Do your closest five friends reflect the real you—your goals, ambitions, values?
You’d be surprised how often the issue of friendships timing out comes up in my sessions as a life coach. It surfaces in the form of questions like, “I find myself wanting to spend less time with my BFF. Why is that?” or “I don’t want to do happy hour with my co-workers anymore. Is that cool?”
So why is this such a common topic?
Because I work with a lot of people who are making changes in their lives. They’re starting businesses. They’re leveling up in their careers. They’re moving cities, changing their bodies, adopting a new spiritual practice. Whatever it is—it’s change.
And in life, change begets more change.
What does this mean for lifelong friendships, office spouses, and college buddies who don’t follow along on your journey as it continues to unfold? It can inevitably mean a change in your relationship too. And that’s OK!
Here’s how to deal when you change but the people around you don’t:
1. Accept it’s normal.
When you were a kid and joined the swim team, moved to Chicago, joined a ballet class or a Sunday school service, did you meet more people a little bit more like you? And as a result, did you spend more time with them? The same thing happens whenever you change jobs, become a parent, join a new fitness tribe, or actively pursue a hobby or a side hustle. Life will attract more people like you, to you.
Time changes people. That’s natural and positive. And as the months and years pass, if the only thing you have in common with your friend is your past, it’s probably not enough to sustain you in the long term. You can still support and love each other and spend less time glued at the hip. Friendship is about shared experiences and joy, not pressure and stress.
2. Don’t expect other people to change.
There’s nothing worse than not feeling supported by the people you love. But just because you might be going through a personal shift doesn’t mean other people have to come along with you. I’ve seen it countless times. People get fit. Decide to save for a big investment. Start freaking out over personal development and want to preach their new ways to old friends. It doesn’t always land. And it doesn’t have to. All you have to worry about it yourself.
3. Step off the gas.
I have a friend, Karen, who left New York City, moved to the suburbs and had two kids. For well over a year, I frequently asked her if/when I could come and visit. I was happy to jump on the train and do what it took for some quality time.
The truth was that she was busy with her family and naturally had more mom friends filling up her weekends. Good. She ought to be doing that if it’s right for her (and it is). As a woman without kids, I understood. And I still understand. But I also know that she understands that I stopped giving 100 percent via weekly texts and calls when I knew that she could only give me 50 percent at this expansive stage of her life.
Life separates people. But that’s not a bad thing as long as we’re a bit more accepting of other people’s journeys.
Karen and I see each other less now (and it’s certainly noisier when we do!), but it’s just right. Stepping off the gas doesn’t mean abandoning the car.
4. Ditch the duty.
When you feel obligated to see a friend, versus excited, it’s a sign that something probably has to shift. If you feel uncomfortable seeing a friend—perhaps you feel unsupported, uninspired, or you even have what my friend Laura calls a “friendship hangover” after seeing someone—ask yourself, “How long have I felt like this?” And then ask, “Why do I still do it?”
There’s no gun to your head. And there never will be. Unlike a romantic relationship that has firmer boundaries, friendships are non-exclusive, and if they’re healthy, they should be more flexible. Unless you wish to have a frank discussion over something in particular, timing out over a period can be kind and respectful. You become a little less available. You share less. It’s gradual and gentle.
Finally, don’t spend a second feeling guilty about transitioning out of a friendship. Not all relationships are meant to last a lifetime. But that doesn’t mean that your friendship failed, or that it’s dead, or even over for good. Just for now, it’s complete.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!
If they constantly put you down, it might be time to walk away.
Friendships are incredibly important to us — so important that studies have found that stronger social support systems improve your health. But only if those people are actually supporting you. Just like good friendships can help you, toxic friendships can hurt your health.
There’s a number of ways to spot a toxic friendship, and a few steps you can take to try to improve it. But if it doesn’t get better, you might have to break up with that friend, which can be incredibly hard to do. Dr. Jenny Yip, a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles, told Woman’s Day that the longer you’ve known someone, the more you’ve come to depend on them, and the harder it will be to end the friendship.
“Our support system is hugely important to our quality of life,” Yip said. “It serves as a huge buffer to stressors in our environment.” Losing one of those “buffers” can be just as difficult as any other major loss in your life, but it might be necessary if you have a friend who just isn’t respecting you or your boundaries anymore. Here’s how to tell if you need to break up with a friend, and how to do it.
They put you down
Kimberly Hershenson, a psychotherapist in New York, told Woman’s Day that a friend repeatedly putting you down or insulting you is a sign that the friendship might need to end. But first, you should have an open conversation with them. “Communication is incredibly important,” she said. “Talk to your friend about what’s going right in a friendship so you both can be on the same page, and continue doing the behaviors that feel good. But also talk about what you feel is not going well and come up with solutions that you both can try to make the relationship work.”
They cross your boundaries
Hershenson said a lack of boundaries can be a sign of an unhealthy friendship. “If they are not respecting your space, they’re wanting to be around you all the time, or they’re calling and texting daily or at hours that are not comfortable for you,” then the friendship might need some firmer boundaries.
Yip said conflicting boundaries or unclear boundaries can lead to a lot of misunderstanding in friendships. For example, someone with firmer boundaries would not want their friend telling them what to do or how to do things. But someone with looser boundaries who wants a closer connection could read their friend’s firmer boundaries as a lack of support. “Boundaries mean different things for different people,” Yip said. “So it really depends on if the boundaries that you feel comfortable with correspond to what your friend also feels comfortable with.”
