Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


5 Ways People Ruin Friendships

1. Making every conversation about themselves.

Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock
Source: Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

When we think of some of the best moments in life, they often involve time spent with friends. These should be people who enrich your life and add some vitality and energy to your existence. Everyone expects friends to be attuned and to understand what makes us tick, yes? Friends listen hard to what we are saying and take some time to think before responding to what we are trying to sort out. Friends keep our secrets and never ever gossip about us, our kids, or our partner choices.

Well, this is certainly not always the case. We all know that friends don't always live up to all of our expectations. In fact, in my therapy sessions, people of all ages describe their confusion about the quality of their friendships. You see, there are recipes for good friendships. Similarly, there are ingredients that, if sprinkled in, certainly ruin the flavor of friendships. Of course, I advise my patients to let some things go. After all, we are all human, and we misstep at times. We get immersed in our own lives and sometimes forget to attend to our friends—and often to ourselves as well.

It is important to weigh the pros and cons of friendship before throwing in the towel and calling it a day with an annoying friend. Consider the circumstances of the friend's life. Has she always been a delight, but is currently going through a bout of depression? Is he stressed by taking care of his kids and his aging parents? Is she consumed by a tricky relationship? If so, then maybe you should give your friend a bit of slack and even support before giving up the friendship, because the friend is currently unavailable to you. Friends take turns being there for each other. On the other hand, I listen to people who tell me about friendships that are more work than they seem to be worth. Sadly, what may have been a good friendship at one point may turn into a burden.

In an effort to help you feel validated, I will identify the main reasons that both men and women, teens and adults, give up friendships. Take a look and see if you recognize any of your friends in these descriptions. I hope that you don't see yourself here, but if you do, then take a good, hard look at yourself and consider changing your behavior. There is everything to be gained by being a better person and a better friend.

Consider the following types:

1. The Conversation Stealer

This type of friend consistently finds ways to make the dialogue about herself. You say something, and she tells you that it reminds her of something even more intriguing that happened to her. And then she speaks over you, pretending that she didn't hear you. She probably did hear you, but used your experience as a way to pivot to her own life. This type of friend appears to lack insight and can become very boring.

2. The Jealous Friend

This friend does not share your joys. In fact, he may become dismissive or disinterested when you are trying to engage him in a discussion about a happy moment. He may even devalue your moment of celebration. You may be delighted about a raise. He then points out how his friend works at a similar company and got a much better raise. Yikes. This friend needs to learn that good friends celebrate each other and that there should be enough joy for everyone. In this life, we take turns celebrating and being upset. Such is life as we know it.

3. The Gossip

This is a friend whom you have confided in who has decided to use your story as a form of social currency. She feels that others will find her more interesting if she shares stories. And this friend ends up betraying you. This can be so painful. You are hurt, but so is the friendship. There is plenty of pain to go around in this particular situation.

4. The Disappearing Friend

This friend is simply unreliable. You make plans weeks in advance, and she cancels for a vague reason. You contact this friend, and she takes days to get back to you. Everything is on her time schedule. This is frustrating and confusing. Does she want to be your friend? Do you want to be her friend? This certainly needs to be sorted out.

5. The Complainer

This friend used to be funny. She has now morphed into a chronic complainer. She collects grievances and is constantly gearing conversation to how the world has conspired against her. She is full of talk about emotional and physical aches and pains. By the time the conversation is over, you feel depleted and need a nap. This sort of friendship is simply exhausting.

There are many other types of troublesome friendships. Before phasing out a friendship, you may want to consider discussing your concerns with your friends. Some friendships can be saved. Others are simply too draining to sustain. And it is certainly your job to take care of your emotional and physical health. Good luck. This is no easy task.

Facebook image: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

More from Barbara Greenberg Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today