(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com.)
It's a universal — if sometimes painful— truth: Not every friendship is meant to last a lifetime.
It's also true that many of us stay in friendships long after we should've said adios. Why? Because we rationalize and deny that the relationship makes us feel "less than." We make excuses for the other person when we should be giving her (or him) the boot.
Ask yourself: Eo any of my pals resemble the following? If so, it's time to move on.
She's got all the latest in technology, but when you ask if she got your three voicemails last week, she says casually, "Oh, I never check my messages." Excuse me???
"Don't waste your energy on someone who's too flaky or unengaged to be in touch," says Nicole Zangara, author of Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Hard to reach people mentally weigh each contact attempt. When the scale tips in their favor, they act. When it doesn't, they ignore.
Learn your lesson: When there's nothing in it for her, she's less likely to respond to you, which doesn't a friend make.
She tells you you're a doormat at work, because you complained once or twice about not feeling appreciated. You let it pass. But when she grouses about friends who use her and you suggest she might be too available, she turns on the waterworks and you end up apologizing.
She can dish it out, but can't take it. Not exactly fair.
"If you find yourself always begging forgiveness, while she's free to say whatever she thinks," says Zangara, "it's time to ask yourself why you're willing to keep playing by her lopsided rules."
We all enjoy a juicy tidbit now and then, but this pal thrives on dishing dirt. Be very wary.
"The more dirt she gathers on others," says Dr. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist in Beverly Hills, Calif., "the more superior she feels and the more leverage she has over others."
For her, knowledge is power, power is control, and she's got control in spades. No one messes with her. And neither should you. (And, BTW, if she's gossiping about other people, chances are, she's gossiping about you behind your back.)
This is a tricky one, because it goes to the heart of intentions — nice or otherwise.
Example: Your friend throws you a surprise party even though she knows you hate them. You spend the night trying to be gracious in spite of your discomfort. She, on the other hand, revels in her hostess role. When she asks the next day what your problem was, and you tell her, she brushes you off with those seven cloying words: "I was just trying to be nice!" Really?
"This is about ownership," says Zangara. "True friends fess up when things don't turn out well and they are partly or wholly to blame. Then, they apologize." Plus, they also try harder to listen to what you like and don't like.
The scenario is always the same: You make plans for lunch or the movies and, like clockwork, she calls the night before or day-of with some excuse or another about needing to cancel.
Every one of us has had to change plans at some point, but this friend makes it an Olympic sport. She may just be flaky, or she may be manipulative — either way, she isn't thinking about how her actions affect anyone else.
And if you've mentioned the problem and it still persists, this is what she's really telling you: "Too bad, so sad; I'm sorry you're mad!"
It's time to call it a day with the friendship.
She makes little jabs and digs, often in front of others, assured you won't mind the "all-in-good-fun" insults. This is her way of making herself feel better— certainly better than you.
But what every good pal knows is this, the cardinal rule of friendship: Friends don't ever, ever, ever put each other down. And friendship is never about a superior/inferior dynamic.
Her life is one long soap opera, a mess of disappointments, letdowns, heartbreaks and sadness. You are the therapist, confidante and problem solver. Only, she's not really interested in changing for the better; she's more invested in keeping the drama running and having you as her travel mate.
Why? Her problems are always so horrible, they take precedence. Your problems? They always seem to take a backseat.
What To Do
If you're feeling assertive: Let your pal know what's bothering you. Her response — and actions — will tell you if it's time to move along.
If you're feeling passive: Pull back, make fewer plans, be polite but not overly friendly. (In other words, don't be dishonest.)
Either way: Cultivate new friends who make you feel enriched, enlivened and embraced, because that is what good friendships do.
This article is reprinted with permission. © 2013 Grandparents.com. All Rights Reserved.