If it feels like your friend keeps crossing the line with how they talk to you or treat you, they might not know where the line is.
There’s no balance in the relationship
If you feel like you do the majority of the listening and supporting in a friendship then it might be unbalanced. Hershenson said a friend who is “constantly coming to you with their issues and not reciprocating and allowing you to go to them for things” isn’t upholding their end of the friendship.
Joyce Morley, a marriage and family therapist in Decatur, Georgia told HuffPost that a friend shouldn’t be constantly taking from you and not giving. “Think of it this way: A friendship should be a reciprocated process, and each of you in the relationship should yield a return.”
They give their opinion without you asking
Yip said a friend who doesn’t respect your boundaries might also give uninvited opinions or judgements. This could also mean talking about subjects that are off limits, such as your romantic relationships, or other important people in your life.
It’s hard to spend time with them
Psychologist Irene S. Levine told HuffPost that it might be time to end a friendship if it seems increasingly difficult to spend time with them. They should make time for you, and if they don’t, that could be a sign that it’s time to move on.
If you do see them, “pay attention to how you act when you do get together,” Levine told HuffPost. “If you feel uncomfortable and have nothing to say, it may be because you no longer share much in common.”
Their life is full of drama
Everyone goes through tough times, but it might be a red flag if your friend seems to constantly attract drama. Kailee Place, a licensed professional counselor in Charleston, South Carolina, told Business Insider that the drama might be exciting at first, but it’s a bad sign if their life seems to be a constant state of chaos. “Sooner or later, you’ll become part of the chaos versus just a spectator,” she said.
How to break up with a friend
If you’ve had a conversation with your friend about improving your relationship but nothing seems to change, it might be time to end it. Though you might just want to avoid making plans with the friend to phase them out of your life, Hershenson said it’s better to be honest with them. She suggest saying something like “I feel like you’re not respecting my needs, and I need to move on from the friendship.” That way “they know exactly what’s what’s going on and they’re not left in the dark with what with how you’re feeling,” she said.
Yip said you might not need to cut that friend out of your life entirely, but you should make it clear when you are OK with seeing them. For example, you might want to only see them in group settings.
Both Yip and Hershenson agree that you shouldn’t ghost your friend to avoid talking to them or avoid ending the relationship directly. “People ghost because you don’t want to deal with the problem, so you’re just going to ignore it,” Yip said. “However, that’s very passive aggressive. A much healthier and mature way of handling it would be to voice your concerns in a very assertive way.”
After you’ve ended the friendship, Hershenson suggests taking care of yourself, because it may hurt for a while. “Really take care of yourself and treat yourself like you’re your own best friend,” she said. Rather than avoid or mask the pain you might feel by socializing with other friends, she suggests taking a step back and spending some time alone to process the end of the friendship. “If it gets to a point where you’re so upset over the situation, then it may be time to seek professional help from a therapist,” she said.
- Oct. 20, 2016
This article is part of a series aimed at helping you navigate life’s opportunities and challenges. What else should we write about? Contact us: [email protected]
Friendships are important throughout life, but especially so in the stage between school and marriage, when our friends often stand in for family. What do you do when you need to end a friendship that’s turned sour?
First, give it some serious thought. Once you initiate a breakup, there may be no turning back.
Depending on the type of friendship, a formal ending may not be necessary.
“There are typically four types of friendships: friends you have because of shared history; friends you’ve made due to forced togetherness; your surface social friends; and growth friends, meaning the people you want by your side as you go through life wherever you are,” said Melissa S. Cohen, a psychotherapist and relationship coach in Westfield, N.J. “Unless there has been a serious betrayal of trust, you can usually let all but your most important friendships fade away simply by spending less time with each other.”
If, however, your friend asks why you are not texting her or never available to get together, offer an explanation.
“Think about what you say and how you say it very carefully. It’s likely that your once-friend will never forget those words,” said Irene S. Levine, a psychologist and producer of TheFriendshipBlog.com. Then, talk to your friend in private.
“Don’t involve mutual friends. Remember that although you have been giving a lot of thought to the breakup, it might hit your friend without warning,” Dr. Levine said.
If you no longer have much in common or simply don’t enjoy your time together anymore, take responsibility for ending the friendship rather than blaming the other person.
“It’s O.K. to say, ‘I truly care about you and the relationship we’ve had, but I don’t have the bandwidth or time to devote to our friendship anymore,’ or ‘I can’t be the friend that you want me to be right now,’” Ms. Cohen said. “Even if you feel it’s your friend who is sucking you dry, or stuck in college partying mode, or not being considerate, you can compassionately and authentically say, ‘We don’t seem to share the same goals and perspectives.’”
That allows you both to be cordial if you see each other again, and leaves the door open to a reconciliation if circumstances change. “No matter what, it’s always important to be careful with other people’s feelings. That just makes you a good person,” Ms. Cohen added.
When a friend betrays you by, say, blabbing your secrets or being consistently cruel, you can and should stand up for yourself. And if this is not one of your closest friends, a breakup is most likely in order. The goal in these instances is to be honest and plainly explain why you can’t be friends with someone you don’t trust.
And have the conversation live — either in person or over the phone — because anything you write online could be shared or used against you in a way you may regret.
But when you have a major conflict with a best friend, these scenarios don’t apply. It’s ideal to have an open discussion about your feelings.
