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6 Things that Can Kill a Friendship

I’ve often looked at friendships portrayed on some of my favorite television shows and wondered how realistic they are. For instance, the friendships on Friends, Sex and the City, How I Met Your Mother and a new favorite, Cougar Town, exemplify the types of friendships many of us yearn for: They last for years, they make it through thick and thin, they see one another on a regular if not daily basis and the characters are honest with one another, even when it means saying something the other person doesn’t want to hear.  I might be off the mark here, but these portrayals seem to create the illusion of a Prince Charming of friendships: Do they really exist? Are they even realistic?

Very close friendships take tremendous work, dedication and effort from all parties involved. They require mentally healthy participants who WANT to put in the effort and are equally invested in the friendship’s success. Similar to romantic relationships, when we let our own issues and baggage get muddled into the picture, our friendships inevitably become strained or weakened and suffer as a result. No one is perfect, and although there are certain traits that are good to look for in a friend, there are definitely dynamics that can be very detrimental. Here are six things that can have real negative impact to friendships:

  1. Jealousy: It is natural for every one of us, at one point or another, to be envious. Maybe we are envious of a friend’s job…or of their marital relationship…or of their ability to have children when we can not…but, when that envy turns into something deeper…something that looks more like resentment or jealousy…that is when a real problem begins. If your friend can’t let go of their own hang-ups in order to be happy for you when you have something positive happen in your life, it may be a sign that their hang-ups are stronger than your friendship.
  2. Destructive Feedback and Communication: There are times when we all need some honesty…but when that honesty comes in the form of belittling us or hurting us, the honesty turns into something very ugly. Communicating with one another honestly and openly is very important to a true friendship…but it must be done with respect, love and sensitivity. I like to call this constructive feedback…with the operating word being “constructive.”  If you find that your friend consistently gives you feedback that leaves you feeling bad about yourself, they may be suffering from their own insecurities and as a result, are tearing you down to make themselves feel better. Regardless, it isn’t healthy and is far from constructive or helpful.
  3. Selfishness: There will inevitably be times when your friend’s needs are more important than yours and vice verse, however, if your friendship is ALWAYS about your friend and their needs, it is  very lopsided. Although there will be ebbs and flows, ultimately, friendship should be about mutual give and take, and support.
  4. Lack of Reciprocation: Are you always the one reaching out to your friend? Are you always the one to initiate time together? Granted, some people are not good at initiating and need to be “pulled” along, but if this happens ALL the time, it can start to wear thin. Moreover, it can make you feel that your not a real priority to your friend.
  5. Incessant Negativity: Let’s face it, misery loves company and when things are bad, we love to have others in the trenches with us. If, however, complaining and negativity is the ONLY way you and your friend can relate…you may be creating a very unhealthy foundation for your friendship. Friendships should have positive forces in work and ideally, should bring out the best in each of you.
  6. Judgment: Judgment in a friendship can eat away at your spirit, your self-confidence and your trust in one another. If your friend can’t accept your decisions, views or needs and instead imposes their views and perceptions as the only “right” way of doing things, they aren’t allowing you to be true to yourself.  Each of you are individuals and although you may be friends, what might be right for your friend may not be right for you.

If you are experiencing any of these behaviors or traits in your friendship, it may not mean the friendship is completely doomed. Try to speak to your friend about your concerns openly and honestly.  If you can discuss the issue together and work to finds way to repair any possible damage, your friendship may in fact be stronger for it.

Have you experienced any of these issues in one of your close friendships? How did you handle the situation?

