How to End a Friendship (30+ Graceful Ways to Break it Up)

It can be difficult when you realize that it’s time to end a friendship. Whether the relationship isn’t providing anything positive for your life or has just become toxic, deciding to move on may feel heart-wrenching and uncomfortable, but it is necessary.

So how do you go about doing it respectfully and gracefully, without hurting anyone’s feelings or making the situation worse?

According to experts, here are ways to end a friendship and navigate the process with care:

Erika Beeson

Erika Beeson

Speaker | Coach | Author, “The Renewal of You

Throughout our lives, we continually make new connections and develop relationships with those around us. Some of those relationships stay pretty surface level, while others may find a long-term, more permanent place in our lives as dear friends. 

Related: 55+ Qualities of a Good Friend

But what happens when that friendship takes a turn, and instead of being an enriching relationship in your life, it becomes more of a toxic energy-sucking kind of friendship?

This can be a challenging situation, especially if you are an empath or people pleaser, but the bottom line is if a friendship has reached the point of feeling exhausting, frustrating, or imbalanced, it could likely be time to take action to protect your emotional and mental health.

Sit with your emotions and clearly articulate what isn’t working

What isn’t working? Initially, I recommend sitting with your thoughts and emotions about this friendship and clearly articulating to yourself what isn’t working. 

The reason I suggest this is that you need to be fully clear on what specifically isn’t working to effectively and honestly communicate this to your friend. 

You can’t expect to explain something you are unclear about. Your perspective is your truth, and in some cases, friends in our lives don’t actually realize they are behaving in a way that is taking a toll on the friendship, or they could be aware of their behavior but don’t realize the effect it’s having on you specifically. 

That is their perspective and has nothing to do with what you need. Should you choose to try to communicate your feelings with them and try to repair the relationship into a mutually beneficial one, being very clear on what isn’t working for you will be critical. 

Please know a conversation like this may not offer any resolution if your friend is not open to receiving this kind of communication.

Don’t simply “ghost” and disappear into the background

Ultimately if you decide that it is in your best interest to end the friendship, there is a golden rule in how you could go about this, which I will share with you shortly. 

I will, however, strongly recommend that you don’t simply “ghost” this person, cut off communication, and disappear into the background. That leaves an open emotional wound for both people, which is also a very passive-aggressive action that, as a coach, is never a very healthy route to take.

Set a healthy boundary, state it, and stick to it

When the time has come to end the friendship, you need to keep in mind that your number one priority is to protect your emotional and mental health. 

Bottomline: ending a friendship is simply you setting a healthy boundary based upon what you know does and does not support what is best for you. It is literally your duty to filter out what is not for the greatest good in your life, and if a friendship is one of those things, it’s likely time to end it.

Cutting ties with things in your life can be difficult, and I have an entire chapter dedicated just to this subject in my book. Cutting ties with things like bad habits or unhealthy patterns is usually you dealing with just yourself, but cutting ties with a friend can be really hard as another human being is involved. 

There can be feelings of guilt, shame, fear, or anxiety, but if you go back to the exercise I described earlier about writing down and clearly articulating what isn’t working for you in this friendship, that is where you can start to see that the emotion of it needs to be set aside. 

Easier said than done, and sometimes the help of a counselor, therapist, coach, or trusted advisor can help you detach from the emotion of it and look at only the facts. The facts show that this friendship doesn’t pour into you, but it actually sucks the energy out of you. 

In ending a friendship, you should communicate this with the other person. It’s important to set your boundary, state it, and stick to it. 

Related: How to Deal With Someone Who Doesn’t Respect Boundaries

This is one of the greatest ways you can honor yourself, protect your mental/ emotional health, and make space in your life for the things and people that do actually pour into you.

Be appropriately honest

There is only one golden rule when it comes to ending a friendship the healthy way. The best phrase to describe the golden rule is: Be appropriately honest.

You are not doing your friend any favors by sugarcoating the situation. If anything, sugarcoating the reasons you are creating a healthy distance from them will cause added confusion. 

Being forthcoming and very clear in communicating why the friendship is no longer working for you will provide a clear picture for your friend of where you stand and what you will and won’t put up with. 

