How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

When a Friend Makes It in Show Biz

Four Types of People to Avoid

Can Men and Women Be Friends?

By Camille Chatterjee

Solving Modern Pal Problems

More From This Collection

Frenemies: The New Enemy

What to do about the people you love and hate simultaneously.

Seven Good Reasons to Dump a Pal

When the bond is no longer healthy

Friendship: The Laws of Attraction

What matters most is support

Of Oscars, Orangutans & Oxytocin, Friendship Tales

From humans to fruit bats, you gotta have girlfriends

A teen asks: Why are friendships so fleeting?

Teens are finding out who they are and whom to befriend

Why Men and Women Can’t Be “Just Friends”

Can men and women really be “just friends?”

Deadly Sins of Platonic Pals

Steer clear of these five traps

Can Introverts and Extroverts Unite?

Why it’s sometimes worth bridging the divide

This holiday, a toast to cross-race friendship

The single best antidote to prejudice and racism? Cross-race friendship.

Why It’s Hard for Adults to Make New Friends

Relocating and want to tear your hair out?

An interview with Dr. Andrea Bonior, author of The Friendship Fix

The core aspects of friendship are as important as ever

Do Your Friendships Feed You or Bleed You?

Knowing when it’s time to let a friend go

Danger! 5 Friendship Warning Signs

If you recognize these issues, it may be time to cut your losses.

Friends and Lovers: Is There a “Knew It All Along” Effect?

We often say we ‘knew it all along.’ Did we really?

NLD and friendship

How a person with NLD makes and keeps friends

Girl Talk Cartoon

A cartoon about hair anxiety.

Weeding Out Toxic Friends

Are You Toxic or Nourishing?

How Do I Downgrade a Relationship?

When a Friend Squeezes the Life Out of You


Anais Nin opined that “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Though some natural loners are happy without friends, most of humanity depends greatly on the company of true friends.

A long-lasting friendship involves an effortless connection in which two people understand each other when simply being themselves.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

You choose your friends, not your family, and in many ways, the people we bring into our lives intentionally can mean just as much, if not more. Our friends help us live more meaningful, joyful lives in so many ways, and we should never underappreciate the value of a true friend who supports us through thick and thin.

1. Good Friends Accept You for Who You Are

A truly supportive friend will love you for the person you are, flaws and all. That doesn’t mean friends have to agree with each other all of the time. In fact, different outlooks can help expand our horizons. Still, a true friend will accept you and even find beauty in your quirks and imperfections.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

2. Friends Stick Around During the Good Times and the Bad

Life has its ups and downs. Having supportive friends can help us get through the hard times. A true friend, because they love you, will stand by to help overcome obstacles. That could mean giving a shoulder to cry on, listening to our problems, or finding ways to cheer us up. Those small gestures can mean a lot especially when times get tough.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

3. A Real Friend Celebrates Life With You

In going through life, a friend’s support not only matters during the hard times. A friend means someone who genuinely wants to see you succeed. Unfortunately, disingenuous people may feel insecure and want you to fail. But a true friend celebrates your accomplishments and feels happy to see things go well.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

4. True Friends Will Make the Time to See You

Sometimes our hectic schedules make it difficult to see our friends as much as we would like. A best friend will treat you as a priority and set aside quality time to catch up, whether through a phone call, stopping by the house, or even hopping on a flight to see you.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

(Jacob Lund /

5. A Real Friend Will Tell You the Truth, Even If You Don’t Like

If you choose your friends the right way, you’ll surround yourself with people who share your values. In this way, you can always rely on friends to give good advice and help guide you through life. Sometimes, we may not notice ourselves falling off track. A good friend will help us make the right choices even if that means saying something we don’t always want to hear.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

(Ljupco Smokovski /

6. A True Friend Encourages You to Achieve Your Goals

We should all work to become the best version of ourselves, and a good friend will support you in working toward personal improvement. Whether it means cutting out unhealthy habits, pursuing a dream job, or cultivating a creative outlet, friends will give us the motivation to help follow through with the things we want to achieve.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

7. A Real Friend Helps Us Feel Comfortable in Our Own Skin

Sometimes we just can’t force that special connection between friends. It just happens. Two people come together and feel completely at ease being themselves. Whether it means laughing at silly jokes for hours or talking the night away, a long-lasting friendship involves an effortless connection in which two people understand each other when simply being themselves.

