How to Know when It's Time to Find New Friends
Sustaining a close-knit group of friends can be challenging at the best of times. With a good combination of personalities and lots of openness and willingness to forgive and tolerate, a group friendship can be amazing and long-lasting. On the other hand, when things take on a negative edge, you may find some friendships draining or detrimental to your wellbeing. While occasional disagreements or slight disharmony in a group friendship are par for the course, if belonging to a group of friends leaves you feeling depressed, anxious or second-guessing yourself a lot of the time, or if you've become disconnected because of a move or change in circumstance, it may be time to find new friends.
Consider how you feel after being with your group of friends.The biggest sign that something needs changing is that you feel consistently upset or unhappy after spending time with your group of buddies. They may all continue to espouse the BFF virtues together but if there are cracks in the cohesion, you may be wondering if you really belong to this group.
- Do you feel upset after spending time in your group of friends? Is this an occasional feeling or is it happening most times you all meet up?
- Do you feel any sense that comments or actions are being directed toward you as a way of keeping you on the outer edge of the group?
- Does being in the group leave you feeling moody or upset? Did you start the day feeling happy and positive but then end up feeling upset after being with this group of friends?
- Does the group seems to thrive on constant drama or put-down antics? If so, it's likely that the group has transformed into a hotbed of competitiveness and distrust.
Think back to how or why your group friendship formed and try to figure out what's happened since.This can be fairly complicated because, unlike a single friend, group friendships tend to morph over time, as a friend is added here and there. However, seeking to understand what brought you together as a group friendship can enlighten you as to whether or not that reason is still there and, if not, whether its loss means the group no longer functions as a healthy source of friendship. While the reasons may be complex, here are some common possibilities for changes in group friendships:
- A group friendship that formed in childhood, maintained through later school years and into adult life: In this case, although the bonds can hold for life, they can also easily fall apart with major life changes. Since people tend to evolve in the face of new pressures like career, moving across the country and marriage, new perspectives and ambitions can strain a childhood group friendship over time.
- A group friendship from work: Sometimes it's just easier to hang out as a group in the workplace context. Unfortunately, this can disguise deep differences if the friendship group is taken beyond the workplace context. Or, it can disintegrate when one or more of you changes workplaces or career trajectories, leaving little common ground with the rest of the group.
- A group of friends through your children: As you're raising children, you meet other moms and dads and bond over commonalities from diaper rash to college applications. Group friendships formed on the basis of being a parent can be very supportive and cathartic ways to learn about parenting issues and to offer support to one another. Equally, such a group friendship can be wrought with difficulty, as differences of opinion about parenting styles crop up, competitiveness over raising children falls into the mix and even arguments over how one child is treating another can become a little too personal. And most commonly of all, when the kids grow apart, so can the group friendship.
- A group friendship formed over a common interest, be it a hobby, faith, education or other sources: In time, this type of group friendship can become strained where some members lose interest in the original reason you came together or change their whole ideas about it, as they mature and discover new interests.
Consider whether you've changed.It can be one thing to think that it's everyone else who is changing and quite another to realize that it's actually you. This has both positive and negative aspects––while it is part of every human's journey to grow internally and mature throughout life, sometimes other people just fail to grow with you, or cannot accept you for who you have become. Whether you've changed for better or worse, the group friendship might have started to feel like a hindrance, a noose around your neck or just a tiresome bore. Do you find that you're more negative in this group, or do you get annoyed or stressed easily around them? Perhaps you think the group friendship has stopped enhancing your life and you feel it's holding you back from achieving or being what you really want. A good way to find out how much you've changed is to raise a discussion about topics that are now of interest to you and to see how responsive your group of friends are––if they seem disinterested, flippant or evasive, then it's probable that they're not willing to come along on your new journey.
- If your current set of friends is creating sadness, pain or confusion for you, or you feel left out most of the time, realize that it's not your fault. First, internal change is healthy and for most, inevitable. Second, influenced by changes and peer pressure, sometimes group friendships change too, turning into something different from what they once were, and perhaps you just no longer fit what the group has evolved into. Rather than getting swept up into situations that you don't want to be a part of, or feeling down around these now-uncertain friends, accept that it's time to take action that will make things better for you.
Consider whether your group friendship is having a demeaning or demoralizing impact on you.At one time, this group friendship may have been a source of both support and enjoyment. However, if you feel pressured to act in ways that don't represent who you are or you feel used up, the values underlying the group friendship have clearly changed in direction. If, for whatever reason, the group has become negative over time, this can result in behaviors that harm each member of the group even though everyone may think their behavior is "normal." For example, snitching, complaining, blaming, spreading rumors, indulging in doom and gloom and finding flaws in others all the time can be a sign that the group friendship mentality has turned totally negative and is feeding off itself. Things to consider include:
- Does time spent with this group of friends cause you to turn gossipy and judgmental toward others? After spending an hour or two with these friends, do you find yourself judging others more harshly and freely, especially when being judgmental is not in your nature? In your overall impression, does your group seem to have developed a sneering attitude toward anyone outside of the circle?