You should not bash them or demean them or speak in a condescending tone or push any kind of a “guilt trip” onto them, but empower yourself to speak with polite honesty. 

Additionally, do not expect your conversation to spark any kind of change within them. You cannot change others, and this conversation should never come with the pretense or mindset of the hope of getting them to change. This isn’t about changing a person; it’s about changing a situation.

Have a face-to-face discussion

I always encourage a face-to-face discussion rather than a written delivery of the message. This supports healthy communication and avoids that passive-aggressive path. 

Prepare yourself as your friend may not take this well, but remember their reaction is not your problem, and it’s not your fault. That might sound harsh, but you are doing what is best for you in this situation. 

You cannot live your life for the peace and contentment of everyone else because when you do that, you end up creating a storm inside of yourself.

Learn to let go of things gracefully

Ending a friendship can be hard, but with time, it can also bring great peace. Often, we don’t fully realize the taxing effects of a toxic friendship until it’s no longer a part of our lives. 

Learning to let go of things gracefully in our lives is one of the most beneficial life skills you could refine.

Related: The 9 Best Books on Forgiveness and Letting Go

So be brave, honor yourself and your boundaries and lean into the empowerment of understanding that you and only you can decide what is and is not supporting the kind of energy you want surrounding you. 

If a certain friendship does not fall into the category of positive support, give yourself permission to let it go gracefully.

Dr. Natalie Bernstein

Natalie Bernstein

Licensed Psychologist

Express how you feel and the things you want or need in a friendship

Friendships can be both a source of support and stress. When friendships are mutually beneficial, they are supportive and enhance your life, making it a little easier. When friendships are one-sided, they add to your stress level, especially if there is conflict. 

In addition, close friendships can serve as confidants and help us through difficult situations that our spouses/partners might not otherwise understand. These shared experiences can help us feel less alone, and knowing we have someone who is always there for us, can be very therapeutic. 

We have different relationships with our friends than our families, and we often feel more comfortable sharing more intimate details with our friends. 

When friendships end, it can be devastating. No matter the reason or who is responsible for ending the friendship, the resulting feelings can be experienced as a deep sense of grief and loss: sadness, regret, and disappointment. 

Anxiety can increase. We must create new support systems and perhaps even redefine who we are outside of this friendship. When your friendship with someone starts to change, it’s helpful to consider if it’s worth continuing. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. “What am I getting out of my friendship?”
  2. “Is it a one-sided relationship, or is it mutually beneficial?”
  3. “How do I feel when I spend time with this friend?”
  4. “Does this friend have my best interests at heart?”
  5. “Do I feel safe and trust this friend?”

If your answers are not positive toward this friendship, you may need to reconsider the relationship. 

Whether or not you discuss ending your relationship with a friend depends on how close you are and how well you can communicate with each other. 

If you have been friends for a long time and think you can be honest with your friend, try discussing your friendship. Express how you feel and the things you want or need in a friendship. If they did something to hurt your feelings, let them know! If you still feel like you need some separation, ask for some time. 

Introduce the discussion by saying things like:

  • “We have been friends for a while now, and I wanted to talk to you about our relationship.”
  • “Do you have a few minutes to talk? It feels as though we have grown apart a little, and I wanted to talk about it.” 
  • “Our friendship is really important to me, so I want to share how you hurt my feelings the other day.”
  • “Are you happy with our friendship?”
  • “Are you ok? It seems as though something is bothering you.” 

The loss of a friendship may affect how we feel about ourselves. We can perceive the breakup as a rejection and begin to feel insecure. We may experience fear that our secrets will be revealed. 

The loss of a friendship can create confusion as we may experience relief that the conflict no longer exists yet disappointment that we have lost someone with whom we shared memories. 

It’s important to recognize that your feelings surrounding the friendship are valid. Understand that you may need more time to process the loss. Try not to judge yourself for your reaction to the breakup or feel silly because it’s “just a friend“—a loss is a loss, no matter what kind.

If you don’t feel you can express your true emotions, or if your relationship isn’t one where emotions are easily discussed, a conversation may not be necessary. Try to: 

  • Increase the distance between you and your friend
  • Delay responses to texts
  • Make plans with friends who are more aligned with you

Shari Leid

Shari Leid

Professional Mindset Coach, An Imperfectly Perfect Life, LLC | Author, “The Friendship Series

While the end of a friendship will take different forms depending on the friendship itself, there are some universal steps that you can take to help you through the difficulty of ending a friendship.