Do you know of a special person who shows all the signs of a true friend? Don’t forget to be a good friend in return and show how much you care. Even if you haven’t talked in a while, remember to reach out to the important people in your life who love and support you.

You can choose your friends. so celebrate them!

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

International Day of Friendship is July 30 and this is a perfect time to celebrate those people in your life who know everything about you, make you laugh and are there for you when necessary. The great thing about friends is that they come in all shapes and sizes and we get to choose how many we have and how often we see them. Obviously friendships can be complicated and they don’t always run smoothly but the beauty is that they are constantly evolving and there are no rules on the amount of friends we can have and how we interact with them. Whether you have a few close friends that you see one-on-one, thrive in a big, boisterous social group, or make up the rules as you go along, each different friendship type is a gift and should be cherished. This is a great opportunity to do something special for all the different friends you have in your life to show them your appreciation.


This is that one friend who you know, no matter what, will be there for you for the rest of your life. You’ve been through so many experiences together and you know all of each other’s secrets that you feel as close as family. Your best friend is the one who knows every little detail about you to the extent that you can finish each other’s sentences. These friendships can be rough sometimes because you go through the bad as well as the good together, but it’s all worth it because these experiences just make your relationship stronger.
Treat them: Show them how much they mean they mean to you by creating a home-made collage of all the memories you’ve shared together infused with captions of your very own private jokes and catchphrases.


This is the friend that you go to when you have a lot on your mind and you need someone who know is going to listen, just listen. Most of the time all we need is someone who will lend an open ear without passing judgement or feeling the need to interject, and this friend knows how to do just that. They are truly able to listen and leave their own opinions aside when all you need is to pour your heart and soul out.
Treat them: They love to listen, so get them tickets to a fun music show or an interesting lecture.


This is the friend that you call up when you just want to let your hair down and have a good time. They are full of energy and always up for a laugh. You may not necessarily share your deepest secrets with this person but you can trust them to find the best parties in town or fun things to do. They are willing to take risks and will get you out of your comfort zone when you need a little push.
Treat them: Make the effort to find a fun event that you know they will like and invite them along.


This is the friend that you actually spend more time with than any of your other friends. While you wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to be friends with them if you didn’t work together you are happy that you got the chance to meet them because there is a lot of mutual respect between you and you know that you can trust each other. You have a good relationship at work, making each other laugh to get through the day, and you also sometimes see each outside of work because you enjoy their company.
Treat them: Cook a meal that you know they will like, take it into work and find a nice spot outside to eat it together at lunch time.


This is the friend you go to when you are searching for some advice or direction. They are the kind of person who has lived a rich and interesting life full of travel and adventure and are happy to share their experiences with others. Maybe a little older, this is the kind of friend who knows how to listen and also knows just the right thing to say at the right time. They have plenty of interests and are always offering new insights on the unique things they learn.
Treat them: Make an effort to research one of their interests and either buy them a gift related to it or invite them to an interesting event.

How to stop the pain of a toxic friendship.

Posted Jul 26, 2018

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

A friendship that started with delight, good will, confidences and closeness changes – maybe slowly and quietly, maybe tumultuously – and is beginning to feel toxic. And you find yourself wondering whether there’s anything to be done but walk away.

Most of us have faced such a crossroads in a friendship.

“It happened to me many years ago,” my friend Linda confided recently. “I was in my first job as a magazine editor and my best friend at the time was a young actress. We were quite different in many ways, but we cared deeply about each other. We confided everything, talking far into the night. We laughed a lot and had so much fun together. We offered each other support and solace in crises and celebrated each other’s successes. When she won a starring role in a hit television series, I was ecstatic for her.”

