Need To End A Friendship? Here's How To Do It In A Healthy & Mature Way
Friendships are a source of joy and community in our lives—when we're friends with the right people, that is. But once in a while, you might start realizing a friendship isn't serving you, and when that happens, it's important to know how to end it.
Here are some telltale signs it's time to end a friendship, plus the do's and don'ts of going about it, according to relationship experts.
Why do friendships end?
There are innumerable reasons a friendship might end or fizzle out, and those reasons aren't always personal. Of course, sometimes they are personal, but in either case, ending a friendship that isn't working out is still valid.
As psychotherapist Annette Nuñez, Ph.D., LMFT, tells mindbodygreen, we all crave human connection, but when that connection doesn't feel reciprocated, for instance, you might want to end the friendship. A friend could also feel draining to be around or bring out the worst in you, and that would be another reason, she explains.
But then there are times when the issue is less black and white, such as when two friends start moving in different directions (literally or figuratively).
That said, here are some more definitive signs a friendship isn't serving you and should end.
Signs it's time to end a friendship:
- They compete with you on various aspects in life and struggle to be happy for you.
- They engage in behavior that makes you feel unsafe or disrespected.
- They only call or ask to hang out when they need something (aka a "one-sided friend").
- You dread seeing their name pop up on your phone.
- You feel like they bring out the worst in you.
- They violate your boundaries.
- You find yourself making excuses to get out of hanging out with them.
- Your growth is negatively affected by the friendship.
- The conversations feel forced.
- You feel drained after hanging out with them.
- They are possessive, jealous, and controlling.
- You resent them.
- They emotionally dump on you all the time.
- They never ask or seem to care how you're doing.
- They guilt-trip you or use other manipulation tactics.
- They display narcissistic qualities.
- You can't get a word in around them.
- Their presence makes you feel physically ill.
- They take jabs at you in front of other people or sabotage you.
- They expect you to read their mind—and get upset when you can't.
- They don't accept you.
- You enable each other or engage in codependent dynamics.
- You don't have any common ground, interests, or hobbies.
- You've outgrown them.
9 do's and don'ts for ending friendships:
Do plan what you want to say.
Ending a friendship can be a heavy task, and those kinds of confrontations are rarely easy. As such, Blaylock-Solar recommends planning ahead what you'd like to say, even if that means coming up with a script beforehand or opting to write a letter instead.
"If you're not feeling comfortable with talking it out, maybe writing a letter, email, or text would be a good idea. But beyond that, even writing out your thoughts and your feelings before the conversation can help you have an idea of what you want to say," Blaylock-Solar tells mindbodygreen, adding, "And you can decide if you want to hit send or not."
Don't ghost them.
It can be tempting to take the easy way out and ghost your friend to avoid having a conversation altogether, but that wouldn't be the mature thing to do, according to Nuñez.
As she tells mindbodygreen, ignoring a person isn't going to get a good reaction or make you feel any better, and research actually shows that ghosting friends is associated with depressive symptoms. So try to avoid the urge to ghost, and be sure to extend compassion to your friend if you want the "breakup" to go smoothly, she advises.
Do open up the conversation.
Speaking of extending compassion, when you open up the conversation, remember that people react a lot better when you're open and honest with them about your feelings, as opposed to telling them all the things you can't stand about them.
As Nuñez explains, you can broach the conversation in a way that explains your stance without being mean, focusing on the fact that you're prioritizing your energy and growth and need space from the friendship.
Don't create unnecessary drama.
Just like romantic breakups, friendship breakups can come with drama, especially if the two of you have mutual friends. But according to Blaylock-Solar, your best bet is to mitigate as much drama as possible by keeping it between you and your friend.
"Of course, you may reach out to others for advice, but you're not rallying the troops to be on your side," she says, adding to avoid involving other people unless you have to and definitely not posting about it on social media.
Do set boundaries.
Breakups come with boundaries, whether that's telling your friend you don't want to be in contact anymore or telling them you can't be there to support them as you have in the past.
Of course, you can't control how this friend will react to your boundaries, but you can control your responses to your friend's reaction—and that looks like not backing down. As Nuñez explains, going back on your boundaries can exacerbate an already toxic dynamic that breeds resentment, and the onus is on you not to back down once a boundary has been set.
Don't feel guilty.
Speaking of not going back on boundaries, one of the main reasons people cave on their boundaries amid a friendship breakup is because of guilt. And as Nuñez says, you should never feel guilty for doing what's best for your well-being.
"It's really important that you're not taking on some of their negative feelings, or even feeling guilty, because oftentimes when people don't take it well, we feel guilty and then we cave," she explains, adding, "You have to come to terms with the fact that people won't always like your choices."
Do allow the friendship phase out.
As aforementioned, friendship breakups don't have to be a dramatic blowout, and oftentimes end up fizzling out on their own as contact becomes less and less frequent. For instance, Nuñez says, "Maybe your friendship turns into reaching out on the holidays, wishing them happy birthday, and you become acquaintances more than friends," adding that this is totally OK.
If you want to go this route, simply reaching out or hanging out less frequently can be a nonconfrontational way for them to get the message. Of course, depending on the friend, they might need a more direct conversation, so this process might involve some trial and error.
Don't focus on blaming them.
When you do have a conversation with your friend about ending the friendship, as aforementioned, you want to focus on your feelings and reasons for ending the friendship but in a way that doesn't provoke defensiveness.
As Blaylock-Solar explains, sticking with "I feel—" statements (i.e., I feel disrespected when you cancel our plans last minute helps you to explain your position without calling their character into question. Try to get specific, she adds, using actual emotions and naming a specific thing that happened between you two.
Do end the friendship immediately if it's causing significant distress.
There's a difference between a friendship that's not serving your growth and a friendship that's significantly and negatively impacting your quality of life. If a friend has been abusive in any way or is engaging in behaviors that make you feel unsafe or violated, don't hesitate to cut off contact immediately.
In these cases, a compassionate letter or setting boundaries isn't going to help, and you'd likely be better off walking away indefinitely.
Moving forward after the friendship ends
Friendship breakups can be just as difficult as romantic breakups, especially if you and this friend were close or have been friends a long time.
But according to Nuñez, good friends help you be a better person and bring out the best in you, so be sure to remind yourself of that if you start missing the companionship you found in this friend.
It could also be worthwhile to work with a mental health professional if the friendship breakup is causing you significant distress or you're struggling to find healthy friendships.
How do you know when it's time to end a friendship?
There are many reasons you might want to end a friendship, but in short, if a friend drains you or brings out the worst in you, it's probably not a healthy friendship.
Is it normal to end friendships?
Yes, it is perfectly normal (and healthy) to end a friendship that is no longer serving you and your growth.
What is the main cause of friendship ending?
While some friendships can end because of a falling out or personal differences, most friendships naturally phase out as people drift apart.
What is the nicest way to end a friendship?
The nicest way to end a friendship is to explain to your friend that while you have valued their place in your life, you no longer feel the friendship is a healthy or supportive connection for you.
It's never easy to realize a friend isn't being the friend you need them to be, and it's even more difficult to realize you have to walk away. But at the end of the day, friends are meant to support us, not drain us—and anything less isn't worth your well-being.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.