The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to take stock of the relationships in your life — and that includes your platonic ones. Perhaps you have a friend who requires more energy than you have to give, or one from whom you've simply grown apart. Whatever the case, if your goal for 2020 involves creating more healthy boundaries and positive-vibes-only, then reevaluating your friendships should be an important step in starting off your new year.
Breakups of any kind are hard, and a friend breakup is no different. That said, it's understandable that you might put off cutting off a friendship that no longer seems to be serving you. Whether they haven't been as good of a friend as you need, the two of you are drifting apart, or you just find yourself craving some more personal space, it can be tough to face the music and have that conversation with someone you still deeply care for. But according to author and Give It a Rest lifestyle/friendship coach Danielle Bayard Jackson, taking an introspective look at these relationships — and yes, potentially even ending some of them — will ultimately benefit you in the long run.
"We sometimes cling to friends out of routine, a sense of loyalty, or because of the amount of history we have together," Jackson says. "But it’s important to occasionally monitor the health of these relationships and examine their impact on your physical, emotional, and mental health." And experts like her believe there to be a few clear-cut signs that your friendship could use some serious TLC — or needs to be cut off for good. Ahead find her advice, as well as that of San Jose-based psychologist Dr. Annie Varvaryan, which could help you decide what to do about your most struggling friendships.
Create Your Own Goals
Before getting into your specific dynamics, it might help to generally know what you're looking for out of your close platonic relationships. And according to Dr. Varvaryan, setting this goal should be just as important as some of the other resolutions you make in the new year, like the ones for better or more consistent fitness and nutrition. "Perhaps a friendship that used to be really close has turned into a yearly text check in," she offers as an example. "You want to ask yourself what your goals are and whether you want to keep this relationship the way it is, or create some change."
Know The Signs Of A Toxic Relationship
While some friendships simply just change over time — not necessarily due to anything major — others are downright toxic. Jackson explains that there are some key signs to look out for if you're questioning if this describes someone in your life, including jealous or controlling behavior, or being insulted or put down. "Other behaviors to look out for include guilting and emotional manipulation, and encouraging you to do things you regret, like drinking when you’re trying to stay sober," she says.
And if you have deemed the relationship toxic, Jackson explains that you've got a couple of options. "If she is exhibiting behaviors and engaging you in a way that is detrimental to you physically, mentally, and emotionally, there’s no question that you should call it quits," she says. "But if she has bad habits or frustrating traits like cancelling plans last-minute or talking about herself too much, then maybe that warrants a tough conversation, not a cut-off."
Ask Yourself If This Friendship Is Serving You
It might seem like a no-brainer, but simply asking yourself if you're getting as much as your giving in the relationship is an important way to put it into perspective. "If you find yourself spending more time and energy on a relationship and not getting much back from it, take a step back and evaluate why you're continuing to maintain this friendship," says Dr. Varvaryan. "One of the best ways you can start to evaluate your relationships is by making a list of your important relationships and being honest with yourself if the relationship is stressful to your life. You don't need to cut that relationship out completely from your life, but perhaps you take a break or create some distance until you figure out how you want to approach it in the future."
And Jackson says that one simple exercise to try is asking yourself how you feel immediately after hanging out with the friend in question. "If you feel exhausted, guilty, regretful, or anxious every time you two say goodbye, that’s your sign," she says.
Have An Open Dialogue
"Once you have an idea of what you want out of your important relationships this year, you may need to take the next steps and have a healthy discussion with that person," says Dr. Varvaryan. "If we don't have these types of discussions within our relationships, we likely won't be able to promote change the way we are hoping for and often this leads to the build up of resentment."
But if the conversation you need to have involves telling your friend that you need some time apart, the experts say to avoid attacking, and try to stick to clearly and compassionately explaining your feelings. "Try letting your friend know you’re ending the friendship by opening up with something like, 'I’m trying to do some things differently in the new year, and in order to do that, I don’t think I can be in this friendship anymore,'" she suggests. "Remember it’s not about them, it’s about you and your boundaries."