The change in their relationship dynamics came gradually. As her bank account grew and she bought a lovely home, her friend began to make caustic comments about Linda’s tiny studio apartment and modest finances. Linda was hurt but said nothing.

“It didn’t occur to me to be jealous,” Linda said. “I loved my job and where I was living. And I was so happy for my friend. But, more and more, she treated me as a lesser than. She started calling me at work, asking me to run errands for her during my lunch hour – even when she was on hiatus from filming. The fatal blow to our friendship came when she offered me the opportunity to quit the job I loved to become her live-in personal assistant. She was stunned when I declined. She called me an ungrateful idiot. And I walked away. We became strangers to each other, moving on with our very separate and different lives. I miss the closeness we once shared, but not the toxicity of that last year.”

How do you know when you’re in a toxic friendship?

The signs, at least initially, can be subtle. But if you’re beginning to feel diminished, depleted, used, criticized and worse when you’re with this person, it’s time to take a new look at the friendship.

Has the balance in your relationship tipped? Has your friend stopped valuing your feelings, your time and your choices as much as her own?

Are you feeling battered with blame, criticism, or barbed humor?

Is your friend lacking any interest or empathy for your problems and concerns? Has it become all about him or her – every day, all day? Do you feel trapped in her own personal psychodrama with no emotional breathing room?

Is he or she trying to distance you from other friends or from family members?

Has there been a shift in relationship dynamics – with your friend going from being supportive to putting you down or picking at you about your faults and short-comings?

Has she spread your secrets far and wide?

Has he or she tried to sabotage you at work or in your self-improvement efforts with belittling comments?

Do you feel torn between your loyalty to a friend and your need to decrease the stress that this relationship has brought to your life?

The answer isn’t always to simply walk away.

Look closely at what’s going on individually and between you. Is it possible that your friend’s self-absorption and seeming lack of reciprocal interest in your life is due to a life-changing crisis? Is he or she experiencing a painful loss? There’s a big difference between this friend and one who is perpetually self-absorbed. Good friends may need to talk or cry or otherwise spend much of their energy dealing with the crisis at hand, but most still usually have ongoing interest in and empathy for those close to them. If there has been a power shift between you – and your friend seems to be seeing you as lesser than, it’s time to take a look at ways you may be enabling this behavior and start to set limits.

Change your own behavior and see what happens. What might happen if you tell your friend how you feel about the changes in your relationship? How would it be if you said “No” to unreasonable requests? Or if you expressed a desire for more equality in the relationship? Or called him or her to task when the blame, criticism or belittling started once again? His or her reaction to your feelings and desire for major changes in your relationship may be a clue to what you need to do next.

If you don’t want to end the friendship, limit it. So maybe your friend is impervious to change or doesn’t think there’s a problem. How much stress are you willing to tolerate? What might make this friendship worth keeping? What makes it manageable for you? Maybe a long-time friend is fine long-distance or online, but increasingly hard to take in person. Maybe the friendship is viable with less time spent together. “I have a friend from college, someone I know well and care about, who puts me down when we talk on the phone,” Betty, a former client, once told me. “But she’s fine in emails. We live 1,000 miles apart so it’s easy to limit our exposure to each other. We have a long and rich history together. I’d rather not end the relationship totally, but that’s possible only by limiting my interactions with her.”

If change isn’t possible, let go. There are times when you need to end a toxic relationship for your own health, well-being and peace of mind. Ending a once cherished friendship can be painful. But it doesn’t have to be acrimonious. Not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime. You can wish a friend well. You can express gratitude for what you have shared. You can celebrate what you have learned and how you have grown during your time with this friend. You can choose to see this parting not as a failure but as a positive step in a new direction. Walking away from the pain and stress of a toxic friendship may be one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

  • General Biblical Studies, Interdenominational Christian Training Center
  • Facebook Facebook
  • Twitter Twitter

Friends come,
Friends go,
But a true friend is there to watch you grow.

This poem conveys the idea of enduring friendship with perfect simplicity, which is the foundation of the three types of Christian friends.

