• Handling Breakups

Should You Tell A Friend The Truth about Breaking Up? Not Always

Published: May 7, 2024 | By | 10 Replies Continue Reading

A reader wonders if she should tell the truth about breaking up. Sometimes it may be kinder and easier to drift apart.


Hi Irene,

I’ve been reading your blog after googling to find out if anyone else had experienced similar issues to me. After recently spending some time away with a close friend, I realize I don’t like many aspects of her personality.

She is endlessly checking her phone (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), which I find invasive and rude when you are in someone else’s company. She talks about the same things over and over again and expects me to do the usual nods and responses to show that I am interested and listening. Out of politeness I do, but often she doesn’t respond when I have something to say, making me feel she is not interested in me.

One incident springs to mind when I mentioned liking doing something and her response was, ‘Well I don’t agree,” which stopped the conversation dead in its tracks. I don’t believe you need to vocalize every opinion that pops into your mind and the ferocity with which she does comes across as aggressive. She can come across as blunt and completely lacks warmth. She is actually a lot nicer to be around when she has had a drink, as this seems to make her less aggressive and friendlier.

I find I am on tenterhooks all the time as she is judgmental and critical about everything around her (not me, but it makes for an unpleasant and draining atmosphere). I have seen her belittle and bully other people, including her parents and her husband and it upsets me to hear it. She is definitely a bully. I don’t let her bully me but that doesn’t mean that I like her behavior.

I have quite a strong character myself but she is intimidating and I suspect she doesn’t realize I find her intimidating and, at times, unpleasant to be around. She feels that she and I are very similar and I fear that I have may have perpetuated this belief. I
believe that she is emotionally unstable and I know that she does not like herself very much, so I often reassure her that her personality/behavior is okay. I don’t like to see people feel badly but it’s making me feel like I lack integrity when I do this.

I come away from our time together feeling like I have often gone along with what she wants to do. She frequently tells me that I am her best friend and criticizes other friends to me and I know that if I ended our friendship it would crush her.

She recently did something that upset me and I spoke with her about it, but I know that deep down I wanted to use it as a catalyst to end the relationship. I also don’t know how I would do it without having to directly refer to her personality, which is why I am asking for advice.

I would never want to tell someone I do not want to be friends because I don’t think that they are a very nice person. There is a lot of advice on the Internet about ending friendships if you grow apart, have different interests, or someone does something wrong.

What though do you do if you just don’t like somebody very much? She is very pushy, so if I avoid her then she will phone/email text to find out what is wrong.

Please help.

Thanks, Barbara


Hi Barbara,

If a friend does one or two things that make you uncomfortable, it’s always worthwhile to talk to the individual to see if they are capable of changing or if you can reach some compromise that allows both of you to feel comfortable. For example, it’s fairly easy to address discrete behaviors or habits that are annoying, like cell phone etiquette or punctuality, and resolve them.

However, it sounds like this woman possesses a constellation of traits that irk you—ones that are part and parcel of her personality. You describe her as consistently: judgmental, critical, aggressive, self-centered, blunt, and draining. You sound like a very kind and caring individual who has thought long and hard about your feelings before deciding that this relationship isn’t working.

It’s not your role, nor would you be able if you tried, to change or mold your friend into someone else who is more likeable. Moreover, it’s okay to admit to yourself that you simply don’t like her; no one has to like everybody and you are entitled to surround yourself with people whom you admire and respect.

The difficulty comes, however, in finding a way to disengage from this pushy person. In my opinion, nothing would be achieved by your laying out a litany of complaints. Instinctively, she would try to defend herself and/or overpower you with arguments. To minimize her hurt as well as diffuse any potential anger she may have towards you, you need to find a graceful way to
drift away.

  • Can you see her far less frequently?
  • Can you make your visits together more brief?
  • Can you diffuse your get-togethers by adding other people to the mix?

If you want a clean break, tell her that you’ve changed and need to spend more time alone, with your family, or with other people.

In all likelihood, she will be fine and will find someone else to take your place. There’s also a remote possibility that this will be a reality check that will make her pause and reflect on how she treats other people.

If you still have misgivings or doubts, you may want to read my book, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, to feel more comfortable about ending a friendship and finding the right way to go
about it.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about honesty and friendship:

**Coincidentally, here’s a great article in the New York Times about the same topic.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I made the mistake just now of posting some thoughts about people characterized as having “strong personalities.” In rereading Barbara’s post and other responses I realize I might have sounded like I was condoning the behaviors of Barbara’s “friend.” I was not intending to do that. I now see that my comments about CERTAIN “strong personalities” are a little off the mark and not relevant to this topic. I’m sorry for any offense I have caused.

  2. Anonymous says:

    They aren’t necessarily bullies or mean girls. Not always. They aren’t aware of how overbearing they sound. They aren’t aware that by being persistent in a conversation they are sounding pushy. Some of this might stem from where they were raised, or even how they are raised. I am from a part of the country with many “strong personalities.” People often talk and gesture emphatically. Out of passion. When I first moved here I was taken aback about this, and said so, to an elderly woman who could not say anything to me without poking me in the chest, eyes bugged out, while she was making a point. Whether it was about the weather or the craziness of people or food. I finally said something about her “delivery” when she spoke to me. And I don’t think I have ever seen such a look of hurt and bewilderment in anyone’s eyes. She had no idea, none at all, that how she came across was anything more than passionate or caring. And in fact, from her view, people who were more reserved and close mouthed were people who were not too caring, or who were too apathetic or frightened to take a stand, speak up, and participate in life. I’m just offering this as food for thought. (And, yes, I have now become much more of a “strong personality” than I ever was. And when I interact with people from my old life, who are not “strong personalities,” they comment on how “strong” my personality now is.)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Irene said:

    “In my opinion, nothing would be achieved by your laying out a litany of complaints. Instinctively, she would try to defend herself and/or overpower you with arguments. To minimize her hurt as well as diffuse any potential anger she may have towards you, you need to find a graceful way to drift away.”

