Do you get the uneasy sense that one of your friendships is on the rocks, or that your current relationship is about to crash land?
It’s one of the worst feelings that hits you right in the pit of your stomach. A relationship which was once so important to you is starting to deteriorate, and you don’t know whether you can reverse the rust. There can be a whole lot of warning signs—a lack of shared laughter, the increasing preference to texting when you used to talk face to face, a growing awareness that keeping up contact with them feels like a chore.
But how do you discern whether these are symptoms of a rough patch or a fizzle out?
Consider this checklist of questions:
- Do you treat each other with kindness and love—or mere politeness?
- When you get good news, do you want to tell them?
- Has your self-esteem increased or plummeted since you have known them?
- Do you feel like they see you for who you are?
- Does spending time with them empty or fill you? (Note: It is understandable to feel physically, emotionally or mentally drained if you are, for example, helping them through a tough situation or going through one yourself.)
- Do you feel like you are apologising for things you cannot control or for who you are?
- Do you feel like you are the only one concerned about the health of the relationship?
- Are your goals and/or values aligned?
- Are your reasons for staying in the relationship/friendship only about external factors?
- Do you formulate excuses to avoid time with them?
- Do either of you withhold kindness or contact, or inflict silent treatment?
- Do you feel satisfied by causing them hurt?
- Do you find it tough to resolve even minor disagreements? Alternately, do you feel resentful to the point where you cannot be bothered with conflict?
- Does your partner/friend give you the space to hang out with other people—with or without them? Or are they trying to be the sole person in your life?
- Do they encourage you to do things which are dangerous or go against the Word of God?
- Do you struggle to trust them, or vice versa?
‘Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character”’ (1 Corinthians 15:33).
If you’re troubled by any of your answers to these questions, it is probably an indication that your relationship or friendship is at a turning point.
But is it a breaking point?
Make Up / Break Up?
Building a relationship takes a lot of work. It can be disheartening to realise that there are cracks, but just the same, you don’t want to dismantle all of your shared history if you can patch them over.
Allow yourself some time to view the bigger picture. Consider things from both of your perspectives. Is the hurt you are feeling valid? Are there shortcomings of your own that you need to apologise for? You may realise that you’re only catastrophising and the ruffles are easy to smooth out. Maybe the relationship is simply changing as you grow—for example, if you have recently left school and your schedules no longer line up. Reflect on your memories together—is the relationship one you believe has potential for future moments just as good as those?
Good Friends Are Hard to Find
‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity’ (Proverbs 17:17).
A Good Friend/Partner …
- Offers unconditional support and no judgement
- Never puts you down or hurts your feelings
- Is loyal, kind and respectful
- Doesn’t leave your side when the going gets tough
- Is a shoulder you can lean or cry on
- Is trustworthy
- Keeps you accountable and points you towards Jesus
- Speaks honestly, even when it’s hard
- Is someone you can laugh around and whose company you enjoy.
If, however, you know deep down there is trouble, the best way to resolve this is to talk with them. Raise your concerns and listen to what they have to say. Be sensitive that this could go a number of ways—they might be blindsided, angry or maybe even relieved because they had similar thoughts to you. From there, you can discuss how best to move forward. If you decide not to stay friends/partners, make sure you part amicably; you never know whether you’ll cross paths again.
If there is an incident which escalates the conflict, don’t be reactive (like firing off an angry message or posting a not-so-subtle dig on social media—it will NEVER age well). Give each other space to let the initial hurt or anger subside and properly think through your next words before you see them again. Make sure you have a sounding board—your mum, a family member, a friend—to get a fair, second opinion; don’t trap the uncomfortable feelings inside where they can morph into ugly and untrue thoughts.
Be honest with yourself. Don’t stay in a relationship because the idea of breaking up is uncomfortable. Only you know whether you have the motivation to talk through the issues, accept your own shortcomings and rebuild the relationship. If it is time to move on, don’t draw it out if neither of you is happy.
Pick yourself up, spend time with the people you love and don’t let the breakdown of one relationship prevent you from pursuing new ones. Use the experience to evaluate what you actually want and need from your relationships and what you can offer to others.
Five Tips for a Clean Break
1. End it straight away, in person—ideally somewhere private, but not at your own home (make sure you have control over when you choose to leave in case they get upset).
2. Be honest, clear and certain in your decision and reasoning behind it.
3. Don’t offer false hope or platitudes about staying friends if you’ve decided it is over.
4. Listen to what they have to say without trying to defend yourself or accuse them.
5. Don’t devalue them, their words or their feelings.
Source: Reach Out Australia (au.reachout.com), Andrea Bonlor PhD / Psychology Today (psychology today.com)