Types of Christian Friendship

Mentor Friendship: The first form of Christian friendship is a mentoring friendship. In a mentoring relationship we teach, counsel or disciple other Christian friends. This is a relationship based on ministry, similar to the kind Jesus had with his disciples.

Mentee Friendship: In a mentee friendship, we are the one being taught, counseled, or discipled. We are on the receiving end of ministry, being served by a mentor. This is similar to the way the disciples received from Jesus.

Mutual Friendship: Mutual friendships are not based on mentoring. Rather, in these situations, the two individuals are usually more closely aligned on a spiritual level, balancing the natural flow of giving and receiving between genuine Christian friends. We’ll explore mutual friendships more closely, but first, it’s important to have a clear understanding of mentoring relationships, so we don’t get the two confused.

Mentoring friendships can easily become draining if both parties don’t recognize the nature of the relationship and construct appropriate boundaries. The mentor may need to pull back and take time for spiritual renewal. He may even have to say no at times, setting limits on his commitment to the mentee.

Likewise, a mentee who expects too much from his mentor is probably seeking a mutual bond with the wrong person. Mentees must respect boundaries and look for close friendship with someone other than a mentor.

We can be both mentor and mentee, but not with the same friend. We may know a mature believer who mentors us in God’s Word, while in turn, we take time to mentor a brand new follower of Christ.

Mutual friendships are quite different than mentoring friendships. These relationships don’t usually happen overnight. Typically, they develop over time as both friends progress in wisdom and spiritual maturity. Strong Christian friendship blossoms naturally when two friends grow together in faith, goodness, knowledge, and other godly graces.

Traits of True Christian Friends

So, what does a true Christian friendship look like? Let’s break it down into traits that are easy to identify.

Loves Sacrificially

John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (NIV)

Jesus is the finest example of a true Christian friend. His love for us is sacrificial, never selfish. He demonstrated it not only through his miracles of healing, but more fully through the humble service of washing the disciples’ feet, and then ultimately when he laid down his life on the cross.

If we choose our friends based only on what they have to offer, we’ll rarely discover the blessings of a genuine godly friendship. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” By valuing your friend’s needs above your own, you’ll be on your way to loving like Jesus. In the process, you’ll likely gain a true friend.

Accepts Unconditionally

Proverbs 17:17: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (NIV)

We discover the best of friendships with brothers and sisters who know and accept our weaknesses and imperfections.

If we’re easily offended or hold on to bitterness, we’ll have a hard time making friends. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes now and then. If we take a truthful look at ourselves, we’ll admit that we bear some of the blame when things go wrong in a friendship. A good friend is quick to ask forgiveness and ready to be forgiving.

Trusts Completely

Proverbs 18:24: A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (NIV)

This proverb reveals that a true Christian friend is trustworthy, indeed, but emphasizes a second important truth as well. We should only expect to share complete trust with a few loyal friends. Trusting too easily can lead to ruin, so be careful about putting your confidence in a mere companion. Over time our true Christian friends will prove their trustworthiness by sticking closer than a brother or sister.

Keeps Healthy Boundaries

1 Corinthians 13:4: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy . (NIV)

If you feel smothered in a friendship, something is wrong. Likewise, if you feel used or abused, something is amiss. Recognizing what’s best for someone and giving that person space are signs of a healthy relationship. We should never let a friend come between our spouse and us. A true Christian friend will wisely avoid intruding and recognize your need to maintain other relationships.

Gives Mutual Edification

Proverbs 27:6: Wounds from a friend can be trusted . (NIV)

True Christian friends will build each other up emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Friends like to be together simply because it feels good. We receive strength, encouragement, and love. We talk, we cry, we listen. But at times we also have to say the difficult things our dearest friend needs to hear. Because of the shared trust and acceptance, we are the one person who can impact our friend’s heart, for we know how to deliver the hard message with truth and grace. I believe this is what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

As we’ve reviewed these traits of godly friendships, we’ve probably recognized areas that need a little work in our efforts to build stronger bonds. But if you don’t have lots of close friends, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember, true Christian friendships are rare treasures. They take time to nurture, but in the process, we grow more Christlike.

