Breaking up with a friend

Yes, you can break up with a friend. People change for both better and worse, and sometimes those changes make it hard to remain friends. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be caused by anyone doing anything wrong either.

Ending things with a friend is rough. Whether you’re the one who decides to distance yourself or the one being pushed away, it isn’t an easy thing. Sometimes it can even be worse than ending things with a romantic partner. I’ve gone through it a few times, and every time it’s awkward at best and devastating at worst.

Why it happens

There are so many reasons we stop being friends with someone. Sometimes people just drift away. You suddenly realize someone who used to be your best friend hasn’t talked to you much lately. Other times we decide to purposefully distance ourselves from someone because things get toxic when we’re around them.

Even distance can kill a friendship. Sometimes we have friends that don’t really do texts, so things just kind of fizzle. Even if one side tries to keep up contact, there’s only so much you can do on your own. 

If you’re evaluating breaking up with a friend, ask yourself some questions. How do you feel when you’re with them? Do you think they have your best interests at heart? Do you think it’s possible to talk to them and get past the problem? Those questions can be hard to answer, but if any of them have negative answers, it might be time to cut ties with that person.

Whatever your reasons are, you don’t have to justify them to anyone else. It might make things easier if you can explain to other people how you decided to cut your former friend out, but if they don’t like your reasons, that’s their problem. Your decisions are not up to them. 

How to go about it

There are multiple ways you can cut ties with someone. Some are a little more confrontational than others, so decide based on what your comfort level is. There are also many factors to take into account. For example, do you have any other significant stressors in your life? Do they? Will things settle themselves if you distance yourself a little, or do you need a clean break?

Gradual

The gradual breakup will really only work for people you aren’t very close to. Best friends will notice if you suddenly stop talking to them and will probably be concerned. Speaking from my own experiences, if you do this to someone who notices, it will be hurtful and confusing. 

If you feel like things could end naturally, though, you can slowly phase out communication with your soon-to-be former friend. Text them less, avoid talking about anything too personal, and avoid situations where you would see them in social settings. Don’t ignore them if they try to talk to you; just keep things light and brief. You’re trying to lessen your emotional connection to them, not ghost them. 

It’s kind of like breaking up without acknowledging it. You’re closing yourself off and putting some emotional distance between yourself and them without officially ending the whole relationship. The gradual method, under the right circumstances, usually has the lowest emotional impact.

Face them head-on

If you can handle confrontation, talking to them straight up will be the healthiest option you have. Laying out everything you’re feeling and letting the other person know too will give you one last chance to try to resolve whatever the problem was. Everyone can also get some sort of closure after saying their piece, so nobody is left wondering what happened.

If you’re going to talk to them directly, treat a friendship breakup like a romantic one. Consider if you want to do it in public at a restaurant or in private with just the two of you, plan out the most important things you want to say, and be prepared for them to react badly.

Another thing to think about is what kind of boundaries you want to set with your former friend. Like, do you want to have absolutely no contact? Let them know what you want. Whether that means no more texts when something crazy happens at work or telling them straight up, you don’t want to see them ever again. (Try to be firm but gentle).

Talking to someone directly can be draining and hard, especially if things have been toxic. They may try to manipulate you into changing your mind or promising to do better in the future. Be direct and honest about how you’ve been feeling and stick to your guns. It isn’t an easy decision to make, and there was probably a good reason you made it.

Coping with the aftermath

The most important thing is always going to be doing what is best for you. Don’t force yourself to be around people who aren’t good to you or for you. 

Let your friends know

Avoid some drama by telling your friends about what happened. Hopefully, they will accept your decision and can avoid inviting you and your ex-friend to hang out at the same time in the future. They might also be able to run interference if the ex-friend tries anything funny (worst-case scenario, of course). 

If they are still friends with your former friend, you want to be mature about it and not force anyone to choose sides. Keeping everyone in the loop means not having to talk about what happened quite as much either. If you plan it out, you can minimize the number of times you have to retell the story of what happened. If nothing else, your friends can offer moral support and reassure you that you made the right decision. 

Follow your own rules

Stick to whatever boundaries you set for yourself. This will help you avoid falling into old habits and acting like friends after you’ve told them it’s over. Don’t accidentally start an on-gain-off-again relationship with a friend. That just gets messy.

It might be hard to cut someone out of your life that you’ve been really close to. It’s important that you don’t get wishy-washy. Keep the walls up that you put between you and your ex-friend. If you let them back in, it just gets confusing for everyone. 

Give yourself time to process

It can take some time to recover from ending a friendship. You may remember fond memories and regret what happened, that’s okay. Just don’t beat yourself up about ending things. Some friends aren’t forever, which really sucks, but you just have to move on. 

There are tons of songs about romantic relationships ending, but what about platonic ones? Honestly, there’s a lot of crossovers between the two. If you’re looking for some songs to help pick you up, check out Time magazine’s list of the best songs to help you get over a breakup.

Before you make the final decision to break up with your friend, consider whether or not you can talk things out first. It might be a little awkward, but it’ll be a lot less stressful than totally ending your friendship. Luckily for you, we’ve got some tips on compromising that might make it a little easier.

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