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Mind-Body Tagged with: , , ,
  • TMJ

    I thought this article was effective in covering just about most dynamics that destroy friendships. However,instead of just looking at what people have done to me, I chose to explore my own darkside as I read it and look at perhaps some things I have done to others. I gave Destructive Feedback to a friend within the last month over email. However, in my own defense I did not get brutally honest with this person, until I realized that the nice approach did not work and that this person truly lacked empathy for others that had been her dedicated friend for years. A month prior I tried a kind sensitive email, but she appeared unaffected and simply came up with excuses to blame others, instead of taking responsibility for her actions. I have found that I have to really protect myself, because I know that I am a very sensitive person and in the past was always one to see the best in people that were’nt so nice and I had to learn to create better boundaries. In recent years I have read materials to better me, gotten in touch with me,and still continue to do. When I became brutally honest with this woman, I did this purposely to bring an end to the friendship, because I simply could not take it anymore. The individual wanted me to support their mean-spirited decisions indirectly by passively listening and asist by aiding her in justifying wrong doings. I then came to realize as I was journaling, that I was conditioned to doing this by my mother. She did this same stuff to people and would always influence my sister and I to agree with her or tell her that what she was doing ok, constantly obsessing over toxic situations that she had manifested. All I can say is that this revelation was a major breakthrough for me! I was wrong, because I was that person in the past, just out of my own emotional disconnections. While #2 spoke to me, I honestly believe that sometimes when you are dealing with a downright scoundrel (that is used to lying and slipping thru cracks) you have to really be firm and straight up with them, so that they are put in a place where they virtually cannot deny the negative impact they have had on others! So I think that there is a fine line that comes with giving people negative feedback and I would love to see you do an article exploring how to go about constructive criticsm and dealing with manipulative people. GREAT Article as usual Brett! I love you!

    • Brett

      TMJ…sorry! I just saw this response…you are automatically approved for comments. I have to change the settings for notification.

      I’ll work on that article soon!

  • Jan Smith

    I put up with a neighbour for 30 years being jealous of me if she did anything for me the whole town knew about it..if I had something nice happen and you told her she would not smile and make no comment. Another neighbour of mine noticed this too especially if either one of us got our hair done nice or whatever.
    she also thought I should think like her. she even stood over me one day and yelled in my ear I should feel sorry for a woman who was now ill and who used to live next door tome briefly..I have not seen that woman for 20 years and she had a really naughty boy who gave my handicapped son hell over the fence..
    i have done many things for this neighbour down the road I eventually had to throw her out of my house. she is also the worst gossip in town and she has no friends. I feel relieved that I no longer put up with her judgement of things in my house and if I bought anything knew she was never happy for me. I gave this woman two chances forgave her once, I have moved onto better friends and the rest of our neighbours are great. 6 people in our street have moved because of this womans jealousy she also suffers from pride and arrogance.

  • Ames

    This is 100% accurate. I’ve had these friendships with this small group of women, whom I’ve know since I was 12. Over the years we’ve all taken our turns struggling, whether it having to do with boyfriends, marriages, kids, deaths, divorces, etc. we all seemed to always stick together and being friends with these women was always something I was proud of because any relationship takes serious dedication. Since my split from my husband- my life has been a complete disaster. One of them took in my ex husband and continually meddled. There is a fine between friendships and marriages that include children. This friend lied to me, bashed me, got others involved.. It was very destructive. I live in a very small town, where gossip is the entertainment of most peoples conversations. I’ve stopped talking to these people and I’ve been very fed up as to why they went so above and beyond to ruin my entire character. Nobody is perfect and everybody makes mistakes- there was no reason as to why I was chastised so badly. After reading this blog I realize now how unhappy these people are in their own lives. Ive wondered are they just jealous? I always go back to that because I cannot find reason to the madness. I have nothing, I lost my house, I have been in this horrible bitter place for too long. I cared because I loved them. It’s been very trying on my soul to have to break up with them. The friend that back stabbed me the worst tried to rekindle but when I found out everything- I put a complete end to the friendships permanently. Of course I’m the evil one because being nice months ago did not work, so I said what really wanted to say.. I don’t understand why they couldn’t just let me be happy? I’m very weary of who I let in my personal life now. It was hard enough having my marriage not work out but their behavior tripled my heart ache. I’m still fighting my depression but I know I’m better off moving on. If your friends cannot be happy for you or supportive in the most trying of times- they are not your friends.