The Little Things That Can Harm A Friendship

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In some cases, friendships last for life. In others, friendships can be situational, lasting only through certain points in one's life. However, no matter what dynamic you are a part of, avoiding minor behaviors that can harm friendship may be valuable.  

Often, fixes like habit changes and open communication can improve the quality of a friendship. However, some people may not notice an underlying problem in a platonic conflict until it's too late. If you are wondering why your friendships do not last or why a long-term friendship has ended, it may be valuable to look at the "little behaviors" that can contribute to significant relationship endings. 

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Elements that may harm a friendship 

Every friendship can be different, so understanding what might harm a friendship is subjective. However, a few "minor" behaviors may lead to the end of a connection for some people. Keep an eye out for the following in your friendships, and consider communicating with your friends when you see one of these challenges arising. 


It can be normal and healthy to love your friends and want them to be as close as possible in your life. However, try to maintain balance. Some friendships naturally involve constant communication, with both parties frequently checking in with one another throughout the day. However, if you or your friend want space, take time to focus on other aspects of life and trust that you can still talk and have experiences together when you are both ready. 

Some people may prefer having some time for themselves or their other relationships. Maintaining boundaries in communication with a friend, no matter how close you are, can be vital. Regardless of how often you keep in touch, share your connection openly and be kind and understanding when your friend can't talk.

Not talking enough

Like too much communication can harm relationships, too little may also harm a friendship. If you are not getting to know your friend on a deeper level, meeting each other's needs can be challenging because those needs might not be voiced.

Quality time in adult friendships can be challenging to organize. Friendship may get last-minute attention due to the demands of a career, family, and personal obligations. If you believe you are too busy for your friends or are often thinking about how long it has been since you last contacted them, consider seeing where you can restructure your time and attention to maintain that support system.


A lack of empathy

In friendship, it can be essential to distinguish between empathy and sympathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and identify with someone else's situation. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone or wishing they had a different situation. While you may not know every detail of your friend's life or how a particular situation may affect them, try to put yourself in their shoes and be part of their support system.

A friendship that lacks empathy can quickly become a toxic friendship. Toxic friendships have no balance between individuals, allow negative criticism of one another's choices, and could cause individuals to feel they are walking on eggshells when they are together.

It may be difficult to point out a toxic friendship. If you engage in behaviors like rudely joking about your friend's clothing or relationships, expressing envy, attempting to reduce their joy, or frequently disapproving of their personal or professional choices, you might be laying the foundation for a toxic relationship. 

Voicing controversial ideas often 

It can be possible to have a friendship with someone with whom you have little in common regarding cultural upbringing, religious beliefs, or socioeconomic status. The one time you may struggle to maintain a polar-opposite friendship is when moral values come into play. 

Lacking appreciation or balance

Friendships may require a certain level of appreciation to survive like any relationship. If you constantly ask your friend for favors yet aren't gracious or available when they ask for help, the friendship might not last. While it may not be necessary to keep a running count of who has done what for whom, try to balance the relationship between giving and receiving.

Peer pressure 

It may harm a friendship when obligation or coercion is an element in your relationship. Try not to imply that your friend must act a certain way or agree with you to keep your friendship. Asking your friends to partake in activities they aren't comfortable with may show them you don't respect them. 

Narcissistic traits 

A successful friendship may require both parties to believe they hold equal positions in the relationship. Have the humility to sit back and listen to your friend. Learn what they have to teach you about life, even if you disagree on some areas. 

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How to cope with losing a friendship 

Each friendship is different; only the parties within can determine the boundaries. The friendship may be healthy if both people work to achieve balance, respect one another, and focus on their bond. However, if you're struggling to maintain friendships or have recently lost a friend, talking to a professional about why may be beneficial.  

If you do not have time for in-person therapy, you can also try online counseling through a platform like BetterHelp. An online therapist can guide you in healthy friendship skills and coping with the loss of old ones. In addition, with an online platform, you can meet with a counselor at a time that fits your schedule and choose between phone, video, or live chat session formats. 

Studies show that online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy in treating various mental health challenges. However, even if you do not have a mental health condition, a therapist can help you develop strategies for managing your thoughts, emotions, and actions in relationships. 


Friendships can be as crucial as other relationships to many individuals. However, a few behaviors may negatively impact or end a friendship. Keeping these behaviors in mind can help you have healthier connections with your friends. It may also be possible to contact a licensed therapist for guidance and support if you struggle to maintain healthy friendships. You’re not alone, and support is available.
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