Recognize your role in the friendship

In other words, do not blame shift. When you blame shift, you are giving away your power; if you blame the other person entirely for the difficult relationship, then only they can fix the problem. 

Related: Why Do We Blame Others for Our Failures, Mistakes, and Problems?

Instead, when you accept your role in the relationship, then you are also accepting that you have the power and solution to write the narrative to define how the relationship will end.

Do not bring others into the breakup

It is easy to fall into the trap of rallying to get others on your side, especially if you share several mutual friends. Don’t make it ugly. 

If you talk poorly about your friend or share secrets they told you in confidence when the relationship was good, you’ll lose the trust of other friends. It is a surefire way to end up losing friends that you want to hold onto.

Recognize your difficult experience with the friend is yours alone

Each shared mutual friend has their own unique relationship and experience, which may be very different from your own. Be prepared to honor their relationship, realizing their continued friendship has nothing to do with you.

Think of the person you are breaking up with as both your teacher and your student

Focus on what you learned from the relationship and perhaps what you were there to teach them. 

Focusing on why you two came into one another’s lives and the benefits you received can help put the friendship into perspective and give you the grace and gratitude needed to get through the friendship breakup without falling into the blame game. 

This focus can also take away some of the stings that come with ending a friendship.

Remember, you can’t unring a bell

While your friendship is coming to an end, don’t say or do something that could hurt your reputation. Don’t do something out of character that will soil your good name.

Recognize that friendships do come to an end

Very few friendships last a lifetime, and that is okay. Friendships ebb and flow, and we all grow and change at different rates. 

Give yourself time to grieve. Friendship breakups can be as difficult as romantic breakups. Sometimes healing takes time, so don’t forget to give yourself the grace of time to heal.

Today’s society has made ending a friendship as simple as hitting the “block” button on our phones and social media apps. Unfortunately, this process is almost a little too easy. 

Related: How Social Media Affects Relationships

Simply blocking someone creates a situation where both parties may end up emotionally wounded or much worse (depending on the nature of the friendship). 

Instead, I recommend evaluating the friendship and taking these specific steps if and when you’ve decided to end things.

Ask yourself why you want or need to end the friendship

This will help you figure out how to go about ending the relationship properly.

  • Is the friend consuming too much of your time? 
  • Are their emotional or social needs impeding your personal growth? 
  • Do they ignore or walk all over the boundaries you set? 
  • When you stand up for yourself, are they aggressive, irritable, or annoyed?
  • Has the friend tried to push their values or beliefs onto you or tried to make you sacrifice important parts of your identity?
  • Has this friend severely betrayed your trust or friendship in any way, such as flirting, sleeping with your spouse, or stealing from you? 

By asking yourself these questions, you can identify any major risks you’ll face when you end the friendship. This is important because psychopaths and people with narcissistic personality disorder can suddenly become violent, unhinged, and hyper-reactive when you attempt to break contact with them unexpectedly.

Related: Narcissist Versus Sociopath Versus Psychopath: What’s the Difference?

Consider any physical, digital, or financial ties to the friend

Next, you’ll want to evaluate what material items you share with the friend you’ll be ending contact with. 

  • Do they have access to your Netflix or Amazon account? 
  • Do they have a key to your house or apartment? 
  • Do they know where you keep the spare key? 
  • Do you share any financial obligations with them? 
  • Do you have any outstanding debt to pay them or vice versa? 
  • Do you have any future ticketed events planned, such as a trip or concert? 
  • Do you share login credentials to any Facebook pages, groups, or TikTok accounts as administrators? 

Get a list together that includes anything and everything material that you share with them and cover your bases before you end the friendship. 

Do not alert the friend to what you are doing or your plans to end the friendship yet. If they ask, try to brush them off with a brief yet reasonable and realistic excuse.

Think about the personal details you’ve shared with them

What does this person know about you, and could they use the information to harm you in any way?

