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When It’s Time to Say Goodbye: 4 Signs a Friendship Has Run Its Course

Is it time to end a friendship? This article will tell you the four times you must cut it loose.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

There’s an idea floating around on the internet and social media.

It’s the idea that as you level up, you need to cut ties with your old friends who don’t share the same level of physical fitness, financial stability, or ruthless ambition. The old saying goes, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

These self-improvement tropes sound good, but they neglect the value of having old friends, many of whom you’ve known since high school or earlier. A saying like this reduces friendship to, at best, a vanity metric and, at worst, a transactional relationship.

I get the idea of aphorisms like this, but healthy relationships are not built on transactional value alone.

You want to surround yourself with the best people to help you achieve your goals, but it’s not the only reason to spend time with people. It’s not even an important reason for most people in most situations.

For professional development, it’s sensible to surround yourself with people who know more. It’s essential to your business growth.

But this idea strictly applies to skills. When forming a human connection that leads to healthy friendships, I think of what one of my favorite rappers, Jadakiss, once said: “I’d rather be broke together than rich alone.”

But what happens when a friendship becomes one-sided or one party continually feels disrespected?

Is there ever a time it makes sense to end a friendship?

We gain a lot from our social connections.

But there are times when friendships end. It doesn’t matter whether you’re upfront when you end things or just stop hanging out, but sometimes old friendships must end.

Now, don’t mistake what I’m saying: there are instances where you need to cut friends off, but these have nothing to do with your progress or ambitions.

Sometimes, we find ourselves in toxic friendships that will not wither away and die.

A friendship breakup can be as hard to overcome as a romantic breakup, but sometimes, it’s necessary for your well-being. I can think of a few notable cases where you need to stop being friends with someone.

It doesn’t matter whether they’re your best friend, a good friend, or a new friend. This post outlines the four reasons why the friend you were once close to must now become a memory.


Once someone intentionally breaks your trust, only a glutton for punishment would remain in contact with them. Yes, sometimes people change and learn from their mistakes, but you’re playing the long odds if you expose yourself to this person again with the expectation that their behavior will change.

I used the phrase “active commission” to highlight a person intentionally and overtly seeking to impede your progress or tarnish your reputation. Betrayal by “passive omission” is another way of saying a person messed up, but they didn’t do it knowing exactly how they messed up. I evaluate things like this on a case-by-case basis and use these instances as teaching moments.

Not everyone will have the same perspective. Maybe I’m just a big softy at heart.

Note: In this category, I include things like criminal and violent offenses toward you or the people you care about.

Constant trouble with the law is a huge red flag.

At best, this signals low self-awareness and impulse control. At worst, they have underlying issues that need serious treatment before something bad happens to both you and them. No matter how big your heart is, I guarantee you’ll change your tune the moment you become collateral damage in someone else’s legal problems.

I once tolerated a friend for a long time until he got in my car with an unregistered firearm and proceeded to roll a blunt with marijuana. That was the wake-up call I needed to discontinue spending time with that person. This wasn’t my first time dealing with those issues, but I finally cut the friendship off.

Of all the reasons to end friendships, this is the one you need to take the most seriously.

Substance abuse they won’t get help with

It’s the same issue as above, except now you’re likely not even remotely on the same path in life. After a certain point in your development and improvement, you won’t be interested in getting drunk every time you go out or smoking pot all day.

This is why I don’t fault anyone who stopped being my friend when I drank. I was out of control. Support is nice; some would even argue that it’s what friends should do. I don’t disagree. However, there needs to be a limit to the help you give.

Otherwise, you ironically accomplish the opposite of your original goal–you begin to enable your friend’s worst habits.

Your never-ending patience is meant to help, but ironically, it does more harm than cutting them off ever would. You don’t dish out tough love, not because you love your friends too much to hurt them, but because you lack the toughness required to help a true friend in need.

Hate, jealousy, or downplaying of your goals

Look around at who doesn’t smile when you win. If you call someone a friend and they aren’t capable of celebrating your victories, you don’t have a friend.

You don’t have a supporter. You don’t have a fan. You don’t even have a neutral passerby.

You have a saboteur in waiting. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A weed disguised as a daisy. You get the idea.

This is the friend who will smile to your face to keep up appearances, but they’re always gossiping negatively about you. With friends like this, you won’t need enemies.

You might have a hard time figuring out if you have this type of toxic friend, but here’s an easy litmus test: do you feel better or worse after you communicate with this person? A common trait of toxic people is that they ruin the self-esteem of anyone they deal with–even their friends.

In my life, I’ve been friends with people who never had anything positive to contribute. I was either the subject of criticism or the butt of a joke. Or I was continually disrespected. I stayed friends with these people out of convenience and familiarity, but it’s not something that anyone should ever tolerate.

Every toxic relationship you have is one more relationship taking up space from a positive friendship that you could have. You have to cut these people off because if you don’t, their toxicity will either drag you down or force you to become just like them.

People like this have either not accomplished much and enjoy the company to their misery, OR your success threatens them. Either way, this will eventually lead to betrayal by active commission.

Recap of the 4 Times To End Friendships

  1. Major betrayal by active commission
  2. Repeated legal issues
  3. Substance abuse problems they refuse to get help with
  4. Hate and jealousy

Outside of these four instances, I don’t believe there is any reason to cut off old friendships.

Yes, people fall out of touch. Friendships end and naturally fade out. Sure, one of the burdens of adulthood is that we end up living a life that makes spending time with true friends difficult. But these are the natural effects of a progressing life, NOT the cause of anyone’s success.

If you doubt that, let me point out something. If you have perfectly normal friends who don’t fit any of the four criteria above and you haven’t achieved whatever lofty goals you have, they aren’t the problem. They aren’t even in the equation.

The problem is your weak will, mediocre commitment, and non-existent follow-through.

It’s easier for you to say that your friends–who are likely living and doing their own thing –are the reason you aren’t successful.

If you do have friends that fit one of the four categories above, you have to decide how badly you want to change your life. Our environments are a product of our mindset as much as our mindset is a product of our actions. If you want to be better, you must eliminate the negative, destructive influences around you.

Take care, cherish your friends, eliminate people who are actively holding you back, and live well. The rest is up to you.

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I’m a former heavyweight pro-boxer (13-1-1) and alcoholic (Sobriety date 12/23/13), current writer, and aspiring chess master. I was raised in the projects by a single mom and failed high school, but I eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics.

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Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

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