• Handling Breakups

How To End A Long Distance Friendship

Published: January 14, 2024 | Last Updated: January 14, 2024 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading
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A reader asks how to end a long-distance friendship and achieve closure. It’s never easy to end any friendship but distance can often make the break an  easier one.


Dear Friendship Doctor, 

I want to end a 27-year friendship that has become increasingly unfulfilling. We lived in the same city for four years so it has been mostly a long-distance one. Thinking back, I probably should have let the friendship fade before I moved. 

We’ve had an established phone call pattern for years, where I call her one month and she calls me the next. We never verbally committed to this, but it became an unspoken expectation over time. 

Our phone calls have become more one-sided or maybe I’m just noticing it more as I get older. I engage with her topics of choice first, sometimes for most of the call. When I get a chance to talk, if I’m light and funny and keep her laughing, it works. If I try to share anything that really matters to me, she responds by changing the subject. 

In the past, I would just jump to her new subject to keep the conversation flowing. She has a diagnosed mental illness so following her lead was my way of making space for that. It has begun to feel like I’m giving up more and more of myself to maintain this “phone friendship.” 

Last year I decided I didn’t want to abandon my space in the conversation so easily. So when the abrupt change of subject happened during a call, I responded with “Oh, I think you misunderstood me. I was talking about A, not B, but I can see how they’re related.” 

She got defensive, then said she had a migraine and had to go. That was not the first time she has cut short a call with a health reason, which usually ends my chance to talk. 

The second time she did an abrupt topic change last year, I had just shared some important news, and her non-response really hurt. I didn’t tell her how hurt I was, which I realize in hindsight I should’ve at least tried to do, but I ended the call (quickly and politely) rather than just jumping to her new topic. 

As hurt as I felt in the moment, getting off the phone seemed better than either deferring to her completely (old, unhealthy way) or having a hard conversation (healthy goal, but I’m not there yet) while I wasn’t able to think past my own feelings. 

After the last call, I decided I would answer calls from her but would call when I actually wanted to versus when I was expected to. That was in July. We haven’t talked since then. I sent a birthday card and left a (voice) message on her birthday in late December. She has not returned that call. 

Conflict avoidance is my role in this mess, and I own that. I never directly tried to talk to her about how her behavior impacts me. I think the friendship has only survived this long because of how much I’ve deferred to her. Seeing how the small changes I made last year (my attempts to “not defer”) led to where we are now, I feel like being more direct would shut her down even quicker. And for me, if I risk being vulnerable and she insists on cutting the call short, I’m going to feel worse, not better. 

Even though I was the last one to reach out, I still feel like I’m the one ghosting her, because I know we were overdue for that hard conversation. Dropping a long-term friend without explanation seems hurtful, yet chasing someone down just to say some version of “This friendship is no longer a good fit for me” seems hurtful, too. I want to do the right thing, but what is it? Try to have that hard conversation? Send an email to provide closure for us both? Just let it fade? 

If your advice is to go for the hard conversation, then how do I start? I’ve never known anything good to come from starting a conversation with “we need to talk,” but if I try to ease into it, it’ll be like every other phone call with her. As soon as there’s a hint of anything serious from me, she has a migraine and has to go.

Signed, Rita


Hi Rita,

In general, it’s easier to end a long-distance friendship than to break up with someone whose life is closely intertwined, in-person, with yours (for example, a neighbor you’ll see on the block, a colleague with whom you work, someone with whom you regularly play MahJong, Canasta or golf as part of a group of friends, etc.)

That said, long-time friendships become a habit and part of our lives that can be difficult to change or give up on entirely. 

It sounds like you and your friend haven’t really been integral to each other’s lives for many years. Moreover, you say you should have ended the friendship before your move, which suggests that the relationship isn’t fulfilling or mutually rewarding. 

You have made several attempts to redirect conversations without success and your phone friend hasn’t been sensitive to your needs. In fact, she’s cut you off. Because friendships are voluntary relationships (as opposed to familial or marital bonds), you have no moral obligation to maintain a one-sided friendship forever.

Since the two of you haven’t spoken for close to six months, I don’t see any need to initiate a “hard conversation.” More than likely, it would make your friend uncomfortable and wouldn’t likely change the nature of your friendship. You don’t need to feel guilty about ghosting her because it was she who ghosted you.

Closure doesn’t always require the active participation of two people. It sounds like you’ve tried to modify the nature of your phone friendship several times (unsuccessfully) and gained self-insight. This may make you less conflict-avoidant in the future (although in this case, you may have been sensitive to how much conflict your friend was able to handle). Your friend may have already had her own sense of closure.

Remind yourself that you deserve friendships that are mutually rewarding.

Hope this is somewhat helpful!

Warm regards, Irene  

Tips On How To End a Long-Distance Friendship

  1. Bear in mind that, in general, it is easier to end long-distance relationships than ones close to home.
  2. Make sure you really want to end the long-distance friendship entirely. Instead, can you communicate less often? Change the nature of your interactions?
  3. Assess whether this friendship is satisfying to you and enhances your life. What would be your losses?.
  4. If you are sure you want to end a long-distance friendship, pick up the phone (rather than texting or email) and explain your decision as kindly as possible.
  5. Try not to be ambiguous or ambivalent about your decision. This will only make it harder to end the relationship. Instead, be clear and stick to the point.



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