When we end friendships with narcissists and psychopaths, it’s common for them to put all the intel we’ve given them throughout the relationship to work. You may discover they suddenly attend classes at your school, work out at your gym, or have become best friends with your sister. 

If you’re concerned they may use things you’ve said to them against you once you’ve officially ended contact, consider slowly pulling back from them and figuring out a way to make the other party decide that the friendship is no longer serving them.

Consider your personal emotional ties to them

Think about what you get out of the friendship. An extremely emotionally needy friend may be annoying, but you might feel bored once their constant texts or messages no longer roll in throughout the day. 

How will you feel once you are no longer speaking to them? What kind of gaps will this create in your social life, and how will you fill them?

Decide how to end things officially

Every friendship is unique, and there’s no one best way to end yours. I recommend thinking about how the other party will react. 

Narcissists and psychopaths typically react with aggression, often violent, when you end contact with them. Unfortunately, it is often harder to identify narcissistic and psychopathic traits in platonic friendships since these individuals direct most of their abuse toward their romantic partners or immediate family members. 

Related: 60+ Signs You’re Dealing With a Narcissist

Someone who “seems nice” but is just a little too emotionally needy could suddenly take on a Jekyll and Hyde-type personality, should you have the audacity to end contact with them.

In most cases, you might find it’s in everyone’s best interest just to let the relationship fizzle out. You can always take specific steps to make yourself an unattractive friend to the other party without doing anything too drastic. 

If “no contact” is the only option, this could be your instinct telling you that they will react aggressively. In this case, it’s probably best to just hit the block button and deal with things in your own way without giving the other party an explanation. 

When you give narcissists and psychopaths an explanation for ending things, they will only use the opportunity to gaslight you, insult your boundaries, degrade your character, and strike back with low-blow insults. It’s not worth it. 

Colleen Wenner-Foy​, MA. LCMHC-S, LPC, MCAP​

Colleen Wenner-Foy

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor | Founder and Clinical Director, New Heights Counseling and Consulting LLC

Making new friends is one of life’s greatest joys, as we all appreciate having people we can rely on and share experiences with. However, sometimes friendships come to an end for a variety of reasons. 

Ending a friendship can be difficult, but it’s important to remember that moving on from relationships that are no longer beneficial or healthy for you is okay. 

The following are some tips to aid in ending a friendship in a respectful and healthy way:

Acknowledge the situation

Before ending a friendship, it is important to acknowledge that the relationship has come to an end. This can be done by having an honest conversation with yourself and, if possible, your friend about why you feel the need to end the friendship.

Be respectful throughout the process

Ending a friendship can be difficult, so it is important to remain respectful throughout the process. Avoid name-calling or other disrespectful behavior and instead focus on expressing your feelings calmly and collected.

Communicate openly

Communication is key. Be clear and concise, avoid being overly emotional, and listen to your friend’s perspective. This will help ensure both parties understand the situation and can move forward.

Give yourself time

Ending a friendship can be emotionally taxing, so giving yourself time to process the situation is essential. Take time for yourself and focus on self-care activities such as journaling and meditation. Give time for reflection and grieving, a natural part of the process.

Move on and focus on the positive aspects of your life

Once the friendship has ended, it is vital to move on and focus on the positive aspects of your life. This can be done by spending time with supportive family and friends, engaging in activities that bring you joy, and focusing on personal growth.

Seek professional help if needed

If you find yourself struggling to cope with the end of a friendship, it’s essential to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide support and guidance during this difficult time. 

Related: How to Know if You Need to See a Therapist

With the added help, you can develop healthy coping skills and learn to move forward, embracing the changes that come with the end of a friendship.

Aura Priscel De Los Santos

Aura Priscel De Los Santos

Clinical Psychologist | Specialist, Health Canal

Ending a friendship is never easy, but there comes a point where friendship is not the same, where there have been situations that lead to an end. 

Here are some ways how you can end a friendship: 

Cut off communication with the other person

There are times when the person doesn’t need to explain why the friendship has ended, and simply cutting off communication is enough. 

A person can understand that trying to explain their reasons to the other person will generate a bigger problem, and as a way to avoid it, they simply stop talking and cut all ties that link the friendship. 

Sometimes it is not necessary to explain the decisions that are made; each person has the right to make the decisions that they consider to be the healthiest for their well-being.

