Break ups are viewed as a normal part of romantic relationships and dating, but they can occur in friendships too. Maybe you have grown apart from a friend or the friendship feels one-sided or draining. You might not like how you act around a friend or find that your friend often makes you feel bad about yourself. Or you could simply just not enjoy their company anymore.
If you value a friendship, it’s worthwhile to try to repair it before ending it. Tell your friend what you need from them in order to feel better about your connection — whether it be spending more intentional time together, having better boundaries around certain topics, or resolving a misunderstanding.
Difficult situations like a friend betraying your trust or failing to show up for you in a moment where you really needed support can be hard to get past — but if the wrongdoing was a rare, out-of-character incident in your friendship and your friend is genuinely apologetic and remorseful, you might be able to work through it and mend your relationship.
But, if your friend isn’t engaging in conversation about what you need in your friendship, or continuously shows little effort or progress, it’s probably time to break up.
Don’t just slow fade out of the friendship. If you’ve gotten to the point that a breakup is necessary, it’s because you haven’t simply grown apart naturally. Making excuses that you’re too busy to hang out is only going to work for so long. The break up needs to be a proactive conversation.
Meet in person or talk on the phone rather than communicate via email and text. There will be less room for misinterpretation, and it shows a level of respect to the other person as a human being and the value you may have had for the friendship in the past. Of course, the exception is if you have reason to suspect your friend could become abusive or violent in response to the break up conversation. In those cases, your priority should be to take the distance you need to protect yourself.
Keep the setting neutral - consider meeting in a park or a quiet coffee shop, rather than your friend’s home (where they might feel ambushed) or your home (where you could end up in an awkward situation of needing to ask them to leave).
Accept that there could be hurt feelings as a result of the friendship break up. The idea isn’t to go into it intending to hurt your friend’s feelings, but rather to acknowledge that your friend could very well feel upset, betrayed, angry, or rejected by your decision. It’s OK to decide that ending a friendship is truly what’s best for you, but it’s unrealistic to expect it to be a completely painless process.
Explain that you are ending your friendship kindly, directly, and using “I” statements. It’s not productive to be vague about your intentions or get sidetracked into a litany of all your friend’s qualities or actions that you might not like. Frame things to be about how the friendship is not meeting your needs — for example, “I am not feeling valued in our friendship because I seem to spend most of the effort to keep in touch and get together”, or “I no longer have a sense of trust in you as a friend due to the repeated inconsistencies in things you have shared with me”.
Allow your friend to respond to you and clarify your words if needed, but avoid getting drawn into a discussion about who’s right and who’s wrong or about changing your mind. Don’t bring in the opinions or interventions from others into the friendship dissolution process; this matter should stay between the two of you.
Express what you need going forward - if you and your friend are part of a friend group or have mutual friends, you might express that you’re OK with chatting casually if you are both in attendance at the same get-together. Or, if you strictly do not want to be contacted or spoken to moving forward, make sure to set that expectation.
Follow through with your end of the break up. Take care of yourself after you’ve officially ended the friendship so that you’re not tempted to fall back in touch with your ex-friend and find yourself in old patterns. Process your feelings about the friendship ending with a loved one or a therapist.
If you need that extra level of professional support as you contemplate or go through a friendship break up, I’m available to help. Click the button below to book a free phone consultation. I’d love to hear more about what you’re going through, and discuss if my practice might be a good fit for you.