Advice On How To End A Friendship
By: Darby Faubion
Updated June 13, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Robin Brock
Friendship can sometimes be priceless. Having someone to confide in and make memories with you seems to make everything a little better. What happens, though, when you feel like a friendship is no longer good for you? What if the person you considered a friend wronged you, or you seem to have differences that are not reconcilable?
When ending a friendship seems like the only option, it can also feel like a lonely option. How do you know it's right? When you do know it's right, what is the best way to go about it?
Source: Tinou Bao via flickr.com CC BY 2.0
How To Know When It's Time To End A Friendship
The mere thought of ending a friendship can cause feelings of sadness or grief. While it is not something that new friends anticipate, with time and changes in circumstances, it may become inevitable. Recognizing when a friendship is becoming unhealthy is important, as ignoring warning signs of toxic or harmful behavior can lead to long-term negative effects emotionally and/or physically.
Some things to consider when deciding whether or not to end a friendship include:
- Does your friendship make you feel emotionally stable and supported? If you cannot answer this question with one hundred percent assurance, you are likely not experiencing a good friendship. Friendships that don't support a person's well-being or foster growth in one another usually do just the opposite. Anything that creates turmoil, reduces your confidence, or makes you feel anxious is something that you need to consider walking away from
- Have you created meaningful memories? Healthy friendships involve talking and spending time together. These times together should support an environment conducive to creating memories that can be recalled with happiness, not anger or regret. If ill feelings toward one another overshadow the good memories and seem to bear more weight on the relationship, this signifies that the friendship is in trouble.
- Has your friend betrayed you? Betrayal is something that can be forgiven, but that is hardly ever forgotten. Examples of betrayal in friendship could be your friend telling someone else something that you asked her to keep in confidence, dating someone that you said you were interested in (or involved with) or lying to keep you from knowing things that he/she has done. If betrayal has occurred in your friendship, it is up to you to decide if the betrayal was significant enough to lose your friendship. If it is not something you want to jeopardize your friendship for, the issue needs to be addressed with your friend, and an attempt at a resolution is necessary. Ignoring the fact that a betrayal occurred does not make it go away. In fact, it could make the emotional turmoil you feel become even worse.
- Do you feel like your friend adds value to your life? While your friend doesn't need to cater to your every whim, being available and adding value are important. Anyone can be a friend when things are going great. When times are tough, you need to know you have someone who will be beside you and be a supporter when you need it.
- After visiting with your friend, is your mood better or worse? True friends encourage and pick one another up. Even during the worst times, a good friend can relieve some of the anxiety and heavy-heartedness we feel. If you visit with a friend and leave depressed or feeling like nothing you said or felt meant anything, evaluating the necessity of the relationship is in order.
- What do your instincts tell you? Many people are surprised at how much our instincts can cue us about a situation. If you feel dread when your friend calls and you'd rather avoid talking, or if you constantly feel the need to decline invitations to socialize, that may be your subconscious warning you that the situation is not healthy.
Changes in life circumstances can play a role in friendships. It's important to remember that some change is necessary. Also, you don't have to feel obligated to apologize when your life takes a turn that your friend's life may not.
One of the most common reasons that friendships end is people grow apart. After high school, young adults go to college or get married. Career and family demand more responsibility which means there is less time for friendships. This is not necessarily a negative thing. In fact, it can be healthy. With age, priorities change, plans differ from one friend to another, and values evolve.
Things to Consider Before Ending a Friendship
If you decide that ending your friendship is the best alternative, take your time to handle the situation appropriately. Whatever the reasons are that led you to this decision, you may not have a chance to undo it once it's done. Think about why you want to end the friendship and rehearse what you'd like to say to your friend before you have "the talk."
Be mindful of how you would feel if someone knew secrets about you and, in anger or frustration, they told those secrets to someone else. In much the same way as you'd want your secrets kept, the details of your friendship ending should be handled discreetly.