What is it that makes a true friend?

The Japanese have a term, kenzoku, which translated literally means “family.” The connotation suggests a bond between people who’ve made a similar commitment and who possibly therefore share a similar destiny. It implies the presence of the deepest connection of friendship, of lives lived as comrades from the distant past.

Many of us have people in our lives with whom we feel the bond described by the word kenzoku. They may be family members, a mother, a brother, a daughter, a cousin. Or a friend from grammar school with whom we haven’t talked in decades. Time and distance do nothing to diminish the bond we have with these kinds of friends.

The question then arises: why do we have the kind of chemistry encapsulated by the word kenzoku with only a few people we know and not scores of others? The closer we look for the answer the more elusive it becomes. It may not in fact be possible to know, but the characteristics that define a kenzoku relationship most certainly are.

What draws people together as friends?

  1. Common interests. This probably ties us closer to our friends than many would like to admit. When our interests diverge and we can find nothing to enjoy jointly, time spent together tends to rapidly diminish. Not that we can’t still care deeply about friends with whom we no longer share common interests, but it’s probably uncommon for such friends to interact on a regular basis.
  2. History. Nothing ties people together, even people with little in common, than having gone through the same difficult experience. As the sole glue to keep friendships whole in the long run, however, it often dries, cracks, and ultimately fails.
  3. Common values. Though not necessarily enough to create a friendship, if values are too divergent, it’s difficult for a friendship to thrive.
  4. Equality. If one friend needs the support of the other on a consistent basis such that the person depended upon receives no benefit other than the opportunity to support and encourage, while the relationship may be significant and valuable, it can’t be said to define a true friendship.

What makes a friend worthy of the name?

  1. A commitment to your happiness. A true friend is consistently willing to put your happiness before your friendship. It’s said that “good advice grates on the ear,” but a true friend won’t refrain from telling you something you don’t want to hear, something that may even risk fracturing the friendship, if hearing it lies in your best interest. A true friend will not lack the mercy to correct you when you’re wrong. A true friend will confront you with your drinking problem as quickly as inform you about a malignant-looking skin lesion on your back that you can’t see yourself.
  2. Not asking you to place the friendship before your principles. A true friend won’t ask you to compromise your principles in the name of your friendship or anything else. Ever.
  3. A good influence. A true friend inspires you to live up to your best potential, not to indulge your basest drives.

Of course, we may have friends who fit all these criteria and still don’t quite feel kenzoku. There still seems to be an extra factor, an attraction similar to that which draws people together romantically, that cements friends together irrevocably, often immediately, for no reason either person can identify. But when you find these people, these kenzoku, they’re like priceless gems. They’re like finding home.

How to attract true friends

This one is easy, at least on paper: become a true friend yourself. One of my favorite quotations comes from Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Be the friend you want to have. We all tend to attract people into our lives whose character mirrors our own. You don’t have to make yourself into what you think others would find attractive. No matter what your areas of interest, others share them somewhere. Simply make yourself a big target. Join social clubs organized around activities you enjoy. Leverage the Internet to find people of like mind. Take action.

As I thought about it, there are four people in my life I consider kenzoku. How many do you?

My book, The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self, is available now; read the sample chapter and visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble to order your copy.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

With the days of having hundreds of Facebook “friends” upon us, real friendships built on respect, a common bond, and shared memories seem to be few and far between in the modern world. We can instantly connect with anyone online, but does that make them a tried and true friend?

On the other hand, the friends you thought you could count on in real life can turn out to be just as distant, flaky, and unreliable as people you’ve connected within the cyber world. Studies show that even if people have thousands of Facebook friends, they usually only maintain close relationships with a few people in real life.

So, how can you make sure that these friendships you have invested so much in emotionally are actually authentic?

Here are 11 telltale signs of your true friendships:

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

1. They accept everything about you, including your flaws.

They don’t want to change you. In fact, true friendships mean they embrace everything about you, from your quirks and flaws to your best personality traits. That doesn’t mean they have to particularly like or agree with everything you say and do, but they don’t bash you or try to alter your personality, either. You feel like you can breathe a big sigh of relief around them. That’s because in a sea of billions of people, you’ve found one person who sees the positive things about you even when you don’t see them yourself.