Clearly explain the reasons you are ending the friendship

Some people need to explain why they want to end their friendship with someone since they see it as a way to close a cycle.

Some of these reasons may be: 

  • You no longer have any type of interest in common
  • The friendship has become so toxic that you have to distance yourself for a certain (or indeterminate) time
  • There has been such a great physical distance that you do not have time to share physically, and you almost do not communicate through digital media
  • You have discovered something they have done

No matter the reason, the main thing is to clearly express why the friendship has to end.

Try not to make the environment hostile

In the process of ending the friendship, try not to make the environment hostile. Ending a friendship is not easy, but when the decision is made, it is best to try not to get upset, say words that may directly offend the other person, and have a healthy closure. 

When explaining to the other person why you decide to end the friendship, do it calmly and without argument. Highlight that during the time you were friends, you had wonderful times and that it is time for the cycle to close since everything has a beginning and an end. 

Let the other person express themselves and end the conversation by wishing them well.

Grieve the loss of friendship

In the current climate of strange, post-Covid-lockdown reality, ending friendships, whether they be short-lived or life-long, is a difficult and unfortunate decision. Our social and family connections have become more vital in maintaining our mental health and providing support and love in these difficult times. 

However, there comes a time in certain friendships or relationships where a forward trajectory is not possible. 

My own experience with this phenomenon occurred this past year after a lifelong friend, my college roommate, in fact, decided to continually lie to me about her toxic relationship with her husband.

For background, I have known this person since I was 18 years old. I am now 59. We have maintained a friendship through the years. 

However, when she married this particular person, any and every argument, disagreement, or falling-out we had over the years related to that toxic relationship and her continued decision to remain in a very unhealthy, verbally violent, and degrading situation. 

Related: Why Do People Stay In Toxic Relationships?

Several years in a row, she requested that I be ready to help her move out of her home with her young daughter while this toxic spouse was away at a conference. And each of these several occasions resulted in the same thing: her not moving out and using my time and emotional investment as pawns to explain why she had changed her mind. 

Other incidences involved his violent and verbal abuse of her in public places and their home when I was visiting. While one can assume the worst in these situations, there comes a point when continued support of wishy-washy behavior plays an emotional toll. 

These two toxic individuals are also professionals with high-paying jobs, so there was absolutely no reason for her not to leave other than because of her own insecurities and issues. 

This life-long friend finally served up “the straw that broke the camel’s back” when she recently, and finally, claimed that she had filed for divorce and was moving to a town five hours away, only for me to find out that the abusive spouse had moved with her to that town after they sold their home. 

I am still unclear as to whether or not she lied to me about actually filing for divorce. I have been asked to rush over to their home to appease her sobbing daughter, who had barricaded herself in a bedroom away from the toxic father while my friend was at an evening business meeting. 

I have listened to her repeatedly tell me that he threatens to commit suicide if she files for divorce. I have been there over and over to help, but those days are now over.

Being a good friend means knowing the truth

I am a loyal friend. I will bend over backward for those I love and for friends that have supported me in my life. However, the one part of friendship in which there is no room for continued breach is that of lying and hiding behind those lies to create a false reality and appearance that everything is fine. 

Related: How to Tell If Someone Is Lying to You 

To drag loyal friends into drama and dishonest behavior over and over again should never be tolerated. When I found out how many lies I had actually been told over the years, I ended the friendship. This was not an easy task. 

However, I had been fooled long enough. While I empathize with this “battered woman syndrome” and understand the psychological effects of her continued decision not to leave, years of this friend’s claims that she was going to seek help and remove herself and her daughter from the violence and toxicity eventually fell on my deaf ears. 

I decided to write her a very diplomatic email and wished her good luck. It was simple and to the point, but I had had enough.

I can honestly say that I do grieve this friendship for the over 40 years of laughs, travel, support, and family milestones. I grieve for her as well because her choice to appear in the world as fine, as something she is not, is her downfall. 

No matter how much money, career accolades, or type of car one drives for status purposes, what lies beneath is the truth, and sometimes the truth is a toxic, negative disease that permeates under the surface until it festers into the death of one’s spirit.