“For those friends, it’s worth it to try harder and give the person the benefit of the doubt because those relationships are rare,” Ms. Cohen said. “Be really honest about what’s going on.”
If after that, the relationship still feels unsustainable to you, let your friend go as gently as you can. “These relationships need to be mutually satisfying to both people,” Dr. Levine said.
Be clear that you wish your friend well but resist the urge to explain every detail of your thought process. “It isn’t necessarily kind and won’t necessarily provide the other person with closure. Your friend will still need to achieve that on her own,” Dr. Levine added.
And remember that friendship breakups can hurt just as much as romantic breakups, especially if you’ve been close with a friend for a long time.
And sadly, noted Dr. Levine, “when you break up with a boyfriend, you can turn to your best friends for support. When you break up with a best friend, you’ve lost the person who might be able to help you get over the loss.”
Want to read more? You might also be interested in:
Tips for Ending a Friendship as Kindly as Possible
You want to move on from your relationship but you don’t want to be intentionally cruel to someone you once called a friend. And you definitely want to avoid the drama of tears and hurt feelings. Ending a friendship is a difficult thing. Here are some tips on how to break up with your pal the right way.
Make Sure Your Friend Understands Why You Are Ending the Relationship, But Don’t Start an Argument In Order to End Things
Once you’ve made the decision to end your friendship, you can’t then go and start an argument. It’s bad form and it really won’t accomplish anything.
Instead, be clear but kind on why you are ending things with a friend. Give them a specific example if you can and let them know why this is something you won’t tolerate.
For instance, “I did not like the way you put me down at the party last night. This has happened before but I just can’t be around that” is better than, “You’re such a witch! You acted like a jerk at that party.”
Name calling should always be avoided. (You’ll be glad you took the high road after the breakup is done.) Telling someone you’re unhappy with them is never easy, but sometimes friendships actually become stronger after a frank discussion.
Address the Issues
If you talked with your friend in the past about how you felt, this will be an easy discussion. Refer to the time(s) you brought the issue up, and any resolution you two might have agreed on. (For example, “Do you remember last year when I asked you to not make comments behind my back to Sally? You said you would try to stop, but I just heard two more today.”)
When you bring up the issue, give your friend a chance to explain. There may be a misunderstanding that you didn’t realize existed.
Ending a Friendship Through Email
Sometimes talking things through with a friend is not possible. They are clueless or you’ve already put up with too many snarky jabs or times when they talk over you. In these cases, you’ll probably do your breakup through email. When your friend won’t listen, you are left with no other choice. Some things to keep in mind, however:
- Make the email short and to the point. Don’t pour out your heart because your friend will feel bombarded.
- Don’t initiate an email fight. Sending nasty emails back and forth will only leave you both feeling horrible.
- Focus on specific events and how they made you feel, rather than assuming why your friend did the things they did.
Breaking Up in Person
Depending on the length and closeness of your friendship, you may want to break up in person. This is especially important if your friend has been dear to you in the past. Think of it this way, giving positive energy to the end of your friendship will help you find a new one that much easier and without baggage like anger and resentment. If you end things positively, you’ll be better able to get closure on the loss of your friendship.
To initiate the break up, sit down at a convenient time for both of you and talk about the past issues which have lead you to the current situation. Even though you are ending your relationship, keep your discussion healthy. It doesn’t pay to name call or be nasty.
Let Your Friend Know It Is Over
Be sure to make your break up intentions clear to your friend, or they may walk away with the impression that you’re still friends. After you talk about the issues that have made your friendship unravel, let them know this is the end. Say something like:
- “Based on the things we’ve talked about, I can no longer continue with our friendship. It makes me sad to say goodbye to you, but I feel our friendship has changed quite a lot and we aren’t close anymore.”
- “I will remember the great times we have had, and I wish you the best. I will always care about you as a friend but we can no longer hang out together.”
Allow Your Friend to Process the Break Up
Your friend may be in denial that your relationship is ending, so give them some time to process everything. They may have questions or want clarification on what they did wrong, so be sure to be patient and understanding. Ending a friendship in a calm manner is no small task! But in the long run you’ll be happier you did it that way.
The heartbreak of ending a friendship can be devastating whether you were friends for two or twenty years. And it can be particularly hard when it’s with girlfriends. In a study (PDF) published in Psychology Review (2000), UCLA researchers found that in response to stress, instead of “fight-or-flight,” women “tend-or-friend.” Although both sexes release oxytocin associated with relaxation when stressed, it is more prominent in women — and this feel-good hormone promotes a maternal behavior to tend and bond with others.
The feedback I received after posing a related question over on our Facebook page was a testament to that. Out of the over thirty responses we got, only a few were from men. Facebook friend William Miller, for example, left this comment:
“Do most people actually sit the other party down and explain why we can’t be [insert relationship here] anymore unless they’re dating? With friends you usually just drift apart gradually, with a work relationship it’s generally cut and dried no further contact. No explanation necessary unless they ask.”
And in response Abigail Strubel said, “William, your comment is lucid and VERY masculine 😉 .”
Miller brings up a valid point, however. Are all friendships in need of TLC when it’s time to say goodbye? Must there be drama in every friendship split?
Not so, according to Irene S. Levine, PhD, freelance writer and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Break Up With Your Best Friend. Part of the process of ending involves analyzing the friendship.
Levine defines three types of friendships and the best way to deal with them.
