How to Break Up With a Friend

Breakups are never easy. And even though being on the receiving end of one can be terribly painful, doling one out can be super-challenging and heartbreaking, as well. There are times in our lives, however, where ending a relationship is exactly what we need to do to make sure we are taking care of ourselves. And this also extends to friendships.

There are many different reasons for wanting to bring an end to a friendship. Sometimes naturally drifting apart can happen when two people just don’t have a whole lot in common anymore. Other times, toxicity can fester and it is no longer healthy to remain buddies. Whatever the reason, you get to decide what people deserve a prominent spot in your life and who needs to be shown the door. Here are some tips for breaking up with friends so you can start a new chapter.

1. For mismatched friendships

Explain your differences in a respectful way. If it feels more like a chore to maintain a friendship where there’s little spark or common interests anymore, it probably feels the same for the other person. This is totally common for people whose lives start to set off on different trajectories—think big moves, career changes and family additions. Not all friendships last through these big changes, and that’s okay.

A heart-to-heart may be in order to see how both of you feel about where your relationship stands. Maybe “breaking up” isn’t even the decision at which you both arrive. Perhaps the friendship transforms into something else: maybe just social media contacts or folks you send holiday cards to every year. Don’t feel guilty about not having space in your life for everyone you have ever met—everyone needs to constantly reshape their lives to fit what (and who) is most important.

2. For toxic relationships

Create clear boundaries and walk away. Ain’t nobody got time for a manipulative bestie. A clear cut sign of a friendship bound for a break-up is when your “pal” does not respect the boundaries you have already put in place or is otherwise manipulative throughout your friendship. A bigger, more permanent boundary is often needed in these situations.

Related: 5 Behaviors That Tell You the Friendship Isn’t Worth It

You get to decide how much you share with them regarding how their behaviors have affected you. It is understandable that dodging or ghosting someone is easier than confronting them, but at least some assertiveness is needed in these situations. You don’t have to write out a giant list of the reasons why you can no longer have them in your life, but it may be wise to touch on the big points so you know you’ve at least let your voice be heard. “Because I do not feel like you respect me when you (insert issue here), I can no longer continue this friendship.” After you make the boundary and walk away, stick to it as best you can to resist any further manipulation.

3. For abusive situations

Get the hell out of dodge. When the actions of others directly harm us we have the right to walk away without further explanation. This applies to both physical and emotional abuse. Whether a “friend” is constantly making you the butt of all their jokes or makes you feel invalidated and unsafe by their comments, you do not have to stay.

In situations like these, the priority is your safety and wellness. If you can, seek out other supports (friends, family, a counselor) with whom you can discuss the decision to cut the offender out of your life. You might decide it is not worth it to discuss it with the offender directly, so being around people who actually do have your back and understand your reasons is important. You do not owe an abuser anything. Do what you need to do to feel safe.

Related:
How to Break Free of Toxic Relationships
5 Tips for Listening During an Argument

Photo credit: Thinkstock

90 comments

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