When we think of a breakup, certain things typically come to mind: tissues, tears, and usually a pinch of drama. Romantic heartaches are usually the kinds of painful breakups to come to mind, but breakups between friends can be just as messy. We like to think of friendships as lifelong relationships that may grow distant or remain close overtime. But friendship breakups are very real, and at times, very necessary to our own personal growth. They can also be painful, and can cause drama just as much as a romantic relationship.
Simply growing apart may not always be the case when friendships end. Although it is probably the most common way friendships end, it is not the best approach if you are falling out with them. Before you can even consider breaking up with a friend, it is important to process your feelings towards them. What bothers you about the friendship? Can it be remedied? Malika Bhowmik, a New York City–based mental health psychotherapist (LMHC) says “The clearer of a sense that you can have about what’s upsetting you, the more clearly you can approach the other person and give them an opportunity to weigh in.”
As with most of our relationships, we care for our friends and wish to preserve peace and respect with them. When we choose to end this kind of a relationship, we want to do what is best for ourselves.
Here are some of the best tips to end a friendship, in a respectful and honest way.
Understanding what upsets us about the friendship can allow us to reflect on our feelings and communicate them in an honest way. Another thing Bhowmik advises readers to consider is to look at the frequency and context of our meetings with this particular friend. We all have friends we see only a few times a year, and others we see more on a weekly basis. Changing the context when we see them can often be the key to fixing our problems. For example, if you are tired of babysitting your drunk friend when you go out, consider changing the setting. Ask them for coffee or lunch instead of going out to drink. If you notice your feelings change, this may have been the key. Alternatively, if you feel like you do not want to be friends anymore with this person almost every time you hang out, it may be a sign that this friendship is not good for you or them.
While you are not obligated to stay friends with someone, making sure you have given the relationship a final effort before ending the friendship. Of course, there was a reason you were friends to begin with, but as with all relationships, there is growth. After reflecting on what has bothered you, explain them to your friend and allow them the opportunity to also weigh in their opinion, should they have any. This can either allow them to take honest action to remedy what is wrong, or give you their side. “If you want healing, then it does really seem important to create the opportunity for that,” Bhowmik says, “And it can’t happen unless you work up the courage to share with them that there’s a lot going on inside of you, a lot of feelings that you have towards them.”
When you do decide to communicate these feelings, reach out to your friend and ask to speak about your friendship, or concerns you have over the friendship. It is important to preface that this is a serious conversation, so as to not blindside them or leave them feeling unprepared. Next, once this meeting happens, Bhowmik recommends starting on a positive note. You may sure how much this person means to you, or how you have come to reach this decision. Not only do you celebrate the relationship for its joyous parts, but you acknowledge that this is not a thoughtless, random decision to both your friend and yourself. If it is easier, you may frame the conversation as such:
“In the past few months, I’ve been so [stressed, hurt, bothered, etc… ] by [the thing that’s bothering you] in our friendship that it’s begun to outweigh the good parts, and it doesn’t feel sustainable to me anymore, or good for either of us.”
If there is responsibility or blame to be taken on your side, make sure you address this. Additionally, this should be an open conversation, meaning you should not be the only one talking. As much as this should be helpful for you, it should also be an opportunity for honesty and healing with your friend.
It is also important to communicate that you want what is best for your friend, despite the challenges you have faced. “You may still care for them as a person and be able to see the good in them, but also feel that there is a difference you can’t see past,” says Bhowmik.
Regardless of how your friend may respond to this conversation, it is important to lead with honesty and understanding. They may react poorly or they may reciprocate feelings of wanting to end this friendship as well. If the former happens, depending on how frustrated or fed up you are, you have the power to walk away or walk them through these feelings. If you are fed up, you can always stick to your gut and prioritize yourself first. With all relationships, endings can be painful and difficult. However, they are natural, and in the end, it can be better for yourself and your mental health.