    “It’s not your role, nor would you be able if you tried, to change or mold your friend into someone else who is more likeable.”

    In my experience with certain personality types if you provide any feedback that sounds anything remotely close to criticism you could open a Pandora’s box of fury that will leave you, as the person who has already been hurt and disrespected by them, with even more hurt to manage. Then you end up in a position where the friendship ceases to be a source of joy and more like a an unpleasant job that you are forced to manage.

    As Anonymous said, setting boundaries with the type of person Barbara described usually discourages them from wanting to pursue the friendship.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Exactly! I shed 95% of my friends from my mid 20’s because it was all very Mean Girl-ish! I am much happier and content without those sad bullies in my life. It was a time of great personal growth in my life when I did that too 🙂 I have great friends now & I’m 33. Sometimes you have to clean out the bad to make room for the good.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think you should tell her how you feel.

  6. Irene says:


    I responded to your question on today’s blog post. I sure hope it’s helpful.

    Warm regards, Irene


  7. Anonymous says:

    Barbara, a month ago I could have written your post VERBATIM. I made a clean break, telling her we grew apart and I needed space. She was a little crazy w calling, texting, mailing letters, etc for a couple weeks. Then it stopped. I can finally breathe again. Now, I know she’ll try more to manipulate or guilt me down the road soon again, but now that I’ve had a taste of freedom, I’m 110% confident in my decision, so I’ll ignore, ignore, ignore. Best of luck to you. Freedom from that unhealthy relationship will feel amazing… It just might take you a few weeks to get there.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Dear Irene,

    I am struggling with a friend that said she needs, “space.” I realize she is in a trying time in her life. Her mother in dying of cancer and she’s currently finishing up her masters degree. I am trying to give her the space she needs, but at the same time I am totally heartbroken in thinking that maybe she is pulling away from the friendship. I’ve experienced the loss of a friendship before because the person “needed space” and only later did I find out that they just wanted to cut out the friendship. Still to this day being cut out of someone’s life and not fully knowing why has been one of the most painful experiences I have ever gone through.

    Anyways, my friend Cynthia said she no longer has time to text. Her and I used to text all of the time. What I don’t understand is how someone could have NO time. Couldn’t she at least try to set aside one night a week? Texting and talking to her at night was one of the things I’ve really enjoyed. In one email she wrote me she said her time for all friends was changing, but I am starting to believe this is a lie. It somehow spilled out in a brief conversation at church that she had gone out with some friends for dinner during the weekend. Clearly she has time for SOME friends. She said the only time she will have is at church and that is when we can see each other. Half the time I can barely make it to church the same days she can and I can hardly justify seeing someone at church as being friends. How is seeing someone at church being friends? To add to that her partner sat between her and I during Saturday church further reinforcing that she wants to distance any friendship between us.

    Words can’t describe just how heartbroken I am. Since I feel like she is trying to pull away and slowly cut ties to a friendship I can’t stop crying at night thinking about it. She said she would always support me and my decisions, but if I have hardly any contact with her then I just don’t understand how this can be friendship. I am also SO hurt because I had helped her with her masters project taking pictures. It involved going to nightly rehearsals and taking many photos of the cast and crew (it was a drama project based thing). What hurts the most is the little thanks I got. I literally spent HOURS and HOURS of my time helping her out. I know she is a friend, but I totally feel used. I got a thank you card, which was a nice gesture, but for all the time I put into helping her out I feel totally used. I thought she’d at least take me for dinner or thank me in some way other than a card that says, “Thanks!” Getting only a card feels like my time and effort wasn’t appreciated. I want my old friend back. The friend that enjoyed talking to me, that always seemed excited to see me and that genuinely seemed to care about me. How do I approach this situation? Do I tell her how I feel? Do you think she maybe understands how hurt I feel? I am just very confused and hurt. I spent a year developing an amazing friendship with her only for her to turn around and now say she basically doesn’t want to talk except for church. And it’s not like one can talk THAT much in church anyways…. Out of all the people in my life I always thought she’d be the last one to try cut the ties to a friendship, yet it feels like it’s happening all over again and I am heartbroken.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This sounds like some of the friendships I’ve had to let go of recently. They are also “strong” personalities, but mainly bullies. They started to make fun of me, my family- nothing was off limits with them. (And I’m in my mid-20’s!) It gets tiring and draining- they were negative forces in my life. Your friend doesn’t sound like a friend at all. Stay active, tell her you’re busy when she calls and like Irene said, she will quickly move on. People like this are used to being “Queen Bee”, but often get bored easily. Work on cultivating healthy friendships. You deserve positive friends in your life who will boost you up, not bring you down. Good luck and take care!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Is to start being true to yourself, stop letting her intimidate you and start politely setting some boundaries with her. I have a feeling if you do his, you might find that she is not all that interested in the friendship with you anymore and your problem is solved.

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