12 Reasons To Get Into The Radical Habit Of Re-Evaluating Your Friendships

Friendships. They can be a tricky business, can't they? Remember that old song, "Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver, but the other is gold"? Yeah, that's a lovely sentiment when you're a kid, but sometimes as adults, it doesn't always hold up.


Sadly, there comes a time in adulthood where we find the people in our lives just aren't healthy for us anymore. But that's not always the easiest thing to admit. As Dr. Daniel Yadager explained to CBS New York, "We like to think that friendship is something that everyone can handle. It's so much harder to say, 'My friend is making me ill.'" As we know all too well, things change, and people change with them, which often means what we need our of our relationships changes too. "We sometimes cling to friends out of routine, a sense of loyalty, or because of the amount of history we have together," author and lifestyle/friendship coach Danielle Bayard Jackson explained to The Zoe Report. "But it's important to occasionally monitor the health of these relationships and examine their impact on your physical, emotional, and mental health."


That's where re-evaluating friendships comes in. The process can include everything from making a list of your friendships and deciding which ones give you the support and stability you need, to having a long think about how you feel after each interaction you have with a friend. But why is it so vital to think so critically about our friendships?

It's good for your physical health

One of the biggest benefits of assessing your friendships is the effect it will have on your physical health, because in case you didn't know, bad friendships have actually been scientifically proven to detrimental to your wellbeing. As Beverley Fehr, social psychologist and author of "Friendship Processes," told The Washington Post, "We're seeing more and more research about how beneficial it is to your health to have healthy friendships. It also implies the flip side: If your friendships are not healthy, you will experience negative health outcomes."


There has actually been plenty of research showing how friendships can be directly linked to our physical health, with one 2012 study finding that stressful friendships can actually increase a certain type of protein in their body that causes inflammation and potentially even more serious issues, like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Not to mention, dealing with someone who constantly stresses you out is likely cause a physical headache as well!

Inconsistent friends can also wreak havoc on our health, too. One 2007 study found that those who felt their relationships with their friends were more up and down were likely to experience an elevation in heart rate and blood pressure simply by even thinking about the friendship. "The science of friendship shows that ambivalent relationships are not great for our health," author and science journalist Lydia Denworth told CNN. "In other words, the good does not necessarily outweigh the bad if there's too much bad."


Your mind will thank you

It's not just your body that could seem some big perks from a friendship re-evaluation, as your mental health could also greatly benefit from taking stock of what's really going on in your platonic relationships as well. A study conducted in 2016 found that those who consider themselves to have healthier friendships experiences higher levels of self-esteem, are better psychosocial adjusted, and are more sensitive to others' issues. Conversely, those who felt some of their friendships were more fractured experienced an increase in negative feelings, including higher levels of anxiety.


Not only that, but a 2013 report from The University of Edinburgh Business School actually found that people with a higher number of Facebook friends often felt more stressed when it comes to maintaining their friendships. So if you're looking for more peace of mind, it may be wise to think about how many people you actually have in your life as well.

Some friends can support us better at certain times in our lives

As we get older, our lives will inevitably grow in a different direction from some of the people who have been in our lives for a while. And sometimes that means certain people just don't fit in it anymore. But that's not always a bad thing. As Lydia Denworth told CNN, "Not all friendships last a lifetime, and that's okay. Evolutionary biologists have found that high-quality bonds require three things: they are long-lasting, positive and cooperative. You need all three." Couple and family therapist manager Rachel D. Miller clearly agreed, admitting to Bustle that certain friendships may work better for you at one time in your life but may not be what you need a few years later. For example, that gal pal you used to go drinking with after another bad date? She may not be the same friend you form a close bond with after you become a parent for the first time. 


But that doesn't mean you need to totally ditch that old confidante entirely when you take stock of your circle. If you're not quite getting what you need anymore, it's never a bad idea to re-evaluate what it is you're looking for in a friendship and communicate it in a calm and open way. That'll help you to surround yourself with people to support you when you need it the most — and their reaction will tell you a lot about if this is someone you really want in your life.

You'll learn how to set boundaries in other aspects of life

After being friends with someone for so many years, it can be too easy to overlook necessary boundaries, since you've been accustomed to a person having access to you for so long. However, in adulthood, defining your limits is vital for maintaining personal space and mental health. 


