• Handling Breakups

Slippery slope: How do I downgrade a relationship with a best friend?

Published: May 18, 2011 | Last Updated: May 14, 2020 By | 1 Reply Continue Reading
It’s always hard to downgrade a friendship but especially with a best friend.


Hi Irene,

I made a friend three years ago who fast became a best friend. She came along when I really needed her — I was freshly divorced, and I needed a friend to help me find my backbone again. She’s gutsy, takes no prisoners, and is very loyal. I’ve always known there are differences in our values. She’s materialistic, something of a princess, and is very opinionated (I keep quiet while she rants), and she can be very intimidating and overbearing.

The problem has gotten worse lately. First, she’s never quite approved of the guy I’ve been dating for a year now because he doesn’t shower me with gifts. I agree he can be stingy, but I don’t expect to be showered with gifts either. The last time we all were together, she was downright obnoxious in front of him dropping hints about what a guy can do for his gal, and all the lovely things her last boyfriend bought for her. My boyfriend has gone from tolerating her to really not liking her at all.

Meanwhile, she’s hooked a man. Initially I was really happy for her because this guy is a gem. But six weeks into their relationship they were talking marriage and then ten weeks into their relationship she’s running through a laundry list of all the things she wants to change about him and his flaws. Bottom line is that I am sure she sees this guy as a meal ticket, and her constant comments about how she deserves the best (house, food, car, vacations, etc.) is sickening. They are getting married in three months, and I feel like I’m part of her conspiracy.

What we have is a major difference of values. I don’t want to have “the talk” with her to say I think she’s using him. I don’t think it would be productive, and it would only end our friendship. What I do want, though, is to distance myself from her and be friends but no longer best friends. How can I make that transition out of best friend status with minimum damage?



Hi Molly,

The reason why you want to spend less time with this woman is because your values have become so discrepant that she no longer feels like best friend “material.”

Having strong opinions and expressing them without concern about how they’ll come across to others is part of your friend’s personality. She’s always been that way and you’re right, there’s no point in arguing or defending yourself or your boyfriend, or trying to change her. Perhaps when you were recently divorced, you needed someone strong to lean on—someone who would guide you and tell you what to do and now that doesn’t seem to be the case.

You seem to harbor no ill will towards your friend but just want to move on with your life without hurting her or having her hurt you. This concern is legitimate because she’s quick to anger and she probably doesn’t even realize you’ve changed.

Here are some tips on how to downgrade a best friendship:

1) Spend considerably less time with her and spend more time with other friends.

2) When you do get together, share less personal information and focus more on small talk about the news, diet, celebrities, work or whatever else non-contentious subjects interest you both. Stay away from talking about your boyfriend or other topics like money, sex and religion.

3) Dilute the time you’re together by getting together with a group of friends or—instead of getting together to talk or share a meal, catch a movie or do something like shopping or playing tennis.

Of course, you could just cut her off completely. But you sound like a caring person who doesn’t want to hurt a once-friend. It’s also my sense, based on what you said, that she wouldn’t take very well to you cutting her off and it could turn out quite unpleasant.

Whatever you decide, the long-term prognosis for this friendship seems rather grim. By downgrading first, perhaps it will hasten your drifting apart and minimize the possibility of a big blow up. You need to handle it in a way that feels comfortable for you.

I hope this is somewhat helpful because this isn’t an easy situation.


Other posts on The Friendship Blog about ending friendships:

My best friend is driving me crazy

Five ways to unload a toxic friend

How to lose friends

Visit the new Friendship Forums on my blog where you can post problems and get advice on friendship from others.


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  1. EagleWings says:

    I saw this article just a moment ago and didn’t know where to place it. I did a search for the tag “toxic” on the blog, which is why I’m putting it here.

    Toxic Friends? 8 in 10 People Endure Poisonous Pals, by Diane Mapes

    If there’s a “toxic pal” thread in the forum, maybe this could be pasted there as well?

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