2. They stick with you through both the good and bad times.

This one probably best distinguishes a fake friend from a real one; in hard times, a true friend would never dream of leaving you in the shadows alone. Instead, they offer to help you however they can, and bring you back into the light again. Fake friends often bail on you because they only wanted to stick around when things went well for you, and felt like helping you through your problems was a burden for them.

3. They are happy for your successes and congratulate you when you reach a new goal.

Fake friends feel jealous and contemptuous when you achieve something exciting in your life, but true friends will celebrate your accomplishments with you. To know if you’re dealing with an authentic friendship or not, just notice who sticks around when you reach new heights in your life. Some people will try to tear you down, but the real friends in your life will feel happy for you.

4. You feel totally comfortable around them, and they probably know things about you that many others don’t.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

They know your best-kept secrets, your wildest dreams, and the unique quirks that you only share with people you feel most at ease around. Plus, they know all the details about your love life, your most cherished childhood memories, and all those embarrassing stories that you wouldn’t share with just anyone. They want to know you to your core, not just on the surface. This separates a true friend from a fake one in many ways.

5. True friendships meet you halfway – they don’t expect you to always be the one to reach out to them.

You don’t have to call or text every time you want to meet up. That’s because they also show interest in hanging out with you, and they’ll contact you often to catch up. You don’t feel like you have to chase them in order to keep them in your life – they put equal effort into your friendship, and make time to see you. They don’t only talk to you when it’s convenient; they reach out to you because they truly care about you as a friend and want you in their life.

6. They make you feel happier and more alive, not drained and stressed.

After seeing them, you feel more rejuvenated, vibrant, and excited about life, not the opposite. Authentic friendships will be a perfect energetic match between two people; otherwise, one person will be giving the other one energy, which means that you have an energy vampire on your hands. To know if you have a true friendship with someone, just pay attention to how you feel after meeting up with them. A real friend will make you feel good about yourself and life, not depressed and uninspired.

7. They tell you the truth about things, even if you may not want to hear it.

Authentic friends tell you what you want to hear; they never sugarcoat anything just to appease you. They tell you the truth, even if it may hurt. And, you’ve learned to appreciate this, because not many other people in your life will cut to the chase and tell it like it is. They tell you the truth not to cut you down, but to help you make the right choices in your life and become a better person because of this.

8. They don’t blow things out of proportion when you make a mistake – they forgive you.

Don’t expect perfection from true friendships–and they won’t expect it from you. Plus, you don’t feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them just to gain their approval. They know that you will slip up from time to time, and you don’t have to give a long apology. They just put it behind them and know that you have good intentions despite whatever mistakes you might make.

9. Real friendships mean they don’t talk about you behind your back.

Real friends NEVER gossip about you when you leave the room. Indeed, they act like an adult and confront you personally if they need to talk to you. They respect you enough to not spread rumors and tarnish your reputation behind your back; they would rather smooth things over with you and have a rational discussion face-to-face.

10. They allow you to have other friendships without getting jealous and possessive.

Real friends feel confident enough in your friendship that they don’t have to resort to jealousy and trying to control your life. They give you the freedom to pursue other friendships and activities in your life because they know that your friendship is rock solid. They realize that you don’t have to be in their company 24/7 in order to validate the friendship.

11. You have so many inside jokes and funny memories with them that you’ve lost count.

You have such a close friendship with them that you’ve spent countless hours together just being silly and laughing about nothing, and in turn, you’ve created so many unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.

Final Thoughts on Fostering True Friendships

Like any relationship, friendships take an investment of your time and caring. However, the real sign that tells you that you have a friend for life is when you find that you actually enjoy that time spent and look forward to the next time you connect.

What happens when your BFF’s behavior makes you say WTF? When do you stay loyal and when do you call it quits? By request from listener Alyssa, Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen tackles when to stick it out in a troubled friendship and when to walk away.

