• Handling Breakups

How to end a friendship after growing apart

Published: April 19, 2013 | Last Updated: April 19, 2013 By | 12 Replies Continue Reading
It’s always hard to end a friendship, especially one that has been long-standing.


Hi Irene,

I met her when we were in our twenties. We became fast friends and were eventually each other’s maids of honor at our weddings years later. Fast forward to turning 40. I recently had a friend breakup with her.

It was painful but necessary as our beliefs and values have become opposite. We both have two kids; mine are each older than hers by about one year.

With both my mother and I undergoing surgeries for cancer, I became so angry that she decided to have a tummy-tuck/breast-lift to undo her child rearing body. She plans vacations away from her kids whereas I can’t wait for my next family vacation. I feel awful for “breaking up” with her. However I feel our values are so different now.

She keeps texting me saying she misses me. How do I put closure on this? I told her four months ago that I needed time to sort things out. I haven’t sorted anything out but have ignored the issue.

Should I write an email or attempt to meet with her in person? What strategies should I use to end things finally?

Signed, Heather


Dear Heather,

Friendships are voluntary relationships so it is your right— and responsibility to yourself—to decide with whom you want to be friends. It is not uncommon for friends to discover over time that their values have become so discrepant that their once close friendship begins to feel uncomfortable.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to values. Both you and your friend have different sensibilities about yourselves and your families. If you aren’t able to overlook these differences, remaining friends can be challenging.

However, finding a graceful way to tell a friend of some two decades that you don’t want to be friends anymore is, indeed, a challenge. There are no easy answers but I’m sure you don’t want to hurt her unnecessarily since she once was your friend.

My suggestion would be to not end the friendship entirely but to see her very occasionally, only in small doses, and see how that goes. Also, given the recent health traumas you and your family have experienced, you may realize that your tolerance for her may be at a low point right now.

If you truly feel you need to end the relationship cold turkey, just tell your friend, kindly but firmly, by phone or in-person, that you have to attend to yourself and your family right now. There is no reason to blame her or question her values. Tell her that you will contact her if anything causes you to rethink your decision.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Category: How to break up

Comments (12)

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  1. Pudda says:

    So before my friend went away for college I had a feeling we would drift away she just went away and I was like yeah and thinking this isn’t gonna last something was just telling me I could feel it. So she text me and was like good morning with emojis and I just said good morning and she has a iPhone as well so like 20 minutes later or so she read it and on iPhone it says read recipient at whatever time to let the person knows who’s reading it was read but she never replied so later on I went to my aunts and she calls my aunt her aunt and she was like auntie guess what were all talking about going to NY for New Years I know this sounds petty but she could text my aunt but not respond maybe she got mad cause I said good morning without emojis idk. And she always texting my sister I know she was texting her a through the day and my sister is her best friend but I always felt like the third wheel when I was with her my sister and their other friend who I know so I stopped doing stuff with them. This is not the first time she texts me than stop cause his happened before and couple minutes later she was texting my sister I kind of what to end it cause I always feel like it’s really her and my sister their really BFF and me and my sister always had the same friends but they was mainly closer to her. I know she not busy so that’s no excuse cause you always can reply later I get no replies at all so I was just gonna ignore the texts for now on.

  2. Mahi says:

    This is something that I’m struggling with right now, but from the other side.
    My friend of 14 years started ignoring me at the beginning of the year. We smsed to meet up that night, she didnt show and I’ve not heard from her again. To make it worse we are couple friends, and her husband is also ignoring my husband. How weird is this?
    Our friendship did slow down last year as we do have different lives. I always thought we’d still be friends even with minimal contact. Maybe I took something for granted?
    Ideally, I’d like some closure. I dont want to force her to be my friend again and quite honestly I dont think I want to be friends with someone who rudely ignores me for months like this. I’d just like her to allow us to close the friendship in some way.
    I actually cant stop thinking about it, I don’t know what I could have done wrong that is so bad?

    • KH says:

      Mahi- I love the honesty of this post! I always thought that I would have my 2 BFs forever. After my battle with cancer…I absolutely thought it would be forever because they were so instrumental in helping me get through it. They are both older than myself so I felt as though I was always seen as the “younger” sister. We’ve had a few minor kinks here and there but they were always worked out. 1 friend I feel comfortable in saying that we worked out all of our kinks, struggles, misunderstandings and even discussed what we expected from each other.

      The other friend that I’ve actually been friends with longer all of a sudden “phased” me out of her life. I was very confused because we had literally been through hell and high water together and she even put me through some hell but we always found ourselves back to the friendship. Ironically she even stated to me several times that I “taught her” what real friendship was.

