Christian women often get confused regarding when to end a friendship. We know that love “bears all things” (1 Corinthians 13), but at what point do boundaries come into play? We are called to love, and to be a witness—but we are not called to be doormats.
Unhealthy friendships may be easy to identify from the outside, but when you’re inside the relationship, it’s much harder to see. The transition from healthy to unhealthy (if the relationship was EVER a healthy one) is gradual and sneaky. You might write off certain behaviors in the name of compassion, understanding or love—when, in reality, the friendship is doing you more harm than good.
Following are four signs you’re in an unhealthy friendship—one that is not drawing you closer to the Lord, and one in which your “friend” is not receptive to His truth.
1. No reciprocation
Who is making all the effort in the friendship? Are you both working to connect, meet up and keep in contact? When you do meet up, does the conversation only revolve around one person? These are questions to ask when assessing a friendship. Friendship is mutual. It should be a give-and-take, a volley of words and emotions. When one person consistently pours out for the other with no reciprocation, that is not a healthy friendship. It is at best a mentorship situation, and that descriptor only fits if the mentee actually takes the advice to heart!
I’ve had to end several friendships where there was no true reciprocation. One had me driving over an hour out of my way in order to see her, or I wouldn’t see her at all. Another refused to reciprocate emotionally, but used what I shared as ammunition. When this behavior characterizes the friendship, it’s time to back away and see if your friend misses you. If she’s willing to make an effort, consider restoring the friendship—with boundaries.
2. Constant competition
Another way to identify an unhealthy friendship is constant competition. This may be a friend who compares her body, closet, job or relationship to yours. But sometimes, that competition comes out of our own insecurities. If you can’t be around a certain friend without constantly competing with her, it’s time to check your heart with the Lord! Is she saying and doing things that make you feel this way or is it an inner issue? Sometimes, it’s both of these things. Be honest with yourself about the relationship.
If your friend is the one who competes, have a talk with her. Explain that this is not a race, and there is no winner. You’re in this together! If she continues in this behavior, take a step back from the friendship until she matures enough to handle being around you.
Possessiveness is usually a form of insecurity. Women who feel they have little to offer on their own may latch onto specific friends, using them to boost their own social circle, relationships or popularity. But if a friend can’t share you, or won’t make an effort among your other friends, that’s exhausting. If you can discuss this with her without either of you getting emotional, try to do so. Perhaps write a letter explaining the situation. Encourage her in her faith and teach her where to find her security. If she ignores this advice, put distance between you. Don’t “pity invite”; it only enables dependency.
4. You feel trapped
If you feel trapped in a friendship—whether by competition, possessiveness or the burden of always making an effort—what are you there for? Perhaps you were in that friendship for a season. Perhaps you were there to learn more about yourself and more about bearing the burdens of others. But ask the Lord if it’s time to be done with that relationship.
This is a very hard decision to make. I still get a pang in my heart, missing the good things about friends of the past. But I know that reconnecting with them would be unhealthy for us both. I have friends now who encourage my faith, teach me about the Lord and show me what it means to be a woman of God. This is what you need, too.