Unlike when romance is over, when a friendship ends, your formal status doesn’t change. So how do you close the chapter?

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Maintaining good friendships is a crucial form of self-care, providing comfort and encouragement that can boost your mental well-being.

But for friendships to improve your life, they have to be good.

According to a 2021 study, good friends do the following:

  • encourage healthy habits
  • share information, support, and companionship
  • show solidarity — they have each other’s backs

Does a friendship no longer tick these boxes? If that’s the case, you’re not alone. Research in 2019 suggests that in contrast to the ideal, friendships seldom last forever. They naturally wax and wane. Sometimes, they dissolve.

If a friendship is no longer serving you, you might need to gently close this chapter of your story.

How to end a friendship

Can you lovingly end a friendship? First, it may help to consider that “love” and “friendship breakups” really can coexist.

Next, you might try giving yourself permission to:

  • understand it’s OK and even natural for friendships to end
  • release sadness, anger, or lack of “closure” over lost companionship
  • pursue new projects and friends

But how do you know when the meter has run out on your relationship? How do you know it’s actually time to let go?

You’ve grown apart

Maybe your politics have diverged. Or your interests. Or one of you has entered a different life stage that the other is finding difficult to be present in — for instance, having kids while your friend is single.

If it has become challenging to spend time together, it’s possible you’re moving away from each other naturally.

Lack of equity

This might show up as giving time, energy, and empathy without getting much back. Or maybe your friend wants more closeness and you want less.

An imbalanced friendship may leave you both feeling frustrated.

You feel distrustful

Perhaps you’ve found out your friend has gossiped about things you’ve shared in confidence. Or they want you to keep secrets that put you in a compromising position with others you care about, or they’re even engaged in illegal activity.

It may no longer feel safe for you to confide or be their confidante.

The friendship has grown toxic

Some relationships do not just fade, but go so far as to become unhealthy.

One 2021 study notes that some signs a friendship has grown toxic include:

  • you feel anxiety prior to meeting up with your friend
  • your friend encourages unwanted or unhealthy habits
  • your friend acts in ways that hurt your self-esteem, like mocking you

Try not to take it personally

No matter who initiates the breakup, it may help to remind yourself that many friendships end. No one has to be to blame.

Allow yourself time to grieve

When any friendship ends, it’s common to mourn the loss. If you feel like grieving, you may want to try some ways to safely release your emotions:

Consider giving yourself permission to acknowledge what you’re missing by:

  • visiting places you used to go with your friend
  • listening to songs that remind you of them
  • looking at old photos of the two of you

In the interest of privacy, it may be best to vent alone or with a trusted counselor, rather than to another friend.

It might not be what you envisioned, but you can create some kind of closure

Closure gives many folks clarity to move on — but that does not mean having the last word, or them admitting they did or didn’t do something.

Paths to consider if you want closure with your friend

  • Drifting away (or slow closure). Part of setting boundaries for yourself and with others involves learning you don’t have to say yes to everything. Yu don’t have to answer calls and texts right away, and you don’t have to initiate contact.
  • Face-to-face conversation. When trying this method, you might focus on your own sentiments. “I feel like we’re moving in different directions.”
  • Definitive break. If it does not feel like you can have a respectful conversation, you may need to step back and observe your own boundaries.

Steps to consider if you want closure within yourself

  • Write a goodbye letter for your eyes only, including the good, bad, and in-between.
  • Memorialize your friend breakup by lighting a candle or burning incense.
  • Figure out what you would say if you ran into your friend again, or you’re asked about them. Will you be breezy? Vague? Professional?

You can concentrate on something new

If your former friendship caused you to put aside things you love, consider:

  • developing new interests through meetups
  • improving skills by taking classes
  • cultivating new friendships
  • reconnecting with your values

As you move on, you might find it encouraging to give yourself credit for efforts, rather than only for results.

It’s possible to love them from afar

Letting go does not necessarily mean forgetting your friend or holding grudges. You might even consider wishing them well.

They may have some qualities you want in new friendships. Or they may have taught you what you do not want, which might also serve your growth.

Many friendships dissolve naturally over time, as you grow up and grow apart. Sometimes, letting go of a friend who is no longer a good fit for you can actually improve your quality of life.

If you’re looking to get your needs met and nurture a friendship so it lasts, you might check out these questions on developing intimacy among friends.