Therapist Kailee Place also explained the importance of having clear friendship boundaries to Bustle, noting, "Not only are boundaries helpful for your own needs, but they're also helpful for others to know how to best connect and interact with you." If that person isn't meeting those needs, or constantly crossing lines with you, it's time to have a long, hard think about if this is someone you really want in your life and what they're really adding to your sense of well-being.

By using your friendships as somewhat of a testing ground for setting boundaries, you'll get practice applying them in other areas of your life, like your romantic relationships or at work. As Francesca Gamble, life coach and the co-host of the podcast Becoming More Human, explained to Stylist, knowing if a friendship is working for you requires some serious reflecting in order to define what you're really expecting from the other person — which can only be helpful for your other relationships in the long run. As a reminder, what constitutes a boundary will look different for everyone; so when having those hard conversations, be sure you let the other person know why you're doing it. Each time you set a boundary, you'll probably feel more comfortable defining and communicating it to someone else. 


It's time to give maximum effort to those you really care about

Making the decision to step back on, or potentially even terminate any relationships that are no longer bringing joy and support will allow you to give the proper time and care to those who mean the most to you. Professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford Dr. Robin Dunbar claimed the average person can only properly maintain 150 friendships at any one time, and even then, not everyone gets an equal split when it comes to time and effort. He explained to The Guardian that 60% of our social efforts are split between just 15 people — and 40% of that is given to a lucky five we consider our very closest friends.


With that in mind, why dedicate time to a friendship you're not enjoying or are merely holding onto from a legacy perspective, instead of focusing on what makes you the happiest? Instead of spending time putting effort into old friends we don't have much in common with anymore, we can invest in those newer friendships that are thriving and will go the distance in our lives. 

Re-evaluating doesn't have to mean cutting people out of your life entirely, though! You may just decide to take a bit of time away from that friendship for a while as you nurture others. After all, there's always the opportunity to grow closer again in the future.

It can prevent you from becoming toxic

While we've spent a lot of time taking another look at how your friendships may affect you, it can never be a bad thing to stop and think about your own impact on someone else too. While re-examining what kind of energy people are bringing to your life, it's also important to think about the energy you're bringing to theirs. If you find that you're not exactly giving your best (which could include anything from being too busy to meet up, not responding to their messages in a timely manner, or you aren't able to support them in the way they need), that could be a red flag that you may not be having the most positive impact on their life. As noted by Cleveland Clinic, an imbalanced relationship where one person is putting in all the effort can quickly become toxic and cause a person to feel drained and resentful. 


It's important to remember this imbalance isn't alway personal or about the other person's character. Sometimes different personalities simply require different levels of contact, and in cases where your investments in the friendship aren't matched, it may better for both of you to take a step back. Use that time to think about what you actually want, and if you're the one giving more effort, you'll also be able to see if your absence inspires them to reach out. Thinking carefully about what's really going on will prevent either of you from getting, or staying, in a toxic situation.

You'll learn when you're being rejected

Taking stock of your friendships and looking at what's really going on may give you a better understanding of when you're quietly being rejected by a friend, but don't realize it. In most cases, a friend who's not all that interested in continuing a relationship with you probably won't come out and say it, especially if there wasn't a big fight between you two. This can leave you playing the guessing game and even questioning yourself about what you did or said to make them pull away.


Of course, be mindful there are always exceptions to the rule and people do genuinely have busy periods where friendships temporarily fall to the wayside. In that case, Cleveland Clinic advises confronting a friend to share how you feel and communicating expectations may help shift the dynamic. However if even after that, you're noticing a pattern in which they still make excuses about not hanging out and always seem to be speak about themselves instead of asking about you, that could be a sign that maybe you need to think about if this is a relationship worth continuing. After all, you don't want to grow resentful of the other person. By taking a step back and thinking objectively if this is a friendship worth having, you could save yourself a lot of questioning and potential disappointment down the line.


Your finances may be more stable

Who knew that a lack of adequate social interaction can lead to a lack of cash? Well, it may be a little surprising, but research from the University of Chicago found that individuals who didn't feel they were in thriving friendships were more likely to take bigger risks with money in an effort to create a stronger bond with the people they were around. They also felt bigger feelings of rejection.


