• Keeping Friends

Five Tips on How To Break Up With a Friend

Published: September 3, 2011 | Last Updated: April 2, 2016 By | 13 Replies Continue Reading

Ending a relationship is never easy. But even close relationships with friends can reach their shelf lives or
expiration dates. A friendship that once felt satisfying and easy begins
to feel awkward, boring, stressful, edgy, competitive, draining, or
uncomfortable – or all of the above.


A previous post I wrote for NBC Universal Life Goes Strong
(LGS) discussed the telltale signs of a friendship drifting apart. But what
if the other person doesn’t see it that way? Then, the ball is in your
court and you may need these practical tips on how to make the task of
breaking up with a friend a little bit easier for both of you.


Click on the link to read the new LGS article, 5 Tips on How to Break Up With a Friend.

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Comments (13)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I completely agree with you, I read your post before and it resonated with me and looking back (it has been seven years) and your approach would have been the better road to take but I did not think like this at the time, I felt that I did not belong in their lives and there were signs from others close to them that it was not right for me to be a third wheel in this marriage. The way you suggested would have been a far better approach. Thank you for posting your perspective on this situation.

  2. Anonymous says:

    HI there,
    With all due respect, this is not a good way to look at it because it ignores the reality of your friends’ feelings, which would be hurt and puzzled because you were good friends and you just broke it off without reasons.Essentially it is looking at it as if it is ok to hurt friends feelings who havent hurt you and dont deserve it. It certainly would be opening up an unnecessary can of worms to say exactly why, but you could just say that you are going through something personal that is causing you to need a break, and emphasize what good friends they are and that it has nothing to do with them. Really.

  3. beth26 says:

    I’ve been there! It is strange to feel you are putting yourself out there, while the other person feels you are not doing enough. It doesn’t make sense that it is all your fault. It seems like if the other person is always the victim, you cannot find common ground.

  4. Anonymous says:

    That is very well said comment which I can relate to. I had a friend for almost two decades that I ended a relationship with because of the constant fault finding and always feeling that no how much of my heart I put into the relationship it was never enough, I could never do enough, and could no longer deal with the constant, though very charminly said, criticism by a lady who in her own mind could do no wrong. It was like in this relationship I was the bad one who was always doing wrong because I could never meet expecations to satisfaction.

    I found myself wondering why am I putting so much energy into this relationship when the person is showing by their actions and criticisms how they genuinely feel. I tried communicating verbally and was called crazy, I wrote a letter outlining my concerns only to be told that the fault was with me only and that she was never inconsiderate. Communication is impossible with someone unwilling to listen.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is a good way to look at it, I always felt guilty for breaking off a friendship with a couple who were good friends but I was starting to have feelings for one of them and was causing anguish and it didn’t feel right so I left without giving reasons.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes problems fester for years until someone blows up and or leaves. It”s also true that you may know someone for years and not know everything about them.

    It would be nice if everyone had the same priorities in life from birth to the grave but sometimes people change or desire different things or an aspect of their character becomes more pronounced that is incompatible in a given relationship. Not every marital conflict ends in positive resolution, thus the high divorce rate and not every friendship stays reciprocal and balanced over time.

    With some people it is possible to have “the talk” but with others who have very defensive personalities or are a tad or a lot narcissistic trying to talk to them about their failings is an exercise in futility. I’m speaking from personal experience when I say what will likely happen is they will deny and act like they have no idea what you are talking about or they will say that you are too sensitive and make the problem be about you and not them. It’s called manipulation and it happens all the time in close relationships. Even if you are the best, most diplomatic communicator in the world some people simply cannot tolerate hearing anything even mildly negative so they deflect and deny and then resent you for making them look at their behavior. Then you are left with the initial hurt and the subsequent hurt of being made out to be the bad guy because you won’t put up with their shenanigans.

    I will say that I believe if someone is constantly finding fault with a friend or friends they have chosen to connect with people whose personalities aren’t compatible or they themselves are too critical and may be expecting perfection which isn’t possible. No one wants to walk on eggshells in any time of relationship and learning what to pay attention to and what to ignore in a relationship is important to avoid constant drama. Everyone has deal breakers, but every little thing can’t be a deal breaker.