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

Despite what the Spice Girls would have us believe, it’s not true that friendship never ends. Research actually confirms what we’ve all experienced: most middle school friendships don’t even last a year. And while some adult friendships last throughout life, some make us feel like we’ve been sentenced for life. So how do you know when to make a break for freedom?

Sometimes it’s obvious: a so-called friend steals your money or your partner, or in the case of Taylor Swift, your back-up dancers. Now we’ve got bad blood, indeed.

Buy Now

How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

But sometimes it’s not obvious: do you tough it out with a friend struggling with addiction? Can you stay friends with someone whose values undergo a radical change? Do you leave behind a boring friend or remind yourself true friendship isn’t about entertainment? And of course, what to do when a friendship starts off strong and just fizzles? Nothing happened, but there’s just nothing there anymore. Is it okay to let go?

Fundamentally, you don’t need a checklist of legit and non-legit reasons to end a friendship. Go with your gut and your heart. That said, here are seven questions to ask yourself to make those fuzzy situations a little bit clearer:

Question #1: Does it feel genuine, or like a transaction? Some people are friends with you because of what you can do for them. Red flags include friends who repeatedly try to sell you something, ask to borrow money again and again, or keep tabs on favors. (“You owe me housesitting because I took care of your dog.”) These friends routinely cross the line between friendship and business.

The transaction might also be more subtle—you’re friends with them because they admire you with cartoon hearts in their eyes and in return you get a shot to your self-esteem. You’re friends because they hold you back just enough that you can blame them, rather than yourself, for not accomplishing your dreams.

In sum, if you leave every interaction with an urge to wash your hands, look closer and see if you might using them or being used yourself. In the end, you want friends, not an entourage.

Question #2: Are you holding each other back from getting healthy? Back in 2007, a now-famous study in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked the spread of obesity through a “deeply interconnected social network” of more than 12,000 people, underscoring that social ties link to health behavior.

Turns out healthy (or unhealthy) habits can circulate within a smaller friend group, too. For instance, unhealthy psychological habits like a tendency to put each other down or to complain constantly can spread from friend to friend. Or unhealthy body image or disordered eating habits might be a culture in your circle.

More seriously, if you’re battling a substance abuse problem normalized by a friend group (“If we all drink until we black out, doesn’t that make it normal?”), it’s difficult yet crucial to drop friends. Indeed, showing up at the same bar with the same people will inevitably lead to the same behavior.

Ideally, friends work together to eat better, team up to exercise, or weather the horrors of stopping smoking together. But if your friend pulls you down, pressures you to drink or smoke after you’ve made it clear you’re trying to change, or otherwise ridicules your attempts to take care of yourself, it may be time to distance yourself.

Question #3: Are you being manipulated? Manipulation, fundamentally, is managing the emotions of others, and not in a good way. It’s sulking to get someone to feel bad, it’s being especially nice to butter someone up.

It’s really hard to put your finger on whether or not it’s happening, because being the target of manipulation is like being the proverbial frog in the slowly boiling water—it’s only after you’re out that you realize the full extent of what was happening.

But there are clues: your friendship may feel unnecessarily intricate. You’re at a loss for words when others ask you about the friendship. “It’s complicated,” is the best you can muster.

Another clue: without quite realizing it, you’ve changed for the worse as a result of this friendship (less happy, less secure, less confident) but somehow you’re the one always doing the apologizing. Or you may just feel like something is always off. You even ask your friend “what’s wrong?” but the answer (or the resulting silent treatment) just makes you more confused.

Any of these clues may be signs of emotional manipulation. Indeed, a 2016 study unsurprisingly found that manipulation hung together with lower levels of important friendship characteristics like being able to express personal thoughts and feelings, providing comfort when needed, simply being fun to be with, and always being there for each other (which, by the way, in research-speak is called “reliable alliance”).