1. The Acquaintance
You see each other sporadically and define her more as an acquaintance than as a best friend forever (BFF). These types of relationships don’t have the same emotional investment as a friend you chat with every night, so an organic shift from friend to end may be expected. It’s okay to decrease your calls and dates from a few times a month to none in this situation.
2. The Public Friend
This is the friend you see every day. Maybe it’s a workmate, a classmate, a mutual or family friend. There’s no way to hide from this person so you can’t just disappear into thin air without a, “Where’s Mary?” type of reaction.
In this case, you need to really consider your relationship. Are you simply drifting apart or is there something else that’s bothering you? Sometimes we end a friendship out of the fear of confronting them. In theory, it is much easier to avoid a phone call than tell someone their boyfriend’s raves and repetitive negative rants are driving you up the wall.
Also, sometimes friendships end from a misunderstanding. Maybe you’re pissed at her for forgetting to call you on your birthday or she’s mad at you for continuously canceling your monthly dates. Levine says, “Many breakups occur over simple misunderstandings that could be cleared up with honest communication. Sometimes an apology is warranted if you did something wrong or didn’t do or say something you should have.” Perhaps, a simple, “I’m sorry I said that about your new beau” or a “I was hurt that you missed my party,” could suffice. Imagine the alternative-ending a 10 year friendship over a simple unintentional mistake.
3. The Good Friend Gone Bad
This could be your BFF of the moment, the girl you can gab to about anything from politics to sex and the mindless things like nail polish and the Kardashians. But recently, you’ve hit a wall. The honeymoon, it would seem, is officially over. You start bickering over her choice of clothes, your relationship and suddenly it’s an all out 24/7 war.
“If problems are chronic and keep recurring despite your best efforts, it’s probably prudent to at least take a break (I call it a friendship sabbatical) from the relationship,” Levine says.
She suggests holding off on the blaming and instead focus on expressing your desire to spend some time apart. Just like “lovers need a holiday,” so do friends. Levin says it’s a myth to think friendships are perfect all the time without their natural ups and downs.
At the same time, like any relationship, they are also not guaranteed to last forever. In fact, Levine explains that most friendships don’t, “because people change over time and it’s very rare that two friends, even very good ones, will change in the same direction.”
But how do you know if you’re just hitting a rough spot in your friendship or you’re growing apart?
Here are four signs it is time to say goodbye:
- If you are experiencing consistent unresolvable arguments, misunderstandings and disappointments.
- If you feel tense, anxious or uncomfortable in her presence.
- If a friendship is destructive and hurting your self-esteem.
- If your biggest problem is you can’t find time to spend together. Levine says, “It may suggest that one or both people don’t consider the friendship a priority in their lives any more.”
So if it is time, how do you say goodbye?
It may be tempting to bust out your Blackberry and leave a text or type out a quick email. Without the intensity of an in-person meeting, technology makes the process a whole lot easier. But is it a major faux pas to end a friendship that way?
Not necessarily. Levine says that it may be acceptable to end a long-distance friendship through technological means. And even an email might do. It’s all in the way you do it.
“Sometimes an email can give someone time to think and react to the bad news. Just because you’ve mulled over the breakup and made a decision doesn’t mean that the other person is psychologically prepared to react. An email can give them time.” Just be careful to keep your emotions in check when typing. Since your friend won’t be able to see your empathetic face or your caring eyes, be cognizant of the words you choose and how it may be interpreted by its receiver.
No matter how you do it, remember the person you’re ending with was a friend at one point of your life. Stifle the urge to blame, be defensive or attack. Instead, take responsibility for your part in the relationship. If you’re having trouble deciding what to say, Levine suggests writing out a script and practicing it aloud.
Above all she says, “Ending a friendship is never easy. The closer the friendship, the harder it is to acknowledge it’s over.” But sometimes breaking up with a friend could be the best thing you ever did for yourself. “It leaves you more space and time for healthier and more satisfying relationships.” She also reminds us about the gift of the friendship itself. “We take something away from each friendship, hopefully, that will empower us to be a better friend and make better choices in the future.”
Stability matters when it comes to the quality of our friendships. The best friendships are those that stand the test of time and are characterized by security and comfort, instead of conflict or turbulence. It’s the reason so much of my work as a therapist and friendship researcher has focused on helping others meet new people and maintain their existing friendships.
But the reality is, not all friendships will last. Changes in relationships and social networks are normal. Expected, even. If you’re one for quotes: People come into our lives for a reason or season. So how do you know when that season has come and gone and it’s time to let go? And, even more confusing, how do you actually go about ending a friendship?
Unlike romantic relationships where it’s typically pretty clear (Read: text messages or post-it notes are not an acceptable way to end a relationship), the same cannot be said for friendships. Here are some tips that might make navigating this friendship challenge a little easier.
When is it time to end a friendship?
There’s been a serious betrayal
Deciding to remain friends after a serious betrayal is a personal decision. One that likely depends on the severity of the betrayal, your friend’s commitment to change or make amends, your willingness to forgive, and the history you have together. That said, there are some betrayals and transgressions there’s just no getting over. When the foundation of a friendship is broken and beyond repair, like when your trust has been ruptured or you feel chronically used or underappreciated, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship and willingness to remain friends.