  7. Anonymous says:

    People always say that they want honest and open communication. But has anyone ever tried the “I need to step away from this relationship…” approach? Oh, it sounds good, but, much like a rom-com movie. Reality never goes that smoothly.
    Most people don’t want to hear the reasons why you are breaking up with them.
    Put yourself in that person’s shoes. Do you really want someone to sit you down and patronizingly tell you all the reasons why they don’t want to be friends with you anymore? There are few of us who could take it.
    Those who wonder why a friend has slowly departed should just read the signs and face reality. They just aren’t that into you anymore.

  8. Anonymous says:

    It is not aggressive-aggressive to confront someone with what is wrong. It is called communication. Every married couple and family has disagreements and arguments and make up, etc. Emotions exist in close relationships. Your labels of what is aggressive passive, etc are unsettling, and passive aggressive is very aggressive-even though we are not talking about abusive relationship here, neglect is considered passive aggressive behavior in the extreme. I think you would feel differently if someone behaved passive aggressively to you. Again, if someone is totally outrageous or the friendship isnt that close, drifting can make sense, but not in a relationship in which a significant bond has been established.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I agree with “depends”, drifting with no explanation is insensitive and hurts others.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I totally disagree with your advice here. What ever happened to giving justice to others? Drifitng apart can happen naturally, and there are friends that are so bad that they might not deserve an explanation, but if a friend has invested alot of their emotional and psychological self into you in a friendship,are a basically good person why be passive aggressive? Passive aggressive IS aggressive, there are hundreds of posts on this site of hurt women feeling dumped with no explanation due to the behavior you suggest. Why not NOT be aggressive at all, but mutual and communicative? Even an “I need a break from this friendship because I am feeling…..” is not in any way, shape or form aggressive! I sense selfishness and disregard for the other friend’s feelings in your post.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Your approach seems ok if it is more of a situational acquaintance from which you want to quietly back away without fanfare or fireworks. Sounds reasonable enough.

    However, I was on the receiving end of a breakup of a thirty-year friendship with a college roommate through your advised “techniques”—all of a sudden, for no reason I could figure out, she stopped returning my emails or calls. We had been in each others weddings, given each other baby showers, she came to my mothers funeral. Now I am left with a painful enigma for the rest of my life: Why?

    When you decide to break up with a true BFF, I think you owe that person more than benign avoidance. With marriage, discussion precedes separation and divorce—sometimes amicably. With a BFF friendship, I feel you owe the other party some diplomatic discussion as well.

    Your approach is fine for a casual acquaintance, but for a BFF, I think it is the coward’s way out. It is self-centered, thinking only of the dumper’s convenience and comfort. It does not consider the pain and puzzlement experienced by the dumpee, which never has a chance to be resolved.

  12. Anonymous says:

    …and start posting here! “My friend seems to be drifting away, should I ask what’s wrong?”

    Whichever method one chooses, it’s not going to be easy or unemotional. These days I pretty much expect every friendship to end or fizzle out, and I still have a hard time.

    I think each case should be judged on its own particulars.

    Ack – now I’m a little triggered, thinking of the friendships were it might have been easier for the other person to know why I was ending it, but they had already done so much damage I couldn’t bring myself to speak to them. I just wanted out, and I let the chips fall where they may.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I would strongly advise…if you CAN…to simply let the relationship drift. Create distance. It’s easy. (Many of us have had no-longer-interested men treat us this way!) Don’t return that phone call or email, at least not right away, and when you do be brief, even perfunctory. Be busy. Be the first to end a call. Hide their feed on FB so that you are not tempted to engage with them even to hit a “Like.” However, if you do all this TOO abruptly you will provoke questions from or a confrontation with the person. A confrontation could begin as simple as, “You don’t seem like yourself lately. What’s up?” You don’t want that. If you CAN, you want to just EASE out without it being noticed before you’re really outta there. If you or the other person changes, if the situation changes, if time and distance give you the perspective to see the person in a new, understanding and forgiving light, you can pick things back up, SLOWLY, and see if things are better or if time tricked you into remembering only the good and not the bad. Most of the people deserving of this treatment will hardly notice you are gone, however, unless and until they need you. I know all this sounds very passive-aggressive, and it is. But it beats being aggressive-aggressive — that is, confronting them with what is wrong, or aggressive-passive — telling them, but only if they ask .This gives you time to REALLY figure out the heart of what is the matter. Believe me, that takes TIME when we are taking about a serious friendship.

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