Decisions to end friendships open new doors

While my final email to her to wish her well was a genuine goodbye, I am now focused on old and new friends who shine a light on my goodness while they allow me to do the same for them. 

We are all flawed individuals; we all have baggage, quirks, and bad habits. However, to abuse a friendship for years through lies and deceit should never be tolerated. Perhaps I was in denial that she would treat me this way after all we’d been through together. I was naive to believe her but had known her to be so different years ago.

One thing that life will show you as we get older is that true colors eventually be revealed. Was she changed by staying in the toxic relationship? Absolutely. Could I have done anything more than I had already done to help her? No.

So as it stands today, I have one less lifelong friend, but I know that my decision to end the relationship was based on my belief that what I give out in this world is genuine and not a manipulative tactic to create false realities. 

It has been difficult, but I am proud of the fact that I am certainly honoring my limits and preserving my emotional well-being.

I pray for this once cherished friend and know I did everything I could to be there for her for decades. Onward and upward we go!

Sameera Sullivan

Sameera Sullivan

Relationship Expert, Sameera Sullivan Matchmakers

Base it on the gravity of the situation

I always advise people to conduct any confrontations in person so as to get maximum closure from the event. However, that’s not always a good idea. 

When you realize that the friendship is messed up beyond repair and don’t have any intention of hearing out the other person since their explanation will not help, it may be better to distance yourself entirely and end that friendship with a text. It’ll help keep you aloof and won’t drain you.

Need some inspiration? Don’t worry; I understand just how stressful this kind of situation can be. Instead of thinking of and overthinking your response, here are a few samples you can add to any text chain based on the severity of your situation:

Example 1

“I’d really like to get this off my chest in one go, and I want to discuss (describe the experience) with you. I need you to acknowledge that these actions are most definitely not okay, which ultimately led me to decide that I don’t want to continue this friendship.”

Example 2: 

“It might not be what you wanted to hear, but it’s important for you to understand that I am mentally drained and have decided to spare myself from more discomfort by distancing myself from you. The decision has already been made, so please know that nothing can convince me at this point.”

Remember, keep it short and simple—for your own sanity.

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

Senior Editor, Tandem

Many things change as we grow up and go from being children to adults. Your wardrobe style, your palette, and your living accommodations are just some things that are probably different now than when you were young. 

Another thing that happens is that some of our friends when we were growing up seem to fade into oblivion. Maybe you no longer have things in common, or they could have moved out of state. 

Whatever the reason, losing our childhood friends is common, and it’s something most people can easily deal with. But what happens when you are an adult and want to end a friendship? 

At this time, you might want to be a child again. You wish the person could just fade out of your life. Since, most likely, this isn’t possible, how can you end a friendship?

Limit how much you communicate

Maybe you would talk to or text this person every day in the past. Now that you have reasons to no longer remain friends with them, try limiting the amount of time you spend communicating with them. 

Hopefully, they will notice you aren’t as active in their life as you once were, and eventually, they might take the hint.

Limit the time you spend with them

If you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t need to give the person a reason why you don’t want to hang out with them as much. Instead, tell them that you will be busy with work or are working on a project and don’t have much free time. 

Once you have taken some time away, you might even realize it was just what you needed.

Be direct and tell them

This can be the most difficult way to end a friendship. Even if you know this is the right thing to do, that doesn’t mean you won’t feel guilty about it or that the other person might try to make you feel bad. But telling them is the best way to know that the other person understands that you no longer want to stay friends. 

When you are telling them, meet at a coffee shop or another public place. You don’t want to be somewhere you might start feeling trapped. Also, use “I” statements instead of being accusatory. Try to make it more about you and less about them. 

Most importantly, be as calm and composed as possible. If you are in a public space, you don’t want to draw too much attention that might make one or both of you uncomfortable.

If you have a toxic friendship, this is one that most likely needs to end immediately. There is no reason to stay friends with someone who makes you feel bad about yourself. 

What if you’ve just realized that you no longer have things in common or don’t enjoy spending time with them? There is nothing wrong with this. Just as romantic relationships can dwindle, platonic ones can as well. 

You might be sad once your friendship is over, but many other people in the world are looking to make new friends. You might be lucky enough to find one when the time is right.

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