Breaking up is hard. But with a few pointers, you can learn how to end your friendship with care and grace.
Maintaining good friendships can boost your well-being. But what happens when the relationship isn’t working anymore?
Maybe you have nothing in common anymore, your friend wasn’t there for you when you needed them, and they’ve broken your trust, or your friendship has grown toxic. Whatever pushes you to cut ties, you feel it’s time to let go of the friendship.
Breakup conversations are never easy, but you can make it easy by being straightforward and as gentle as possible.
If you’re considering pulling the plug on your friendship, Elizabeth Lombardo, a licensed psychologist and bestselling author of the book “Get Out of the Red Zone,” suggests specific steps you can take to help end your friendship.
Write out the specific reasons you have decided to end your friendship.
“Consider the benefits to your psychological well-being, physical health, relationships with others, work, and spiritual energy,” Lombardo says.
Then read the list over to help strengthen why this is so important to you before discussing it with your friend.
Set a time to meet and talk face-to-face (unless it’s an abusive relationship).
“Make sure it is a time that is not rushed or riddled with any additional stress,” Lombardo suggests. “Make sure you are not in the psychological ‘red zone.'”
The “red zone,” according to Lombardo, happens when you’re experiencing high levels of stress. That is, “7/10 or higher when 10/10 is the most stressed you have ever been,” she says.
Lombardo notes that people tend to think and act differently in the “red zone” than out of it, adding more distress to the conversation.
Share with the person things you have enjoyed in the friendship. Talk about the fun times or the things you’ve learned from them. Then, explain why you’ve come to the difficult decision to end the friendship.
Lombardo suggests using “I” statements to take ownership of how you feel because “you” statements can lead the other person to become defensive.
For example, you can use phrasing such as: “I know we have had a lot of great times. In the past few months, though, I have been really stressed [or whatever you have been feeling] by [whatever has been happening] that I feel like our friendship is no longer good for either of us.”
Take accountability for your contribution to the friendship and allow your friend to share their opinion. Listen and empathize with their perspective.
“They may have their own beliefs and perspectives that are not going to necessarily change,” Lombardo says. Listen and do your best not to get into an argument, she suggests.
Ending a relationship can be challenging, so it’s important to give yourself credit for taking the initiative to do something best for you. Lombardo says: “It’s OK to feel sad or angry.”
There are ways to make the process less painful for all parties involved. Lombardo suggests a few things not to do when breaking up a friendship. Avoid:
- Ghosting your friend. They deserve to be told about the friendship ending.
- Giving in to their promises that things will change. You’ve most likely tried that many times.
- Feeling riddled with guilt. Try not to feel excessively guilty. You’re doing this for your well-being as well as those you love.
- Confusing your feelings. Avoid confusing your sadness about the relationship ending with the belief that you should maintain the friendship.
As you move on from your friendship, you might find it encouraging to establish new boundaries.
Meghan Ghetti, a school psychologist based in Cleveland, suggests setting boundaries and establishing new norms for moving forward. This is especially important if you have people or locations in common.
For example, Ghetti suggests saying, “When I see you at a mutual friend’s social event, I can be polite and make small talk. We can enjoy each other’s company without drama, but it doesn’t mean we want to rekindle a close friendship or relationship.”
Letting go of a friendship doesn’t necessarily mean you have to forget your friend. You can wish them well and move forward gracefully.
The truth is some friendships end.
You realize you don’t have anything in common anymore, your priorities changed, you grew apart, or there was something more serious like broken trust.
While friendship breakups can be painful, you can close the chapter on your friendship by:
- making a list of reasons why you’re ending the friendship
- setting a time to meet and talk face-to-face
- starting with the positives and using “I” statements
- being empathetic when listening and taking accountability
- giving yourself grace for taking care of your well-being
Sometimes, letting go of a friend who’s no longer a good fit can improve your life. If you’re looking to nurture your current friendships, consider following the steps to growing healthy friendships.