      Well fast forward to now…we don’t talk, barely text, never talks to me in public. If I want to talk to her face to face then I have to approach her, she never approaches me…EVER. So after I realized after some months that I was chasing after her to be my friend & people on the outside saw that our friendship was diminishing… I had to be honest with myself and admit that it was over. Mind you a few months before I did talk to her and said that I missed the friendship & tried to figure out what was going on, she stated that she missed it too, but that lasted about 3 mths…(you can tell when someone is forcing themselves to include you or be around you).

      So, I felt guilty and I tried to hang on to her because of her being there for me during cancer, but I had to realize that she was a good friend through tragedy (I appreciated it so much) but she’s not a friend during triumph… at least my triumphs! It’s been a hard, hard lesson…but I can’t remain in a friendship that obviously only has one willing party that’s participating!

  3. Sheryl says:

    Cancer certainly changes your priorities as well as your tolerance level for certain behaviors. I feel you are absolutely entitled to feel however you are feeling; friends do drift apart for many reasons, this being one of them.

  4. Suzanna says:

    You need to ask yourself some hard questions…are you jealous of
    thia friend? The difficulty of your current(hopefully temporary) situation has made you react to her life choices as a direct statement on you. Being ill makes people appreciate the important things in life, like family..you are are experienceing that appreciation…she is in a diiferent place. I feel if you end this friendship you will regret it..you have liked this women for 20 years, and now just find yourself with too opposing values??? Really try to look deep with in yourslef for your motivation..
    Stop and realize how many ladies on this site, are trying to find new friends…I guarantee they would tell you it is not as easy as running to the Walmart!!
    If a friend had told me they needed time to sort things out, I prolly would have backed off for good…the fact that she texts you she misses you, shows she is a good friend..
    Think this through, your emotions are clouding your judgement.

  5. Marisa says:

    Sorry there was a glitch!

  6. Marisa says:

    I wish you well with your health problems but you are very harsh on your friend and are taking her decisions about her life personally as some kind of assault to you. So what if she wants to have non-kid vacations or get a tummy tuck? If you hold all your friends to these harsh and judgmental standards you will find yourself with no friends at all.

  7. Marisa says:

    I wish you well with your health problems but you are very harsh on your friend and are taking her decisions about her life personally as some kind of assault to you. So what if she wants to have non-kid vacations or get a tummy tuck? If you hold all your friends to these harsh and judgmental standards you will find yourself with no friends.

  8. Grace says:

    I disagree with the advice of not ending the friendship, if the OP truly wants to end it. Having been dumped by a friend myself, I think getting mixed messages from the friend about what she wanted was the most frustrating part. She’d invite me places, then cancel or just do the thing with other friends instead, without giving me a head’s up that it was happening. She’d accept my invitations but then cancel or show up with a friend in tow. It was confusing. Prior to that, getting together once a month hadn’t been so… impossible. She’d tell me she was “just busy” then she’d post photos on Facebook of a party she had hosted but not invited me to. That was new. It hurt. Just end it if you want to end it. You’re not doing your friend, or yourself, any favors by continuing a friendship that you feel you’ve outgrown.

    Allow your former friend some dignity by just being honest. Something like “I never thought I’d say this, but I no longer wish to continue our friendship.”

    The other way – “seeing the friend in small doses,” which will include cancellations, avoidance, etc. while the OP struggles with the truth that she just wants the friendship to be over – hurts the other person just as much. My ex-friend kept me hanging on to an empty friendship much longer than necessary. Once I understood what was happening, I refocused my energy to forming new friendships.

  9. Amy says:

    I agree with Irene about limiting, not ending your relationship. Making rash decisions, liken ending a 20 year friendship, while under stress like cancer isn’t usual wise. I encourage you to look at your own role in your dissatisfaction with the relationship.
    To be quite honest, you seem quite judgmental of her. I had a bilateral mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer, but if one of my friends decided to have elective plastic surgery, I wouldn’t begrudge her. She probably had some emotional, body image issues that she thought could be addressed through surgery. Just because your diagnosis and surgery coincided with her issues, doesn’t mean she has a lack of respect for you or that she takes what you’re going through any less seriously. Cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation, chemo etc. Emotional problems aren’t as directly solved and can be deadly too. I can completely understand why you might not have the energy for her issues right now, but dismissing them as irrelevant seems short-sighted. I don’t believe having cancer should be a free pass to disregard the issues of others.

    Many moms feel that a vacation away from the family with the “girls” is just the recipe needed to be an even better mother. You don’t, but that doesn’t make her a worse mother or that she has poorer values than you, it’s just different. Just like some women, if they can afford to, prefer to stay home with their kids, other women, even though they can afford to stay home, think working outside the house makes them better mothers.

    Cancer changes a person. Some of these changes are temporary and some permanent. I’m 11 years out from my diagnoses, I understand how a “new lease on life” changes the way you view the yourself, your relationships, and the world. The intensity of these changes is often unsustainable, the pendulum will swing back to a more even level.

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