There’s unrelenting conflict
There are ups and downs in any close relationship. Even the healthiest friendships aren’t totally immune. And while conflict itself isn’t necessarily a reason to end a friendship, it can become something more serious when the same issue comes up repeatedly and you no longer enjoy spending time together. Minor conflicts can turn into more serious betrayals when you’ve expressed why something is important to you and your friend continues to act in a way that violates your need, preference, or request. In these cases, the real issue is no longer the original conflict, but a feeling of being chronically disrespected or underappreciated.
You’re in different places
It’s not always a big blow-up or betrayal that leads to the end of a friendship. As we age and evolve, so too do our friends. And we can sometimes end up in very different places where we no longer feel connected.
You might feel like you have less in common than you used to and that your interests, values, or schedules just don’t match up as well as they did when you initially became friends. One of you might also become less invested in your friendship than the other. But healthy friendships are reciprocal. And in order for a friendship to work, both friends need to be equally invested and motivated to see it continue. Once someone has “checked out,” it can really take away from the benefits we’re actually getting from that friendship and make it much less likely that the friendship will survive.
Of course, being in different places doesn’t automatically mean you need to end your friendship; there are absolutely ways to maintain a friendship when you’re in different life stages. But every now and then it’s important to evaluate how your friendship is evolving and if you’re both still committed.
How to actually end a friendship
There is no blueprint or rulebook for ending a friendship. It all depends on you, your relationship, and the reason for the break-up.
Ghosting is the ultimate form of rejection. But distancing is something very different and can be a good place to start when thinking about ending a friendship. Not calling or texting as often, or finding ways to gradually withdraw your effort, energy, and involvement, can give both of you a chance to get used to the change in your friendship without making it overwhelmingly personal or uncomfortable. It’s also a way to let your friendship run its course organically.
Change the terms
Sometimes, a small change in the terms of your relationship can help you keep your friendship while establishing some boundaries and protecting yourself. Deciding to see your friend in a group setting but not one-on-one, only doing certain activities together or speaking about certain topics, or moving your friendship to more of an “online” format can preserve some of the healthy aspects of your relationship while creating a distance that works for both of you.
When it comes to ending romantic relationships, we expect people to be upfront and direct. We want clarity. We want closure. This isn’t necessarily true for friendships. At least not always. And yet sometimes, the most straightforward option is the one that brings us the most clarity and comfort.
Instead of making it personal or blaming your friend, focus on the reasons why the dynamic of your friendship just isn’t working anymore. Rather than saying “You aren’t trustworthy,” highlight that trust and reliability are important to you and that, right now, you’re not ready to start re-establishing that trust. The message ends up being the same, but one of these is significantly easier to stomach and makes it more likely you’ll end your friendship on better terms.
It can also help to be clear on what you actually mean when you say you want to distance yourself or end your friendship. It’s not always obvious what these things actually mean or look like in real life or practical terms. Do you want to cut off all communication? Are you open to communicating through text messages and social media? Or are you happy to keep in touch and just don’t want to get together as often? Whatever your version or vision is of your friendship break-up, make sure you are clear, both with yourself and your friend, to avoid miscommunications or misunderstandings.
W hen I found out that one of my closest friends had shared very personal things I told her in confidence, I was shocked. How dare she make my private life so public? But maybe, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been. After all, I had heard her share personal stories about other people. Why would I be any different?
We never had a blowout fight—the kind that ends in tears and slammed doors and imperative sentences like “Never contact me again!” But my moment of enlightenment marked the end of our tight bond just the same.
I didn’t think I could confide in her without wondering who else would hear all the gory details of my life, so I stopped sharing any of the vulnerable, real, and messy moments that exist behind the facade of a carefully curated “highlight reel.” Without trust, a strong friendship’s foundation erodes and an emotional wall is built. Our friendship became surface-level, then slowly started to fade until it consisted of little more than Happy Birthday texts and the hollow promise to “catch up soon!”
The phrase is Best Friends Forever, not Best Friends Forever-ish.
In a way, friendship breakups are worse than romantic breakups because you don’t really expect they’ll happen. When a romantic relationship starts, I know there’s a possibility it could end—there’s a reason you say you’re looking for “the one.” But with friendships, there’s an expected level of permanence: The phrase is Best Friends Forever, not Best Friends Forever-ish.
There are lots of reasons why trust can decay in a friendship. Your friend may gossip (like mine did) or say pointedly hurtful things because they know exactly what will pain you the most. They may break down your successes and accomplishments in order to build up their own sense of worth. The bottom line: If your friend makes you feel small or worthless, they’re probably not much of a friend at all. “Healthy friendships feel safe, secure, empowering, and uplifting,” says New York City-based licensed psychologist Lauren Hazzouri, PhD. “A friend is a true friend when her presence reminds you of all that you are, not all that you’re not.”
So what should you do if a friendship takes a turn? Do you talk it out? Send an email? Just…ghost? It depends on the severity of toxicity and how much you want to save the relationship. “If it feels safe enough to engage in [honest conversation], I encourage bringing up your feelings with your friend,” says Elizabeth Cohen, PhD, a New York City-based clinical psychologist. She adds that it’s helpful to use “I” statements, like “I feel sad when you criticize my dating choices,” so that the conversation doesn’t seem accusatory or put your friend immediately on the defensive.
“If the relationship feels too unsafe to bring something up, I would take that as a sign that the friendship is toxic,” says Dr. Cohen. “You need to take care of yourself and let go of the negative energy in your life. Friendships are a choice, not a chore.”
