How to Know When to Step Back from a Friendship

I’ve struggled with this for as far back as middle school days. From a young age, we are taught what good and bad friends look like, and when we get older, we start to learn what healthy and unhealthy intimate relationships consist of. What teachers/parents/mentors don’t tell us is that we deal with and put up with what we think we deserve. For years, I convinced myself my high school relationship was just fine and we were happy, when the rest of the world saw right through it (and eventually, so did we). The same happens with friendship.

How to know when to step back from a friendship

A good example of the point I’m trying to make happened junior year of high school. My best friend of eleven years and I were drifting apart and I took it upon myself to mend things, to make our friendship what it had been before this bomb called high school hit our lives. I would call to ask if she wanted to hang out, invite her into my homecoming/prom group, ask to study with her, etc. But it was always a no. She had new friends, which was great. It wasn’t that she had made new friends besides me, it was that eventually she seemed to wonder why we stopped hanging out, ignoring the fact that I had tried to stay in touch with her. I decided during the semester I was done reaching out to her. If she wanted to hang out with me, she could come to me and ask. I was done being the only person putting in effort. Friendship is not a one-way street.

I’m not saying cut off all contact with your friends and see if they come back. It’s all very relative. I’ve had friends who I know needed space. I had to make a judgement call on when to reach out again, once they’ve had time with their family or worked some things out on their own. But constantly being shot down? Feeing like they are your friend but you aren’t their friend? That’s when you’ve got to make the decision to step back and take care of yourself first.

I’ve had to step back from many friendships. Even relationships. There’s a point in time when I realize I am the only one putting in effort. The one who makes the plans, the one who sends out the invite, the one who says hello first. One person can’t carry the weight of an entire friendship/relationship. Even people I considered my closest friends, I had to step away from; this isn’t cold hearted. It’s not selfish. It’s taking the opportunity to find out how much your friends value you. As much as you value them? More or less? It’s also an act of self-love. No friendship/relationships is worth questioning yourself over. You are a good friend and there is a tribe out there that you fit into perfectly. Being alone or doing things on your own is not shameful or lame when you’re distancing yourself from people who make you feel worthless. You are worthy and deserving of friends who support you, lift you up, and care about you every day. 

This isn’t a long post but I wanted to share this in case anyone needs permission to step back from someone toxic. In my young adulthood, I have had to step back from many people and 99% of the time, that “friend” doesn’t seem to notice. That other 1%, though? That’s where life-long friends are made. That 1% of people who miss you, who reach out and invite you out on a Saturday, who make you feel apart of their life, are worth the wait. The real, the good, the loving friends are worth the effort. In my young adulthood, I have met friends who love and value me as much as I do them, I don’t have to wonder if they care enough to ask me to dinner or even send me a “how’s it going?” text. They are few, but they are worth a million.

~ Shelby B.
Insta: Shelbycolada
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