Better Relationships: Opportunity Cost When Picking Friends

2 friends standing - choosing friends

Toxic relationships are easy to see.

Come up with a list of the most difficult people you know. They probably sap your energy and complicate your life. Or distract and annoy you. Whatever it is, you know they don’t deserve a place in your life. As much as possible, you take steps to remove them. Simple! That’s not quite what we’re talking about in this article though.

The cost of semi-toxic relationships.

No, instead, we’re talking about semi-toxic relationships. Let me unpack what I mean by this a bit. These are the individuals who you like in some instances, but who also have huge glaring flaws. You might not be sure where they fit into your life. For example, maybe you have a friend who’s a lot of fun to party with, but completely reckless and overbearing. You can think of a lot of good nights, but also a lot that ended in awkward arguments and hurt feelings.

For the most part, you give them the benefit of the doubt. Which would be fine, if it was an occasional event, but if we’re being honest. It happens pretty frequently. They’re starting to annoy you more and more. It seems hard to make a clear choice though, they have a lot of good attributes mixed in with the tougher ones. Every time you’re about to give them the boot, they do something spectacular to revive the relationship.

Some of you may consider yourselves especially good at dealing with these people. You know how to get around their somewhat shady ways and the drama that happens a little too frequently. They have issues to work through, but you’re confident in yourself and it doesn’t phase you. You think, There is a lot of good in these people! You might even like the challenge of assisting them and trying to boost their moods during the rough patches.

The cost of picking ‘OK’ friends.

There is a problem though. Even if they don’t upset you and have some upside as individuals, there’s still a cost involved in being around them. Your time. Each minute you spend dealing with their challenging side is a minute you could be getting value from another relationship.

Let me give you an example – If you want to be a world class athlete, spending time with someone whose last priority is health can be a problem. If you spend time with them, they’ll likely tempt you into health-deteriorating activities. You might resist successfully, but you’re still missing other opportunities while you do that. If you spent time with another aspiring athlete, you might pick up useful training tips instead of arguing about why you don’t want to binge drink. This is how opportunity cost comes into play. Once you spend your time one way, you can’t spend it on any other opportunity.

Easier said than done.

I understand it’s difficult to get away from some situations. Maybe it has to do with people you’re related to. Perhaps it’s a work relationship where you have limited leverage. It could even just be someone you’ve known for a long time. They don’t even have to be a negative influence on your life, they could just have different goals and values. You don’t have to eliminate them, but maybe they only fit into your life during certain times.

You don’t need to cut everyone off.

Now please, don’t get confused. I’m not saying to abandon everyone you know. This is more a call to reflection than an ultimatum. I spent a good amount of time living with someone who was a massive drain on my energy and ambition, simply because it was convenient and I mostly liked them. Looking back, other relationships would have built me a much better quality of life. I could have found someone with similar interests to spend my time with. We spent much of our time on different spectrums, each pulling each other away from our preferred lifestyle.

I’m also not saying everyone you meet or spend time with has to be exactly the same as you. Or that differences are bad. The main point I’m trying to get across is that you should weigh the value of each relationship in your life. Why are you spending time with someone? Is it the right amount of time? Is the relationship adding as much value as other relationships might? These are a few ideas to consider.

Your relationships structure your life.

How we spend our time and who we spend it with is vitally important to the outcome of our lives. Whether or not you pay attention to it, each relationship nudges us in certain directions. I’d like you to get the most out of your relationships. Don’t cut everyone off, but do think about where they’re headed. There are billions of people in the world, you don’t have to settle. Search out those that add substantial value and meaning to your life and you’ll be much happier.


  1. Think about a few of your key which are more difficult than others.
  2. Ask yourself why they’re difficult, do you need to work on communication or would it be better going another direction?
  3. What new relationships could you create to add even more value to your life? (Ex. You want to discuss more philosophy – look for new friends in places you’re likely to meet people with that interest)


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