Money can be a fraught topic among friends and it doesn't necessarily have to be a deal breaker. But if you find yourself feeling compelled to constantly spend on things like outings or lavish dinners just to keep up with or impress a friend, it may be time to think long and hard about the friendship. The same holds true if you have friends who don't always reciprocate your generosity in buying a round of drinks or paying for dinner when you head out. If you've noticed this is a pattern stretching over a long time, and you know for a fact there's no deeper reason why they're unable to split the bill equally with you, that could be a re-evaluation casualty. Just remember to be understanding though, as everyone's likely to have periods where they can't splash the cash.


By narrowing your friendship circle a to those who make you feel loved and needed regardless of finances, you're more likely to keep your bank balance more stable.

It gives you the opportunity to work on yourself

If you're not spending your time worrying about maintaining friendships with people that aren't the right fit, you'll have more time in your day to do other things you love — and maybe even get to know yourself a little better at the same time! If you're thinking about a specific friendship and find there may be something you want to address with them, eliminating that sense of anxiety is rarely a bad thing. Asking what's really going on by having that frank conversation (although we know it can be daunting!) will likely eliminate any questions or concerns you may have. By speaking so honestly about your feelings, not only have you laid out the potential to improve your own mental health, but you'll also have done a lot of important work on yourself. That means if you decide to continue on with the friendship, you're likely to have a lot more fun when you head out with that friend again, because there won't be that big cloud hanging over either of your heads.


Equally, if you decided to take a step back from said friend while you do a little thinking, there can be benefits there too. Taking on solo activities can have a number of pluses, including improved memory and a boost in creativity and empathy. Just remember, though, there's a big difference between feeling independent and feeling lonely — and the two shouldn't be confused.

Open up the floodgate to change

As the saying goes, the smallest move can lead to the biggest change, and when it comes to friendship, reevaluating what's not working can potentially lead you to bigger things that have more of a positive impact on your life. For example, spending less time with a friend who doesn't respect your boundaries could mean you have more time to dedicate to a work project — potentially leading to that big promotion you've been hoping for! Or maybe now you can finally start the wellness journey you had been putting off because they always insisted you meet for drinks. The possibilities are endless.


Taking action with our friendships, whether deciding to continue working at them or end them, can also help us develop a healthier relationship with confrontation (when it's needed, of course!). Having frank discussions about what you both need from one another will also prevent you from coasting along if you're not truly happy, Dr. Varvaryan tells The Zoe Report. "If we don't have these types of discussions within our relationships, we likely won't be able to promote change the way we are hoping for and often this leads to the build up of resentment," she said to the outlet.

It creates room for the friendship to grow

That leads us to our next point. A re-evaluation of your friendships, of course, doesn't always spell the end of the relationship, but taking the time to have a think and then a chat with your nearest and dearest also makes room for those relationships to grow. By openly vocalizing the way you feel — which should go both ways, by the way — you're both creating the safe space to potentially take your connection to a new level, where you may even gain a better understanding of one another and what you want from the friendship. That means you're giving the friendship chance to change and evolve to suit both of you.


As noted by Grace McMahon, a life coach at Being Well Family, while speaking to Stylist, "A lot of the time we try and guess how other people feel so making the time to really listen to them is key." By not assuming and instead explicitly asking for friend's take on your friendship, you'll both stop playing the guessing game — and could even become closer than ever before with a brand new understanding of and respect for one another. Sounds like a win-win to us!

Do you want to be like your bestie?

By re-evaluating who you let get close to you, you may gain a better sense of self and what you really want from life. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn claimed that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with — which means we're likely unconsciously adopting new habits and behaviors all the time from our closest friends. In other words, i helps to be certain the friends we spend most of our time with are good people with personality traits we wouldn't mind rubbing off on us.


By taking a step back and really thinking about if you'd want to be described just like your closest friends, you'll gain a better idea of whether these are really the people who will help you bring out the best version of yourself. If you decide they are, then great, your work here is done (for now)! But if they're not, it may be time to take action to make sure you surround yourself with people you're proud to call your inner circle.