We all love our friends, don't we? But sometimes we don't love them forever. People come and go in life. You grow apart. You lose touch. People change. To everything there is a season and all that.
Sometimes, though, relationships seem to drag on endlessly, and you find yourself wondering what you found likeable about the person in the first place, but you can't seem to sever the tie. Other times, you might like the bud on the surface but suspect that deep down, he or she is actually toxic.
We don't usually end such connections the way we end romantic relationships with a dramatic flourish, an often public airing of grievances, a dividing up of stuff and a real sense of finality do we?
Instead, we slink away, stop returning calls or, worse, turn two-faced and start badmouthing.
How do you know when you're in a self-diminishing friendship, and what do you do about it?
What the experts say
"Sometimes friends do something heinous that is a clear breach -- they have a love affair with your spouse or they undermine a promotion. But most often it's hard to sense when a relationship is toxic. Look for feeling drained or a sense that the relationship is one-sided, feeling that their views on important issues are offensive, feeling embarrassed by them. You can try a hiatus at first, get a little space. Say, 'I'm busy. There's a lot going on. I can't really see you.' We're brought up with a myth that friendships last forever. Women in particular are brought up to feel that giving up a friendship means there's something deficient in us. But friendships are very dynamic and they change with our life circumstances, so it's important to feel comfortable about ending them. But don't be vindictive or do anything to hurt the other person."
IRENE LEVINE professor of psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine
"A toxic friendship erodes who you are and makes you feel bad physically or emotionally. You might get a stomach ache or headache when you're with this person. Your heart might beat a little faster. Once you're aware, you can objectively look at it. Some people need to wean themselves from a relationship, especially one that is long-standing. So you could meet less and less or meet with a group of people . Some people advocate not returing phone calls or cutting conversations short so they get the message. I advocate a direct approach. Have an honest discussion about why the relationship is no longer working, and let the other person have their say. It might not be them. It might be you. Or maybe it's something the person is not aware of and could remedy. Cultivate other friends at the same time. Work on yourself and develop your own self-esteem. No one needs to inhale toxicity. We're careful about being green, so be green in your relationships, too. If it affects you emotionally, it will affect you physically."
DEBBY MANDEL , author of Fractured Friendships, NYU School of Medicine
'[Dramatic breakups] can have negative long-term effects. If you end the friendship, you want to do it in a way that your friend will not have a vendetta against you. Today more than ever the lines between personal and business are often blurred. Someone could say or do something that could affect your relationship with a co-worker, boss or client down the road. If you want to pull away, try to avoid dwelling on what you find wrong with the friend. Focus on the way you and your friend interact that isn't working out right now. If it is absolutely necessary to share your reasons for wanting to end the friendship, say it over the phone rather than in writing. Writing can come back to haunt you. If you talk over the phone, you also give your friend a chance to discuss it. This can actually help to find out if the friendship can be saved or if you both want to revisit it down the road."
JAN YAGER , author, When Friendship Hurts: How To Deal With Friends Who Betray, Abandon Or Wound You
"Moving on from a friendship is about growth, transition and transformation. Amethyst is a master crystal for transformation. It helps take you from a previous state to a future enhanced state of being where new friends will accompany you on the next part of the journey. Amethyst also provides mental clarity and supports strength of purpose. You can keep a piece in your pocket and use it like a worry stone, wear it as jewellery near the heart chakra, keep it in your hand or sleep with it under your pillow."
KAREN RYAN , crystal healer, Toronto
"Past relationships reflect where you were in the cycle of growth, what you needed at that time in your life. You may have seen a strength in that person that needed development in you. When it's time to move on, ask yourself, 'What did I learn?' A lot of people have a hard time letting go, but you know it's happening. You have stopped growing together as individuals, so it's time to let go; more people need to assist you in your next stage. Let's say it turns painful, someone abuses your trust. Maybe that person came into your life to teach you about trust. Go past the blame game. Ask yourself why you attracted that person and how you became friends in the first place. Maybe there's something for you to learn to overcome."
LILIAN B. EDEN , metaphysician, teacher, author, Toronto