Should You Get Rid of Toxic Friends?

If you know a friend of yours is jealous and envious of you, while badmouthing you to degrade you, should you cut all ties?

A twenty-something asked me this the other day. It’s a subject we’ve touched on before but this is really about the when and if to cut bait. 40-somethings have come to a point where they know their friends are invaluable. They are their support, their lifeline. There’s really nothing better than a friend who loves you just for who you are knows you inside and out.

“As you get older, you have more of a close knit crew. It’s about family, shared history and convenience. In your 20s you are tolerant of all types. You weed them out and weed them out and who lasts, lasts – that is a small circle to get into.” – 40-something, Stamford, CT

Almost every 40-something has let go of a friend or two over the years. Often because they realize that someone doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Some because an incident such as a death in the family or their own traumatic experiences have made them realize who their real friends were. A friend recently told me that when their mom passed away, many of her “friends” disappeared. Not wanting to deal with the down side of this friend who was always the optimistic person. On the other hand she found old friends came out of the woodwork.

You have friends in your 20s for many reasons. For fun, for partying, for networking, for sharing. But you do have to realize, as one woman told me, “not everyone who comes to you with a smile on their face is nice”. A 40-something I know went through a period in her late 20s when she realized that while she had a ton of  “friends”,  she had no one to talk to about real things.  She had a job that gave her access to a lot of parties and one night at a party she realized she had never felt so alone. Many of these friends just wanted her for her connections.  Have lots of friends in your 20s but realize that not every friend is the kind of friend you want to confess all your life secrets to. Make sure you find some of those and recognize the superficial friends for what they are.

When you are young everyone is your friend. It’s beneficial to you to have these wide circles and avoid the insecurity of I don’t have any friends. But keep your good friends. As you get older, your friends whittle down to who is awesome.” – 40-something, NYC

Many women had perspective on getting rid of “toxic friends”. Here is their advice:

“Do spring cleaning. Don’t waste time on friends that are not going to be happy for you” – 40-something, Los Angeles, CA

“Get rid of the weeds in your garden.  I look at my friends as flowers. Then I have some friends that are weeds. Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of the weeds in the garden because we share history and time and years. But I needed to get rid of them because they were actually hurting some of the other flowers in my garden. It was sapping so much of my good energy for when I could be with other people. I think it’s a really good analogy of weeds in your garden. When you have friends in your life that don’t do anything to help you grow no matter how much love and forgiveness and all that you give them, it’s okay not to have them in your life. – 40-something, Hermosa Beach, CA

“A true friend doesn’t judge you.” 40-something, Darien, CT

“I have friends that I have decided I don’t want in my life. Not many, but I have divorced myself from certain people.  Not in any big dramatic way but just distancing myself when I realize that somebody is not healthy for me. That doesn’t mean that they are an awful person. They might be healthy for other people.  But you have to realize who is good for you because you only have so much time in a day and in a year to spend with the people that are important to you. If you are spending your time with people that you feel have bad energy and are not good for you, what’s the point?” 40-something, San Francisco, CA

“You don’t have to make a big deal out of “breaking up with a friend. And I’ve done that. But you can just stop calling. Stop reaching out. The relationship just slowly dies and it’s not like “Oh my God we’re not friends anymore” and you won’t get a Christmas card anymore.” – 40-something, NYC

Realize they won’t change….

“People are who they are. You have to take them at face value. You can be there for them and try to help them through bad times but they are who they are and you cannot change their personalities. If you don’t like their personalities then you have to decide if you want these people in your life.” – 40something, NYC

Even as women weed out friends, take comfort in knowing you will always find new friends as well…

“Special people get in no matter what.  After I was older and had kids I made a conscious decision to say my circle if full, I don’t have enough time for people I can’t let anyone else in. But people just click with you or your situation and it just happens without an effort. If it is a special person then they are going to find a way in because they are meant to be in your life. So you can have all the rules you want. But my rule about I’m full, I don’t have the time went out the window.  – 40-something, Stamford, CT

The 40-somethings bottom line is , like all relationships, you have to look at whether this person is bringing you down more than they are lifting you up and are you able to handle that regardless of how long your history or how beneficial your connection.

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