If you are dealing with anger toward your friend, take some time apart before you make the final step of ending the friendship. Decisions made in haste often bring regret once the situation has resolved and emotions are settled down.
Most importantly, remember to remain kind. This person that you are preparing to end a friendship with once held your secrets, shared your sadness, and rejoiced with you. While you may have already come to terms with the fact that the friendship is not working for you, your friend may not see eye to eye with you. Being unkind will only cause more hurt in the end. Even if this person has become someone that you can't stand the thought of being around, try to consider how you may feel if she was the one ending the friendship and not you.
Ways to End a Friendship
Yes! Believe it or not, there are different approaches to ending a friendship. Consider the circumstances related to why you feel the friendship needs to end and choose the best approach for you and everyone involved.
- The "Fade-Out" Approach: Ending a friendship may be painful. On the other hand, it could feel like a major relief following stress. If you know that the friendship is in trouble and don't see any way to resolve issues, you may find it easier to back away slowly or "fade out." Limiting communication and contact slowly will give you the chance to adjust to life without your friend being involved, and it will also give your friend time to fill the gap your absence will bring with other things. Keep in mind, if the friendship is dangerous or has become toxic, you need to end the relationship immediately for your own safety.
- The "Break-Up" Approach: If you know the friendship is not salvageable and your friend doesn't quite grasp the fact that you are trying to end the relationship, you may need to take the steps necessary to "break it off."
If you choose the "break-up" approach, be sure to do it in person. Communicating something as sensitive as ending a friendship through text or email is very impersonal and rude. Tell your friend you'd like to take some time to talk to her privately.
Keep in mind that it is unnecessary to tell your friend everything she has ever done to make you angry or frustrate you. If something significant happened that you can't get past, you might feel like it is important to tell your friend what happened that hurt you and how you feel it was detrimental to the friendship. However, unless you feel it is extremely important, simply stating that you don't feel like your friendship is beneficial to your own emotional well-being or conducive to your growth and that you feel like you both would benefit by simply stepping away is best.
How To End The Friendship With Your Best Friend
The hardest friendship to end is one you have shared with someone you considered your best friend. Chances are, you have spent a great amount of time with this person and have experienced several of life's milestones together. If you have come to the point that you are questioning the value of friendship with the person you once considered your closest friend, you'll want to take some time and consider everything that may be causing these feelings. For example, has the friendship become toxic? Have you or your friend changed so much that the differences have become a source of tension between you? Did you have a major disagreement and need time apart to think things through before coming together to discuss the issue?
Where to Seek Help
Sometimes after considering all of the facts and trying to resolve differences, a friendship may still end. During this time, it's important to have a support system of people to call on to help you deal with the emotions of the loss. While talking to other friends or loved ones may be helpful, having a neutral person to share your thoughts with and help you process your emotions in healthy ways is beneficial.
However, not everyone has access to reputable counselors nearby, and not everyone has the time to sit in traffic and drive to an appointment during office hours. This is where online counseling services like ReGain offer solutions. You can access ReGain's platform from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Our team of dedicated counselors can offer you support as you let go of potentially toxic friendships, and prioritize fulfilling relationships, moving forward. Read below for some reviews of ReGain counselors from people experiencing similar issues.
"My experience with Priscilla has been immensely helpful in better understanding myself and providing me with the tools to see my life and relationships with more clarity and compassion."
"I tend to feel too much obligation or responsibility for others and offer too much of myself. He picked up on this and made me aware so that I can set healthy boundaries. I have been to counselors in the past, and I think there is something to learn from everyone, but I find my engagement here is held a little more accountable, which is what I need because otherwise, I tend to fall back on the excuse of being very busy. All in all, we have a long way to go, but my experience so far has been wonderful. I look forward to us both realizing a transformation of myself that we have undertaken together."
If you have reached a point where you feel that ending a friendship is best, it can feel troubling. Preserving your emotional and physical health is crucial. Seeking the help of a counselor can help ease the transition during this time. No matter what you're experiencing, there are tools to help you move forward toward truly fulfilling friendships.
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