be challenging in many ways, particularly in the realm of navigating the ups and downs of friendships.  While these years may be filled with many emotional roller coasters, how you handle these difficulties and the lessons you will learn from all of this will hold value for the rest of your life.

It is incredibly important for you to learn what it means to be a good friend, how to determine when someone is actually a bad friend, and what to do about it when that happens.

What is a good friend?  Let’s take a look at the definition of the word friend as defined by Apple Dictionary.

  • a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection
  • (often as a polite form of address or in ironic reference) an acquaintance or a stranger one comes across: my friends, let me introduce myself.
  • a person who acts as a supporter of a cause, organization, or country by giving financial or other help: join the Friends of Guilford Free Library.
  • a person who is not an enemy or who is on the same side: she was unsure whether he was friend or foe.

I’d like to point out some words to focus on: mutual affection, supporter, not an enemy, on the same side, helpful.  Now, ask yourself if your friendships demonstrate these traits.  Do your friends like you as much as you like them, or are you always having to try to prove yourself to maintain the friendship?

Are your friends supportive and encouraging, doing everything they can to help you achieve your goals and dreams, or are they competitive and threatened by your success?  A truly good friend will be your biggest fan, always there to cheer you on, never allowing jealousy to get in the way.  They will be there for you when you’re struggling and do everything they can to pick you up and help you feel better, and would never walk away or feel bothered when times are tough.

A good friend will talk things over with you and work things out when you have disagreements.  Real friends are loyal.

Now, let’s take a look at what a bad friend looks like.  It is easy to mistake a bad friend for a good one, so knowing what to look out for can help you avoid that trap.  A bad friend will subtly undermine you and try to sabotage you.  They want to be better than you, and can’t be excited for your success.  They might have low self esteem and get jealous when you achieve something, or even when you talk to other friends.

Sometimes, they purposely give bad advice.  A bad friend wants you all to himself, and feels slighted if you don’t give them all of your attention.  Often, they don’t have your best interest at heart; rather, they hold their own interests as most important.  They can even be passive aggressive.  For example, they might say things like, “It’s fine.  Just go to the party with Sandy.  Obviously, you’d rather be with her than me.  I don’t care.  I didn’t really want to go to that party anyway.”

A good friend, on the other hand, might say, “Have a great time at the party.  I can’t wait to hear all about it.  Maybe we can hang out tomorrow.”

Once you have determined that you have a bad friend, it can be hard to figure out how to “break up” with them.  But just as a bad relationship can be detrimental to your well-being and cause more harm than benefit, so can a bad friendship have negative consequences.  Sometimes, the friendship just fizzles out on its own and nothing needs to be said or done.  You simply grow apart and go your separate ways.  Other times, you might need to take action to sever the friendship.  Here are some tips for how to break up with a bad friend.

  • Stop being the one who makes all the effort. Wait and see what happens.  It might just be that you stop hearing from this person altogether.  And then you’ll know that you weren’t really friends like you thought.
  • Have a face-to-face conversation. Tell them why you don’t think this is a good friendship, and let them know that you are no longer interested in maintaining the friendship.
  • Write a letter. You can email this or hand it to them, or whatever works for you.  Include in the letter examples of why you don’t think this person is a good friend to you.  Explain that you wish to go your separate way.
  • Don’t avoid the person or tell lies to make yourself unavailable. That is immature.  Rather, use a direct approach.
  • Remember that people aren’t always good and taking hints. Just say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Don’t be vague.

Here is an example of what you might say if you’re ending a bad friendship:  “I’m not feeling good about this friendship right now.  I don’t find you to be supportive or helpful to me.  Your jealousy and attempts to control what I can and cannot do are not okay.  I think it’s best if we go our separate ways.”  This is not entirely different from how you would end any relationship, whether it is a romantic one or even a professional one.  As hard as it might seem, you can do this.  Once you’ve done it the first time, it actually gets easier, so that you will be skilled at doing this any time you need to in your life.

Quality friendships are one of the most important and satisfying things a person could ask for.  Keep the friendships and relationships that make you feel good, that are mutually beneficial and respectful.  Let go of the rest.  You don’t need dead weight or negativity in your life.

 

Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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