Cathy Dobbs: Breaking off unhealthy friendships can be good for you

Most of us have heard the saying ‘Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.’

And I have to say - what a load of codswallop. I went out walking with a newish friend at the weekend and she revealed that she was struggling to be around a couple of women that she’d known for more than 20 years.

She had met these friends in her first job, and while she now juggles work, bringing up children and being a carer, her old mates have taken a very different route. Their path has been more of the rich husband, big house, designer handbags and Botox injections route. When they last met up, these old work mates showed little interest in my friend’s life and only wanted to talk about their latest purchase – you know, like the £3.8m house and the holiday in Mauritius.

They probably weren’t doing it on purpose – it’s just they had grown apart and didn’t share the same views any more. However, my friend said she arrived home in tears, feeling inadequate next to her old chums and starting to doubt her own life decisions. When I advised her to have a break, maybe not see them for a while – possibly not meet up with them ever again, she ummed and ahhed. And why was she filled with doubt? Because we are told from an early age that it’s not nice to break friends with people, and that if you want to be popular you need to have lots of mates.

Well, it’s time to get rid of that myth and instead replace it with the truth - ‘happy people are those that have handpicked a special group of people to be their friends.’

We all go through life making friends – at school, college, work – and you then have to decide who you spend your time with. If you have acres of spare time on your hands, then you can enlarge your friendship group. However if you are run off your feet, and spending time with friends is a luxury, then you want to make it worthwhile and surround yourself with people that leave you smiling and feeling good. It’s not fair on you, or them, if you stay ‘friends’ and carry on the charade, just to get home and moan about how horrible, self-centred and selfish they are.

I’ve had friends that I’ve either drifted apart from, or had to make a clean break with, and it isn’t easy to do. It has happened after months of feeling unhappy in their company, dreading their text asking if I want to meet up or having to unfollow them on social media. Spending months, even years, finding them too shallow, too political, too angry – basically, just too different from what I want in a friend.

It is actually liberating to get rid of old friends that you have grown out of, especially if meeting up with them does make you unhappy – after all life is too short. So, could it be time to have a spring clean – not just of your house, but also your social life?

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