“Friendships are a choice, not a chore.”
It’s inevitable that you’ll miss the person and think about them often, especially at first. I thought of my friend when I passed the restaurant downtown we always used to go to, saw something that reminded me of a shared memory, or wondered what her advice would be when I decided to switch jobs or had a terrible first date. She was the person I’d turn to.
It’s incredibly difficult when a friendship ends or evolves—even if you know it’s for the best. “Give yourself the freedom to process, grieve, and heal just as you would when a romantic relationship ends. Remind yourself why things ended,” advises Melanie Ross Mills, PhD, a Texas-based therapist and author of The Friendship Bond. She recommends focusing on strengthening other relationships and being a thoughtful and supportive friend in turn.
When you break up with a significant other, you open yourself up to finding a relationship that’s better for you. Friendship is really no different. “[You’ll] see what friends are brought into your life because you have not only opened up your heart space for the next friendship, but you’ve also recognized that there’s a big difference between the fun, ‘good time’ friend and the purposeful, trustworthy friend,” says Dr. Ross Mills.
And in those moments of sadness, think about the things you gained from the friendship. (“Remembering the good times” is a cliché for a reason.) I couldn’t bring myself to delete her from my contacts list, and our breakup wouldn’t erase the memory of that epic Galentine’s Day celebration we had. If we ever do set a date for that catch-up coffee, I’m sure we’ll share another happy memory to add to our collection—even if I won’t be sharing my secrets.
Even if you and your childhood BFF grow apart, you still have a lot to thank them for. And making new friends as an adult is possible—promise! Here’s how to do it.
Friendships make up a huge chunk of our support system. They are the glue that holds it all together. If one friendship disappears, a gaping hole is left in the support web. But sometimes in life, it is necessary to let go of people that no longer serve as a support, but instead lead to stress and to problematic situations commonly referred to as “drama”. It is a hard truth to accept that not all the people that come into our lives are meant to stay. Like any successful marriage or romantic relationship, effort, time and investment is needed. If you don’t grow together, you will certainly grow apart. So how do you decide when it is time to divorce a friend?
Just because you have a big blow-out does not mean the friendship is over. If a situation has come about that has caused a rift, careful consideration and time spent re-evaluating your relationship should be taken. The hardest lesson to learn is when to walk away, and you do not want to lose a good friend out of foolish anger. So let’s say you’ve taken the above steps and have come to decide the cons far outweigh the pros. Here is some information to consider before giving your friend their walking papers. This information will help you make the cleanest cut possible and move on to more productive and enjoyable friendships.
- No one is the perfect friend. We all have different friends for different reasons. The drinking buddy, the work friend, the best friend, the hobby friend, etc. No one person can offer you absolute perfection in friendship. And that is okay. If you have to have perfection, you might not have friends. This is the time to take a look at yourself and how you have acted. If you are found at fault, accept the responsibility and apologize.
- People change, even your closest friends. Sometimes the change is for the worse and good friends call each other out on these unhealthy changes. Communication is needed and should always be the first course of action. It may be that the change is so drastic that it is grounds for going your separate ways. If your friend has no clue and has been walking around with blinders on, it’s fair to tell them and give them a chance to change. If no change is made, it’s then fair to say the friendship has run its course.
- Casual friends don’t warrant a break-up. Often times casual friends are classified as new friends. We try people on like hats. If it’s a fit, great, if not, the easiest thing is to keep your distance and “fade away quietly”. Usually, they get the hint. Don’t stress yourself out thinking you warrant them a huge farewell.
- Be honest with your close friends. Confrontation is not something we all wake up in the morning dying to do. It is unpleasant with someone who is important to you and it hurts to tell the person that this may be the end of the road. But honesty really is the best policy. Not only will you feel better, your soon-to-be ex-friend will appreciate the talk and maybe it was all a misunderstanding. Good communication may lead to reconciliation or it may lead to a confirmation of why you no longer desire to be their friend in the first place. But no matter how angry you are or how justified you may be in calling off the friendship, respect their feelings and be honest or they will never be able to atone for what went wrong.
- Some friendships are or become TOXIC. A friendship should, for the most part, bring out the best in you. Friendship is a two-way street. One person cannot uphold a relationship all on their own. That is not a friendship. The dictionary defines a friend as “One attached to another by respect or affection.” Note the most important word, as Aretha sang, RESPECT. If a friend cannot grant you the courtesy of respect, they are not deserving of your friendship.
I do not advocate the breaking up of friendships. It’s a sad day when you have to let a friend go, and even sadder when you realize that the phrase “true friends are your friend no matter what” just doesn’t hold for every situation. A real friend is someone who gives you respect, honesty and continuous support. If you are someone who has realized that maybe you haven’t been the best friend you should be, it’s never too late to make amends. Here are three things to ask yourself if you have been given your walking papers and are baffled why:
- Communication.When was the last time you actually called up your friend just to ask them how they’ve been or what’s new with them? You may find that you have unintentionally have been calling them up only to ask for something or to just talk about yourself.
- Activity.When was the last time you made the effort to set up a time and place to do something with your friend? Have you been consistently extending invitations to hang out? Carving out time for your friendships are extremely important. Quality time together deepens your bond.
- Support.When was the last time you offered to be there for your friend without them asking you? Or when was the last time you returned a favor they did for you without them asking? Sometimes, people feel taken advantage of when one is giving and the other is always taking. People don’t always realize what is going on so don’t beat yourself up. Make amends and work toward seeing situations objectively rather than subjectively.
