Sinking Friendship: Should You Let Go?

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The little-kid memories are probably fresh in your mind- making matching bracelets, planning out businesses together, and having sugar-fueled slumber parties filled up your elementary school agenda. However, the times of simple bonding have passed; these days, judgment and hormones prevent you from a perfectly clear path of friendship. Suddenly, you feel yourself drifting from your besties; or perhaps you’re starting to feel uneasy about your partner in crime.

Why aren’t things as easy as they were in 3rd grade? That’s simple. Things have changed, and so have the people around you. Today, you probably prioritize mental health more than you used to. If your social life consistently makes you upset or stressed, take into account that your friends may be causing the strain. How can you tell if someone may be draining you? There are three key elements to understand before you know. I’ve made these elements into a fun little acronym: AIR. This stands for Action, Intention, and Reaction. Based on their actions, intentions, and reactions, you can tell if a friendship is toxic for your well being.

Action relates to what they do away from you. Ask yourself how often they reach out. Now, it’s okay to have a friend who’s busy. You can still keep the bond tight even if you don’t see each other often. However, if they don’t ever talk you outside of forced events, you may want to question how mutual the friendship is. My comparison is like a group project: how even is the work divided? If you feel exhausted from always trying to schedule meetups and drag dialogue along to avoid awkward silence, it’s not a group project.

Let’s talk about Intention. Occasionally, I’ll call my friends names or make jokes with them, but only in a way that makes them feel included and safe. Good friends don’t try to hurt each other. The line between comedy and cruelty is blurry, so sometimes it’s hard to distinguish malicious intentions. Ask yourself if their wisecracks are rooted in your insecurities. Sensitive topics that cause you pain shouldn’t be thrown around lightly. Second, if they do something to you that hurts you, express it. If they disregard or continue to do the offensive action, their bad intentions will be made clear. Don’t undervalue your worth; you have every right to be hurt by antagonism.

Finally, Reaction. This depends on how they react to you in general, using tone and/or body language. Although this seems obvious, it’s often overlooked when you’re close to someone. Begin by observing their gestures and expressions. When you speak, do they consistently roll their eyes? Do they switch from joyful to jaded when you walk into a room? Are their answers to your questions mostly brief and vague? If they show signs similar to these, they’re showing lack of politeness and respect for you. If they can’t treat you well, it’s time to move on.

To wrap things up, I’m not saying you should block your best friend’s number the second they leave your text on “read.” We all make mistakes, and misunderstandings in relationships are inevitable. You should put AIR into effect when you get a gut feeling around your friend that something’s not right. To add on, AIR should be used to improve mental health. If you’re recording every little thing another person does to the point where it causes more stress, stop. Finally, if you’re still unsure about your social connection, talk to a parent or person you trust for advice.

Sure, friendship has expanded outside of the playground. That’s why we adapt to the landscape.