How to tell if it’s time for a ‘friend cleanse’: 10 questions to ask yourself

By Janet Stone

How to tell if it’s time for a ‘friend cleanse’: 10 questions to ask yourself
Friendships have proven key to our health and happiness, but when a friendship becomes detrimental to our wellbeing, it may be time to consider cutting ties and making new, more meaningful and fulfilling connections.

The thought of breaking up with a friend might make your stress levels rise, but first it’s best to understand, and be comfortable with, the natural ebb and flow that inevitably happens in our relationships.

Dana Kerford, Friendship Expert and Founder of URSTRONG, says: “It’s very normal that we sometimes grow apart from certain friends and that not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime.”

What makes a good friend?

“Signs of a healthy fulfilling friendship is a friend that’s happy for your success,” says Dr Marisa G. Franco, author of Platonic: How Understanding Your Attachment Style Can Help You Make – and Keep – Friends.

She refers to true friends as being “(A friend) that is there to help you and to support you during your low moments; a friend who rbings up issues with you directly instead of just ghosting or withdrawing from you; and a friend who is engaged in mutuality, which means they’re considering your needs and their needs at the same time and balancing both of them.”

‘Red Zone’ friendships

On the flipside, “an unhealthy friendship is where it feels bad, it feels hard, you don’t have trust and respect, you might feel frustrated, or helpless,” says Kerford.

Dr Bruce Y. Lee, Professor of Health Policy and Management at the City University of New York School of Public Health, has created 10 criteria for assessing whether or not someone should remain your friend.

He says: “If someone met one or more of the following 10 criteria, that person was a candidate to be cleansed from my friendship circle.”

10 questions to ask about your friendship:

  1. Have the not been there for me when I reached out during the tougher moments of my life?
  2. Where they judgemental when I revealed that I was going through tough times?
  3. Did they not make an adequate effort to stay in touch?
  4. Did they fail to make enough effort to really get to know me?
  5. Have they not been open about themselves and their lives? Were they instead presenting a front or charade to me?
  6. Did they fail to tell me or warn me about important things that I needed to know?
  7. Did I wonder about what they were saying or doing behind my back?
  8. Dud they date my significant other while I was still with the significant other?
  9. Did they not seem to cherish our friendship?
  10. Did they not change any of the above behaviours even when given the opportunity to do so?

How to your cleanse your friendships?

There are a number of ways to distance yourself from an expired or toxic friendship, explains says Dr Marisa G. Franco, author of Platonic: How Understanding Your Attachment Style Can Help You Make – and Keep – Friends.

“The beauty of friendship is that we don’t just have to choose to continue or end (a friendship). There’s so much in between, there’s so much grey area, you could choose to perhaps make the friendship less intimate, you can choose to dial down the level of connection. I use the term ‘low dose friends’ for those friends you like at really low doses such as a once-a- month lunch friend.”

“It is about getting strategic as well, thinking about what works and what doesn’t work in each friendship, what feels good and what doesn’t feel good any more,” says Dana Kerford,
Friendship Expert. “That friend
hat maybe you don’t feel comfortable meeting one-on-one, you might feel okay within a group setting.”

Your approach to ending a friendship should depend on the closeness of a friendship, says Dr Franco. “I think if it’s a newer friend, you can try to kind of fade on them and ‘be busy’, but if it’s an existing friend, if you don’t tell them directly, you’re going to trigger something called ‘ambiguous loss’, which is when we have a lot of difficulty processing a loss because we don’t understand why it happened.” 

She advises not to ‘attack’ your friend. “Use ‘I’ statements such as, ‘I’ve just been feeling like maybe we’re not compatible in the same way because of this, this and this’,” says Franco. “You can also acknowledge all the good the friendship did for you. Like, ‘I’ll still cherish these memories or these moments that we had together.’ You want to put some effort into making that break-up not toxic. You’re telling them about the impact on you and why you feel uncomfortable.” 

Friendships take time and effort 

So you’ve got rid of the draining friends who no longer make you feel good. Now what? Deep, connected friendships take time and effort to form.

A 2018 study titled, ‘How many hours does it take to make a friend?’ published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found casual friendships emerge after around 30 hours of time spent together, followed by friendships around 50 hours, good friendships begin to emerge after 140 hours, and best friendships do not emerge until after 300 hours of time spent together.


READ MORE: 4 friendship boundaries you need to have in your life


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