Removing clutter from your life can help you find a renewed focus and feel better about your living space. But has it occurred to you that your friendships may need decluttering too?
All of us strive to pursue positive experiences and certain friends can make that challenging. An easy way to determine whether you are surrounding yourself with the right kind of people is to check how you feel after meeting them. Are you in high or low spirits?
Feeling ‘low’ may come as a surprise, especially if your original experience with a friend was positive. However, time and circumstances have a way of changing the nature of some friendships. If you find that maintaining certain friendships is depleting your energy or causing you anxiety, then you may need to assess whether to let it go.
While you may feel disloyal about making changes to old friendships, the fact is that you are doing both of you a favour. If you are not enjoying the friendship, then your efforts to stay involved in their life are diminished and both parties are shortchanged.
It sounds harsh to assess friendships this way but consciously choosing your long-term friendships is a more genuine way to live and it also greatly reduces your stress levels. The most important thing is to remember when bowing out of your time together is to do so gracefully and without confrontation or burning bridges.
So how do you know if a friendship has run its course? Here are three clear signs:
#1. There is more take than give from the other side
There are times when your friends go through a rough patch and need to lean on you. You might be happy being their sounding board and pillar of strength but what happens when their troubles take precedence over your own big life events? Or if they prefer to wallow in self-pity than pick themselves up?
This is not about letting a friendship go simply because the other person is not bursting with happiness. This is about how the friendship makes you feel. If you are feeling pinpricks of resentment then you may want to think about how you want the friendship to proceed.
There is no need to tell the other person or shut them out completely if you have decided to take a breather. Keep in touch but gently disengage by spending less time on the phone or in person with them.
Instead of viewing it as “abandoning” your friend, think of it as “managing” the friendship differently. You are simply investing less energy and time in something that you do not fully enjoy.
#2. You are currently at different stages in life
There will always be friends who move at a slower or faster pace than you. Maybe they are all married and you are not. Or maybe you are running your own company and they are still job hunting. If you are the odd one in the group, there is a likelihood that you are already feeling left out of conversations.
One way to get around this is by organising the next catch up around a neutral activity that everyone can attend and will enjoy. Another way, if you have already tried the first, is to seek out a new group of likeminded friends where you can form brand new memories.
It has been said that people come into your life for a reason, season or lifetime. Not everyone fits into the last category. Be grateful for the bond you once shared and recognise when it is time to let go and move on.
#3. Your lifestyles are in conflict with each other
There are some friends with whom you share a long history until you both reach a fork in the road and your paths diverge. New experiences shape your thoughts and lifestyle in ways that could be in conflict with your friend’s chosen lifestyle. Suddenly you no longer see eye to eye and your conversations are either unnaturally polite or fraught with tension.
Walking away may be the only option in this case and could turn out to be easier than you think, as your friend is very likely to feel the same way. In fact, it could almost be a relief to him or her that you are pulling away first.
There are two ways of tackling this situation. One is to openly and honestly talk about this change of direction. The other is to let the relationship gradually slip away by not spending as much time together