These three things are the bare bones of any friendship. When one is off balance, the rest of the friendship is thrown into upheaval. Whatever side of the fence you find yourself on, always try to salvage a good friend and know that an unhealthy friend is better left behind you.
Some friendship just aren’t meant to last.
We all know that romantic relationships sometimes end. Things go well, then they don’t, and eventually one partner breaks up with the other. There have been countless movies and songs dedicated to the break-up of romantic relationships and the pain that it can cause. But what about friendships? If you can break-up with a boyfriend or a girlfriend can you – and should you – be able to break-up with a platonic friend?
It can be a little more complicated, but the answer is yes, you can, and sometimes you should break-up with a friend – although most of us never have thought to do so.
Why you should break-up with a friend.
The same way that you might discover that the person you’re dating just really isn’t right for you, you may also discover that what seemed like a good friendship actually isn’t. Most of the friendships we make are with people that we see on some kind of a regular basis. We see them at work, school, the gym, or other regular events. This proximity automatically gives us something in common and therefore a connection. Sometimes this connection will take us beyond casual conversation due to proximity and into the next level of friendship.
But just like in dating, getting to know someone as a friend can lead to surprises and sometimes those surprises aren’t always good ones. If any of the following are occurring in your friendship, new or old, it’s probably time to consider breaking up with your friend, or at least put some distance between you two.
You feel drained after spending time with them. We all have known those people that take a lot of effort to be around. We often refer to them as “high maintenance.” They can require things to be done a certain way, try to call all the shots, or are always suffering through some emergency or drama. If spending time with someone leaves you regularly feeling like you need a nap or quiet time afterwards, then they may not be a good fit as a friend. Spending time with a friend should be an invigorating, happy experience, most of the time anyway.
You find yourself becoming more and more negative. We are all influenced by those around us. Often with both romantic partners and friends we will take on some of their habits and mannerisms. We may not even realize we’re doing it. In the best case scenario we emulate the positive traits, but in some cases it can go the other way. If your friend is a toxic one, prone to insecurities and negativity, those traits can rub off on you too. If you have found that others are noticing you being more caustic or sarcastic, or if you can feel yourself seeing more negatives than positives in life, it’s time to consider why. And if these behaviors are being influenced by someone in your life it’s probably time for that someone to go.
You do all the listening and none of the talking. Friendship is a two-way street. As much as you give someone and are there for them, they need to do the same for you. Narcissists may know this in theory, but find it nearly impossible to put into practice. If you find that in every conversation, no matter what the topic, your friend somehow makes everything about them and dominates the conversation, you may have developed a friendship with a narcissist. These people make maintaining a friendship very difficult. If your problems, concerns, accomplishments, or opinions go unheard and you find yourself constantly just listening and nodding, you’re probably in an unhealthy friendship.
You make all the effort. A friend that never reaches out to you is probably not really a friend. If you are making all the plans, all the calls, and all the effort to get together without reciprocation then the balance in your friendship is off. Or it’s not really a true friendship.
You begin to look for reasons to avoid them. It can happen slowly, you may not even realize you’re doing it, but when you have reached the point of dodging phone calls, avoiding texts, or changing behaviors because you don’t want to talk to someone, it’s time to call it. That friendship has ended.
How to break-up with a friend.
When you want to end a romantic relationship it’s pretty straightforward. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but what you are doing is very clear – you are breaking up.
In a friendship it can be a little trickier. You don’t necessarily sit down and explain that it’s not working out and that you’d like to see other people. But if things have been going down a bad road and you need to put some space between you and a friend you should make time for a conversation to explain. It can be awkward, but actually taking time to talk shows respect and maturity. Consider the following do’s and don’ts when it comes to modifying your friendship.
- Find a neutral space for a conversation.
- Be kind in your explanation.
- Make it a “change” or “modification” and not a break-up per se’.
- Have 2-3 clear reasons for the change.
- Leave things in as positive a way as possible.
- Be accusatory
- Blame or make them feel like they are a bad person.
- Be cruel
- Talk to other people about the details of your conversation.
- Be false or insincere
Can we get back together?
Yes, potentially. Re-initiating your friendship will depend on a number of factors, such as why you needed to distance yourself in the first place and whether those issues have resolved themselves. It’s also possible that the when you made the decision to put distance between you and your friend, no matter how gentle you tried to be, you burned that bridge. It can sometimes be even harder for someone to get over a broken friendship than to get over a broken romantic relationship.
Breaking-up with a friend can feel like an odd and uncomfortable thing to do. But if you aren’t getting what you need from that friendship, or if it’s turned toxic, it’s perfectly fine to move on. You alone have the right and the responsibility for determining who is part of your life and who isn’t. The key will be in how you handle making those decisions and implementing them.
When you have a friend that constantly hurts your feelings, it might be time to do the hard thing and call it. Breaking up with a toxic friend can be just as hard as saying goodbye to a significant other, spurring on afternoons filled with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and blanket cocoons. But when someone you trust constantly belittles you, tears you down, or makes you feel like less worthy of respect and love, then that person has got to go. And quick.