By Ditch the Label

  • /
  • Post date

    We’ve all had friendships that have ended up a little pear-shaped and it’s unfortunate that most of the time, we all have to get burnt before we can spot a bad friend from a good one. We’ve pooled together our own experiences and come up with 15 of the most common signs that somebody isn’t your friend for the right reasons. If any of these apply to your friendships, we would encourage you to think twice about them and try to determine whether they are really a friend…

    The 15 friendship signs

    1. They only call when they want something

    All friendships should be equal – which means that you should receive as much as you put in, it’s all based on reciprocation and mutuality. If you’re putting in more than you’re getting out, you should think twice about what they are asking from you.

    2. The conversation is never equal

    Do you find that you just spend your whole time focused on them when you’re hanging out? Yeah, that’s not cool – we all have problems and things we’d like to talk to somebody about.

    3. They put you down or make fun of you in front of others

    A definite no-no. Usually, people do this because they feel bad about themselves and want to use somebody else as a distraction. Draw a line through any friendships like this immediately.

    4. You feel bad about yourself when you’ve spent time with them

    Sometimes it’s difficult to analyse behaviour, but your emotions never lie. Friends should make you feel good, empowered and uplifted. If you leave them feeling like crap then you should probably re-evaluate the benefit you’re getting from the friendship. Some people, unfortunately, just like to bring others down.

    5. They are aggressively competitive

    It’s good to be a little competitive now and again, but like most things – you can have too much of a good thing. A friendship based on competitive behaviour is NEVER healthy or a true friendship.

    6. They aren’t happy for you when good things happen

    This is one of the most common tell-tale signs and it’s also based on competitive behaviour. A true friend will want to see you succeed and be happy.

    How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

    7. They bring drama into your life

    It’s usually the people who spend their time moaning about drama who are the ones causing it. You don’t need that negativity around you.

    8. They bitch about you behind your back

    An absolute no-no. Friendships need to be based on mutual respect and trust. Don’t put up with that crap.

    9. Your relationship feels like it’s built on conditionality

    This is likewise for all relationships in your life. You should feel like they are unconditional and not based on you being or acting in a certain way.

    10. Your friends bail on you

    Sometimes it happens and that’s fine, but if it’s consistent then it obviously shows that your friend is unreliable and much less invested in the friendship than you are. Maybe it’s your turn to bail on them, permanently.

    11. They use your secrets against you and share them

    This is malicious and absolutely nothing a true friend would ever do.

    How to identify a true friendship in this complicated world

    Are you looking to break up with a toxic friend? Here are our steps to breaking up with a toxic friend.

    12. They are a bad influence and make you do things that get you into trouble

    Nip this in the bud before you end up getting yourself into trouble. Friends don’t make friends do bad things… or text when drunk, but we’ll turn a blind eye to that one… for now.

    13. They talk about their other friends behind their back

    If they do this, the chances are, they do it to you too. It’s fine to have a moan occasionally, but anything malicious would probably indicate that they aren’t as genuine as they’d like you to believe.

    14. They bail when you need them the most

    So there are friends, who are, well… friends and there are friends who are still your friends at 3am on a Wednesday morning in the midst of your breakdown. The latter are your friends for life and it’s important to know that you can rely on a few select individuals to be by your side through thick and thin.

    15. They exclude you from things with mutual friends

    If it’s on purpose and happening often, despite you bringing it up then we suggest you create some distance. It is important to remember that sometimes it can happen accidentally so try and talk to them about it before jumping to conclusions.

    It’s not me, it’s you: breaking up

    Firstly, speak to somebody about it, make sure your response is rational. If it is, then deal with it, accept that it isn’t your fault and mentally move on.

    Once you’ve done this, you have 1 of 2 options:

    Let the friendship naturally fade out

    Stop making arrangements, stop replying and distance yourself from them. Eventually, you’ll become increasingly distant until you’re officially no longer friends on Facebook.

    Confront them

    There are 2 schools of thought surrounding this: confrontation can be good if you’d like to hopefully try to resolve things, but on the opposite end, confrontation can be incredibly empowering if you’ve felt particularly suppressed or upset by somebody. Arguments can be healthy, provided that they don’t put anybody at risk and won’t make situations worse. We’d recommend a mediator to help keep an argument balanced.