Pop culture tells us that once you hit your twenties, your friends always have your back. Movies like Bridesmaids, Knocked Up, When Harry Met Sally, and heck, even Crossroads showcase that even if you go through some bumpy times, you and your BFF will always be there for each other.
A really crappy lesson that you learn as an adult? Friendships end.
Or rather like all relationships, romantic or fraternal, they evolve. And sometimes it gets to the point where you need to part ways with someone close to you—or at least take a break. Yes, it really sucks, but it can be necessary for your well-being. Here’s how to kindly go about parting with a former friend.
Decide if it’s worth ending the friendship
It’s a pretty big deal to cut someone out of your life. It’ll likely be painful for you and your friend—and once you go through a split, it can be challenging to mend a friendship. Obviously, it’s important to decide if it’s worth a full-on breakup, or if you just need to take a break from each other.
- If you consistently feel drained after hanging out with them …
- If you don’t like who you are and how you act when you’re with them …
- If hanging with that person makes you feel small, less than, or stupid …
- If you don’t share the same values and can’t respect each other’s viewpoints …
- If you argue over everything …
- If you feel like they don’t reciprocate their side of the friendship, either in time or dedication …
- If you just feel like you’ve lost your connection to them, and maybe don’t even like them anymore …
… it’s time to break up.
If you’re going through a rough patch—maybe either one of you is in a rough place personally, or you’re working through other relationships and life stuff—try to work it out. Take some time to talk about what’s going on in your respective lives and how you can support each other, just like you would in a romantic relationship.
Figure out how to end things
Here’s where things get tough. Breaking up is always hard to do—whether it’s with a friend or a lover. You know your friend pretty well, so go with your gut on how to end things. Here are a few ways that you can cut ties in a peaceful, mature way:
The slow fade
I know what you’re thinking, “Wait, ghosting? I thought you said mature ...” The truth is that if both of you mutually feel like your friendship is over, it might be easiest to let things end naturally. Stop calling, stop texting, unfollow on Instagram—they’ll get the picture.
The subtle pullback
So what if the friend in question is totally oblivious to the fact that you’re just not that into it anymore, and keeps calling and texting like you’re still BFFs? It’s your responsibility to set clear boundaries around your relationship. In a calm, non-confrontational, and kind manner, let them know that your life has changed (due to a job, a romantic relationship, or new interests) and it means that you’ll have less free time to hang out and watch crappy reality TV together. Tell them you still want to be friends, but you might just be seeing less of each other—and that’s not a bad thing.
The tough conversation
In some cases, it’s necessary to talk it out and let the person know why you’re cutting ties. Avoiding this type of conversation is ideal—it’s bound to be difficult for you to say and for your former friend to hear, and if you’re already not getting along they may not be open to your feedback. If you do end up having a “breakup” conversation, it’s worth charting out what you’d like to say beforehand.
That way you can get it all out clearly and diplomatically—”I feel like we’ve been growing apart for a while, and although I value the time we spent together I don’t feel like our relationship is really beneficial or healthy for either of us”—instead of spitting out something vitriolic like, “I can’t stand you anymore and think you’re kind of acting like a jerk these days!” Stay calm, and remember to be empathetic. After all, you’ve shared a lot of amazing memories with this person, and they deserve your respect and compassion.
It’s OK to be sad after a friend breakup—it might even feel like a romantic breakup. Take time for self-care, and try not to dwell on what you’ve lost. After all, there’s no real end to any relationship … in the future, you might reconnect and decide to rekindle your friendship. Until then, take the moral high ground. Don’t gossip, don’t be mean, and don’t go out of your way to make your former friend feel bad—instead, worry about surrounding yourself with people that you love that make you happy.