- Do you feel stressed and overwhelmed? Although friends should be there to support each other, do you feel as if you have turned into a sort of sounding board for the woes of your group of friends? Absorbing negative emotional energy from the group can drain you.
- Do you feel that when you're part of this friendship group that you're pressured to not adhere to your original ideals or morals? Do you feel pressured to conform to a way of thinking that's against what you really think?
- Do you find yourself making your decisions based on how your friends act and feel? Do you no longer feel as if you have control over how you act or the decisions you make? Do you feel judged if you differ from your friend or the group?
- Does being part of this group cause you to shun other friends and family members due to pressure from the friend(s)? If the group's attitude pushes away the core support individuals from their life, it's toxic.
Determine if you care more about your friends than they do about you.You might be the sort of person who continues to give and give, generous to a fault. In a supportive group of friends, your friends will not only appreciate your willingness to give them support and help but they'll also refuse to take advantage of you, even pointing out where you need to take more care of your own needs instead. In a toxic group friendship, your generosity will not only be taken advantage of but you'll also find that it soon becomes all about "them" and never about "you". Being heavily vested in their wishes and wants above yours remains a no-win situation for you and isn't true friendship. Signs this might have happened to you include:
- You lose a pet and your group of friends is either dismissive or even callous. They may fail to bother contacting you at all to give you condolences. If you aren’t feeling the love from your group of friends when a significant event occurs in your life, they're not interested in your well-being.
- Your friends only ever want to discuss their problems––when it comes to your life, they don’t want to hear about it. By being a personal therapist to your friends, they've forgotten that you have feelings and needs too.
- Your group of friends ditches you on your birthday or completely forgets your birthday. Any true friend should acknowledge important dates, so if you’ve been ditched on your birthday or any other significant day by you group of “friends”, it shows utter disregard on their behalf.
Look for reasons to remain in this group of friends.This is a matter of self-honesty as well as combining the answers you've derived from the steps above. If you can list good, sound reasons for remaining, then perhaps it's worth giving the group another try. But if you're struggling at this point to come up with anything more than "it'll be embarrassing to no longer be a part of that group", then it's time to grow some courage and depart from their company.
Take it slowly in forming new group friendships.After experiencing deep challenges with a group friendship, you might feel wary about forming another one. At least give yourself time before seeking this style of friendship again. Nurture the close friendships you have with one or two individuals to help rebuild your trust and sense of support. And don't be too concerned if you don't ever form a group friendship again in your life––sometimes being part of a group friendship is a temporal thing, bound by a particular situation in your life that has long since passed.
- You may also need to find new friends for less negative reasons. Moving to a new community is another obvious one, as you'll probably lose contact with your friends gradually, even though you may still have a connection through phone calls, texting and other similar means, and make a new group of friends.
- Instead of just breaking the relationship off with all of your friends, consider if there are one or two of the friends you'd like to remain friendly with outside of the group context. If so, invite this friend to coffee and discuss how you’ve been feeling and see whether it's possible to maintain a friendship beyond the group. It may not be but it is often worth a try.
- Figure out the best way to reduce contact with your friends; consider being “too busy” or dodging calls. Never be nasty or rude when reducing or cutting off contact.
- If you decide to join another group of friends, pick very carefully.
- Some people only use you and find you entertaining for few months, but as soon as they feel your need is over and they start feeling bored with your presence, they try bringing you down. Start slowly to watch out for these people, and stand up for yourself.
- If you picked a new group of friends, slowly hint at it to your "old" friends. They may not get it at first, so if they ask you to go somewhere with them, just say you have other plans or you "can't."
- If they demean you, or your significant other, badger you into things, speak up immediately otherwise the poison continues on and on.
- If it's possible, try to be friends with people that sit near you at work and school.
- You can make new friends anytime. You should not have to feel chained to your old ones.
- Don't do things that your friends want you to do. Some people chose to be trouble makers. If they are your friends and they encourage to do something like smoke on school grounds, don't do it. Friends don't want you to change because they do something that you don't. Friends want you to have a positive attitude about yourself. Early age smoking is dangerous, risky, and deadly. You might receive a criminal record which won't allow you to travel or to gain good jobs.
- Avoid talking about your friendship issues with others, especially with mutual friends. This will only make you look like a gossip and vindictive.
- Always report any harm that your friends give you. Some people want to be your friends just because they want to know you. But others do the exact opposite. Some use you to be popular, or to feel more powerful. Some might hurt you physically, verbally, or emotionally. Talk to a trusted adult. They will know what to do. If the harm is used in an unsupervised area (ex. a mall or a party) then you should call Emergency Services. In some cases, the police gets involved with this harming that you get.
- Don't yell or taunt. Some people might be a little pushy but you cannot change that with yelling and taunting. Sit down with your friend and tell them that they're being a little pushy and they're sometimes taking you off from your daily plans. Your friends will understand and will do their best to act in a more friendlier manner.
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