But it’s easier said than done, isn’t it? One afternoon you make up your mind and decide to phase them put, and the next you find yourself sharing an appetizer during happy hour. Just like in any breakup, letting go someone you once cared about is hard, and it takes some trial and error. So in an effort to make the process easier for you, here are 11 tips on how to break up with a toxic friend without feeling guilty. Use them and you might just shake off that “welcome mat” feeling for good. You deserve to surround yourself with people that appreciate you and build you up вЂ” it’s time to kick the bad out.
1. Address The Issue
Before you start thinking dark thoughts and creating voodoo dolls, take a moment and go the direct route: Address the issue with your friend. That way if it’s time to draw the friendship to a close, the person won’t be blindsided. They’ll recall all the times you’ve called them out for hurting your feelings. Relationship expert Alexis Nicole White shares with Bustle, “Addressing the specific issue without being confrontational is best so that you can bring their offensive behaviors to their attention. Many times, people donвЂ™t even realize that they are offending you.” Don’t bite your tongue when they do something that stings вЂ” let them know that’s not a way you let yourself be treated.
2. Create Boundaries
Another good way to begin the breakup with a toxic friend is to start to create boundaries. You’re no welcome mat, and they need to realize that. White recommends, “Affirm your boundaries whenever this person continues to cross the line and take things too far. Let them know, firmly, that respect is a principle foundation in any relationship; and you perceive those lines to have been violated with their comments.” If your friend is being toxic, then they deserve to know that their behavior isn’t acceptable.
3. Make It About Yourself
Rather than feeling guilty of breaking things off and hurting their feelings, make yourself the priority. Karen Valencic, an expert in conflict-resolution, told CBS news, “It’s a matter of who do you say yes to. It’s based upon how you see yourself as valued.” If you let them walk all over you, you don’t see yourself as worth much value. If you think that’s wrong, then that should motivate you to put an end to it.
4. Convince Yourself With A Few Pointed Questions
In order to convince yourself this pal has no use in your life any longer (other than to make you sad,) Valencic also suggested asking yourself these four questions: “Can I trust you? Are you committed to excellence? Do you care about and respect me? Do we bring out the best in each other?” If you answer “no” to any of these questions, it will hopefully help you see that that person doesn’t contribute anything to your life other than negativity.
5. Don’t Feel Like You Need To Explain Yourself
You don’t actually have to give anyone a reason for doing what’s best for you. If you feel like it’s time to move on, keep your breakup short and simple, without much room for argument. Lifestyle writer AJ Harbinger from lifestyle site Art of Charm explained, “Any explaining you do is more for you than for them. Again, tell them how you feel, which is a subject not open for debate. Or, if you prefer, keep it simple: Tell them calmly and kindly that you donвЂ™t want them in your life anymore, and leave it at that.” Giving long drawn explanations are more for helping you appease your guilt вЂ” and you have nothing to feel guilty over.
6. Talk In A Public Place
While this helps cut down the possibility on a major scene, this also give you the option of ending the interaction on your terms, not theirs. Harbinger offered, “If you run into problems, you can just get up and leave.” Whereas if you invited them over to your apartment, it would be up to them to finish it and leave.
7. Unfriend Them On Social Media
You don’t need to be creeping on what dish they ate at the Thai place, and they don’t need to know what you’ve been doing on Friday nights. As White points out, “There is no need for either party to have insight to who this person is and where theyвЂ™re going or what they have become. Social media provides unnecessary information that can spawn feelings of jealousy, resentment and additional gossip that is not needed.” Make the break clean and complete вЂ” you might be curious, but don’t leave and strings attached that might lead them back to you.
8. Start To Slowly Pull Away
If you start ignoring all their phone calls or begin bailing on hangouts, they might become more persistent because they’ll feel guilty over the cold shoulder. Instead, start disassociating yourself gradually. White explains, “Maybe youвЂ™re not answering their phone calls as often or you donвЂ™t hang out with them as much. Your social circle is supposed to be genuine and sincere; full of happiness, admiration, love and support. If youвЂ™re not getting that from your friends, itвЂ™s time to dump them like any other bad partner in your life, and unapologetically move on!” By slowly phasing them out, they’ll also feel like the friendship is running its course.
9. Don’t Argue
Go into this conversation knowing that this isn’t an open-forum debate. This is you telling them what the situation is, and then leaving. Make a promise to yourself to avoid any arguments and just leave firmly and quickly. You’re simply dropping off news, not starting a conversation. Harbinger suggested, “Firmly restate your boundaries, then end communication. YouвЂ™re not trying to ‘debate’ the person into leaving you alone. This isnвЂ™t a negotiation.”
10. Have “The Talk”
This is such a grownup move, and totally necessary if you want the last chapter on your bad friendship to be closed. Rather than just phasing them out, let them know you can’t be friends any longer. White suggests, “Have a conversation with them to not only address the situation with facts as to what they specifically did, but offer them an insight into your feelings by saying, ‘When you did thisвЂ¦ you made me feel like this.'” By giving specific reasons, you won’t just be “that jerk that let the friendship go” in their head вЂ” they’ll know it was on them.
11. Release The Negative Feelings
In order to let go of the terrible feelings an encounter like this can create, TODAY recommended trying this exercise from Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping, “Write three letters to your friend. The first should be written to express and release all your emotions. The second can have a softer approach, with fewer negatives and more compassion. The third letter could include what role you might have played during the friendship that inhibited it from lasting.” Don’t send the letters, but use them as an outlet to let go.
So what do you think вЂ” are you ready to kick the toxicity out of your life?