How to Know When It’s Time to Cut a Friend Out of Your Life

Maintaining relationships with friends is vital for our overall well-being, but sometimes we can find ourselves facing a difficult decision when a relationship becomes detrimental to our mental health and happiness. Let’s dive into how to recognize when this may be happening… and what to do about it.

Recognizing toxic relationships

Anna’s mood plunged when her friend Theresa’s name popped up on her caller ID. More and more, she found herself dreading all contact with her extremely demanding friend. She felt an immense wave of guilt as she silenced her phone; she’d call Theresa back during her lunch hour, even though it meant she wouldn’t be able to go out to lunch with her coworkers like she’d planned.

Recognizing a toxic relationship is the first step towards deciding if you may need to cut someone out of your life. While every relationship experiences difficult periods, overall your personal relationships should boost you up, not tear you down. 

In Anna’s case, the dread she felt in the pit of her stomach every time Theresa called or texted her was a sign that all was not well in the relationship. She knew that Theresa expected her to pick up every time, or call her back immediately. If she took more than a couple of hours to answer a text, Theresa would get upset and insinuate that Anna didn’t care about her. Anna felt a lot of pressure to put her needs aside and be accessible to Theresa at all times. Since no human can live up to such demanding standards, Anna constantly felt guilty that she wasn’t able to meet Theresa’s needs.

Toxic relationships can be emotionally draining, leaving us feeling depleted and distressed. If you are feeling uncomfortable in a relationship, be honest with yourself and take a close look at the dynamics. What is the other person doing that makes you uncomfortable?

Toxicity can manifest in many ways, including constant negativity, manipulation, guilt tripping, lack of respect, unreasonable demands for your time or attention, lack of consideration for your needs, isolating you from others, or gaslighting. Self-reflection is key in identifying these patterns and understanding how they impact your emotional well-being.

Assessing the impact on your mental health

Anna realized that on the days she gave Theresa the full amount of attention her friend desired, she felt resentful because she had to push her own needs aside. Instead of taking time in the evening to relax and unwind from her busy work day, she was spending hours helping Theresa navigate her life situations. On the days when she avoided Theresa and took time for herself, she felt immense guilt spurred on by Theresa’s pleading texts (“I really need you right now”). The guilt only increased when Theresa grew angry at being ignored and sent texts such as “I can’t believe you don’t care about me.” The relationship was taking a large emotional toll on Anna.

Assessing the impact of a relationship on your mental health is crucial for making informed decisions. Take time to reflect on how you feel when interacting with the other person. Are you constantly feeling drained, anxious, guilty, or unhappy around them? Do interactions with that person leave you feeling invalidated or dismissed? Pay attention to any changes in your mood, self-esteem, or overall outlook on life. These can provide valuable insights into the relationship's effects on your mental health.

Identifying patterns and communication

Identifying recurring negative patterns in a relationship is essential for understanding its dynamics. Think back through the last few months: are there any patterns you can identify? 

When the resentment overcame her guilt, Anna would communicate to Theresa that she was feeling a bit suffocated. Theresa would act hurt and require a lengthy conversation with Anna where she could air her grievances that Anna didn’t show enough care for her, piling on the guilt. Nevertheless, she would relent somewhat, going longer between texts and phone calls. However, Anna found that bit by bit, Theresa would inch her way back to texting and calling just as much as ever, and the cycle would repeat.

Healthy relationships are built on open and honest communication. If you find that your attempts to communicate your feelings or set boundaries are met with resistance, indifference, or dismissal, it may indicate a lack of mutual respect. 

While honest communication is key in addressing concerns with the other person and expressing your needs, after a few failed cycles, you may have to accept that the other person is not healthy enough for a friendship that benefits your mental health. Not all relationships can be salvaged, and that's okay.

Making the decision

Deciding to cut someone out of your life is a deeply personal choice, and it's natural to feel conflicted or hesitant. This decision should not be taken lightly, as it can have significant emotional implications. Trust your intuition and honor your feelings. 

Anna sometimes thought about cutting Theresa off, but she was very hesitant to do so, as they had been friends since high school. In the past, Theresa had supported her during difficult phases in her life. She felt like she owed it to Theresa to stay friends. But when she was honest with herself, she realized that the relationship was no longer good for her mental health. In the end, she made the difficult decision to end the friendship.

If you think it might be time to cut someone out of your life, think about your relationship with that person and reflect on these questions:

Above all, remember that it's okay to prioritize your mental health and well-being. Prioritizing your mental health doesn't mean dismissing the positive aspects of a relationship; it means understanding when to set boundaries to protect yourself. If the relationship consistently undermines your well-being, happiness, and personal growth, it is most likely time to reevaluate its place in your life.

Moving forward and healing

When Anna finally ended her friendship with Theresa, she felt more guilt than she ever had before. She worried about what Theresa would do without her, and wondered if she was a bad person for cutting off a friend who needed her and cared about her. At times she missed Theresa and regretted that the relationship couldn’t work out. To her surprise, this “friend breakup” felt just as painful as breaking up with a romantic partner!

Even if you were the one who decided to end the relationship, you will most likely find that you have some healing to do. You may feel nostalgic for the good times in the relationship. You may grieve the relationship you wish you could have with that person. You may even feel tempted to contact them again and resume the comfort of old patterns. 

Cutting someone out of your life can create a void, so it's important to fill that void with positive experiences and nurturing relationships. Engage in activities that bring you joy and seek support from healthy connections. Remember that healing is a gradual process, and it's okay to take your time. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you navigate through this transformative phase.

Seeking professional guidance

Navigating complex relationship challenges can feel overwhelming. It may be helpful to consult with a therapist to explore your emotions and gain clarity on your decision. They can offer objective insights, point out hidden patterns, and support you through this challenging process.

With the help of her therapist, Anna realized that part of her had enjoyed being Theresa’s go-to resource and jumping in to “save” her. She also identified that she needed to learn to set better boundaries. In time, she formed healthier relationships with people who respected her boundaries and took her needs into consideration. Now she is able to look back on her relationship with Theresa with fondness for the positive experiences and appreciation for all she learned.

At Medens Health, our therapists provide a safe and non-judgmental space to explore your emotions and guide you through difficult decisions. Reach out to us by phone or text at (833) 624-5400, send us a message using our online contact form, or to register as a new patient get started here.

Above all, remember that you are worthy of healthy, nurturing relationships!


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.

If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.