Have you ever thought you had a rock-solid friendship, only to realize the foundation was shaky at best?
I’ve been there — investing time, love, and trust, only to discover that the person I thought was my “true friend” really wasn’t.
And you know what? I’m sorry to admit this, but I’ve also been that less-than-stellar friend before, too.
So, I speak from both sides of the fence when I say that true friendship is a two-way street.
Through both types of experiences, I’ve learned some hard lessons about what genuine friendship doesn’t look like.
And today, I want to share them with you so you can avoid the heartache I went through. Let’s dive in.
1) They’re only around during the good times
You know the drill: Your phone buzzes, and it’s that “friend” reaching out. But instead of asking how you’re doing, they’re usually in need of a favor, some advice, or a sympathetic ear.
At first, it feels good to be needed, to be the go-to person for someone else. You give your time, your energy, even your resources, thinking that this is what friendship is about—helping each other out.
But as time goes by, you notice a pattern. Whenever you’re in need, they’re suddenly busy, unavailable, or disinterested. Your texts go unanswered, your calls go to voicemail.
I’ve been in these one-sided friendships, and I’ll admit, I’ve sometimes been that friend who takes more than gives. I certainly wasn’t doing it on purpose, I just wasn’t mature enough to step back and realize what being a true friend means.
If you find yourself in a friendship where you’re always the giver and they’re always the taker, it may be good to step back, so they can learn this lesson too.
2) They look for the worst-case scenario in your goals
Dreams are fragile things, and there’s nothing more disheartening than sharing your goals with a friend, only for them to start listing all the ways things could go wrong.
Instead of encouragement or constructive advice, they seem fixated on disaster scenarios, casting a cloud of doubt over your ambitions.
Picture this: you’ve just shared your dream of starting your own business, and instead of enthusiasm or support, they say, “Do you know how many start-ups fail within the first year?” or “That sounds incredibly risky; are you sure you’ve thought this through?”
I get it, they might think they’re being “realistic” or “pragmatic,” but there’s a fine line between caution and pessimism.
This kind of behavior often leaves you feeling deflated, second-guessing yourself, and probably reluctant to share any future plans with them.
If your friend is perpetually shining a spotlight on potential pitfalls, it could be an indication that they’re not genuinely invested in your happiness and success.
A true friend will certainly offer caution when needed, but they’ll also be your biggest cheerleader, helping you navigate obstacles rather than highlighting them as reasons not to try at all.
3) They love to help you (but there’s a catch)
It’s a heartwarming feeling when a friend is always there to lend a hand or offer advice.
But unfortunately, this doesn’t always come from a genuine desire to lift you up, but rather a validation to them that they have the upper hand.
You see, there’s a kind of friendship where one person is always the helper, the advisor, or the hero — because it puts them in a position of power.
Imagine you’re struggling financially, and this friend is always ready to bail you out. On the surface, it’s a generous act.
But look closer, and you start to notice they never encourage you to be financially independent. It’s as if they want you to stay reliant on them, cementing their role as the “savior.”
I used to be proud of how helpful I was to my friends, but then I realized that I felt hurt when they didn’t want my help — and when I saw them succeed more than me, it stung a little.
It’s not that I wanted to see them suffering, and I never did anything to sabotage their efforts. But I definitely could have been a better friend if I stopped wanting to be the helper.
Now, I make sure to cultivate a genuine desire to lift others up before I offer any help — and give them the space to handle their own problems unless they ask.
4) They don’t follow through
We all know that actions speak louder than words, right? Well, a classic sign of a friendship that’s more mirage than substance is the lack of follow-through.
Your friend might say all the right things: “Let’s hang out soon!” or “I’ll definitely help you with that project!” But when the time comes, it turns out these were just empty words.
At first, it’s easy to make excuses for them. “They’re just busy,” or “Something must’ve come up.”
But over time, the pattern becomes hard to ignore. Promises are made and repeatedly broken, leaving you hanging time and time again.
I had this happen to me with someone who I thought was a friend. I told her about a struggle I was having at work, and she said she knew a piece of software that could make it much easier.
I told her I had tried those kinds of solutions but they didn’t work — and she insisted I send over my work to her so that she can have a look.
Well, I never got a reply to that email. This obviously wasn’t the reason why the friendship ended — but looking back, I can pinpoint several examples like this that should have been red flags that she wasn’t ever truly there for me.
5) They don’t tell you when they’re upset
This one might sound strange, because you might think a good friendship is one that stays positive and does not have conflict.
But a true friend is one that will always be honest and upfront with you if you upset them. And I have a great personal example to illustrate why.
Remember the friend who wanted to help me make work easier, but never followed through? Well, here’s the reason the friendship ended.
It turns out, while hanging out with my partner, he made a comment that made her think I had spilled an intimate secret of hers to him.
But that wasn’t true — he just happened to say something that hit the nail on the head, without even realizing it.
I thought “what a coincidence” then promptly forgot about it — but not my friend. She sat on it, stewing, for six months, all the while still acting friendly and the same as she had before.
Then one day, she exploded and accused me of blabbing all her personal things to everyone around.
I honestly felt betrayed. Not only was she accusing me of something that wasn’t true, but she had also been dishonest in her friendship to me for half a year — and when she finally brought up the issue, too much time had gone by to clear the air.
A true friend doesn’t let you believe everything is fine while they’re preparing an attack — they will communicate with you honestly and have the conversations needed to keep the relationship healthy.
6) They don’t apologize or take responsibility
There’s nothing more draining than being friends with someone who can’t own up to their mistakes.
Looking back at the friendship I mentioned above, I can now identify a big red flag that happened not long before the “breakup”.
She and I had made plans to go dancing together, and to meet at the club where a few other people we knew would be.
But she never showed up, so I got worried and texted her to ask if everything was okay. I saw she was online almost constantly, but I only got a very nonchalant response from her two days later, asking how the party was.
I told her I was upset that she ignored my text for two days, and couldn’t send even a short text saying she wasn’t coming, or at least reply and say she was okay.
But instead of apologizing, she replied with a bunch of irrelevant counter-arguments.
What hurt the most was she wouldn’t even try to empathize with me, or try to understand why I was upset — she was just focused on deflecting the blame on me.
And honestly, things like these are the reason why I don’t really miss the friendship that much — because I deeply value good communication, and I know I deserve a friend who is capable of it.
The courage to let go of fake friends
Recognizing the signs of a fake friendship can be a heartbreaking experience, but it’s also an empowering one.
You’re taking the first step toward freeing yourself from emotional baggage and making room for genuine relationships that truly enrich your life.
Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes; we’re all human and continuously learning.
What matters most is that you prioritize your emotional health and take steps to be a better friend, not just for others, but for yourself as well.
Sometimes, the bravest thing you can do is to walk away from a friendship that’s holding you back and never look back. Your future self will thank you.