How & When to Break Up with a Friend

Breaking is never an easy thing to do.

The vast majority of people have been there with a significant other - either being dumped or doing the dumping.

But, what about breaking up with a friend?

Most of folks don’t think about that. You’re either friends with someone, or you’re not.

Some friendships, though, aren’t right for you and when you have those in your life, you have to break them off, for your own good.



A friend is someone you like, respect, and admire. They’re someone you can trust.

Furthermore, friendships are supposed to be the fun, ‘easy’ parts of life.  That’s not to say that you won’t experience a few bumps in the road with your friends, but for the most part, it should be smooth sailing.

Your friends are the people that understand your quirks, support you, and just ‘get you’ more than anyone else.

Your friends are the fun part of life.  When you have a bad day, your friends lift you up and make you smile.

But, what about when it’s not all sunshine, rainbows, and puppies?

Everyone’s had a friend where it’s anything but fun (or you know someone that has had this type of friend).

The relationship is full of drama and negativity.  The friendship is draining - energetically, emotionally, and perhaps even physically.

A good rule of thumb...any relationship that drains you, or hurts you is not one you should continue.

Many people will come in and out of your life over the years.  Not all are meant to be in your life for the long haul.

It’s okay to let go of friends that are no longer fitting you or that aren’t good for your mental, emotional, or physical well-being.

You don’t owe anyone your time or friendship.

You get to choose who you have in your life and who you don’t. It’s your responsibility to stand up for yourself and act in your own best interest and if letting go of a friend achieves that, it’s the right call.



I am the type of person that gets along with everyone.  That’s not to say that I like everyone I meet, but I’m pretty low-key and friendly.

In general, my friendships are my lifeline.  I adore my friends, and I feel like I make friends easily.

Throughout my 40+ years, I’ve only had to ‘break up’ with two friends.  One friend was just emotionally draining.  Everything was high drama, she’d accuse me of doing things that were news to me, and over time, it just became more trouble than it was worth.

As for the other friend, I found out she was saying some pretty nasty things about me behind my back (a mutual friend showed me her IMs, so it wasn’t just hearsay).  

How I removed these friendships from my life differed because of the different circumstances, but both relationships reached the point where remaining as friends was no longer an option.

As with any relationship, there are signs for when it’s time to let go and move on.



Just like with a romantic relationship, if your time with your friend is generally more negative than positive it’s a clear sign that it’s time to go.

Your friends are the part of life that’s fun, and while, yes, there will be some challenging times, it’s positive the vast majority of times.

If you are in a friendship where it’s mostly negative, full of drama, and pulls you down more than it lifts you up, it’s time to go.



Don’t get me wrong, a little healthy competition is one thing, but when you or your friend are only trying to outdo the other to gloat about it or just because, that’s a red flag.

It’s fine to compete where you still support each other, but if you or your friend are going for the kill every time, or your friend goes for something she knows you want just to beat you, it’s a sign that it’s time to go.

You don’t need that in your life. You should be able to look to your friends for support.



If you’re putting in all the effort, then it’s time to read the writing on the wall...they’re not that invested in being your friend.

Maybe it didn’t used to be that way or perhaps it’s been like that from day one, but if they aren’t reaching out to you to make plans, then why are you still doing that?

Or, maybe they do reach out, but your time together is all about them.  Or your friend never asks about you or what’s going on in your life and only listens long enough for you to pause so they can jump back in when you do share.



Again, friends are supposed to lift you up and support you.  Any friend that calls you names, maliciously points out your flaws or seems to enjoy hurting you (physically or mentally) is not a friend.

Don’t stay in this abusive situation...get out immediately!

You should never keep anyone in your life that makes you feel bad about yourself. Your self-esteem and self-worth are your responsibility so don’t let someone else destroy it for you.



You’d think you wouldn’t waste your time with people you dread seeing, but I know people that do just that.  They complain about so & so, and they don’t want to hang out with them, yet they do.

Your time is precious and who you spend it with should be selective.

Why spend your time with someone that you have no desire to be with?



So, you’ve reached the point where you know it’s time to let go of a friend.  But, how does one break up with a friend?

No playbook exists that will give you a breakdown of exactly what to do, but there are different ways to accomplish the not so pleasant task.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that even though the friendship didn’t work out and you may be hurt and upset, the friend you’re letting go of is a person. Take the high road and don’t be nasty.

Letting go of friends is never easy...even those that make us unhappy.  It’s awkward and uncomfortable.  I think even more so than ending a romantic relationship!  We expect most of our romantic relationships to end at some point, but not our platonic friendships.

You have to keep in mind the difference in YOUR life by removing the negative influence.  Imagine the inner peace and calm that will, eventually, fill the space where currently, anxiety and stress take up residence.’s not easy to break up with friends, but in some cases, it’s a necessity.

Here are a few tips to navigate the process a little more smoothly...



Setting new boundaries can be incredibly helpful for starting the process.  Maybe you don’t want to get bombarded with text messages while you’re at work.  Or, perhaps you want to put a limit on how much time you talk about just her problems.  

The benefit to starting with setting boundaries is that it gives a little wiggle room for the friendship to improve and possibly save.



Unless they’re your bestie or in your inner circle of close friends, this is typically the easiest way to release a friendship.  Get busy with your life, and when they ask you to hang out, you won’t have the time.  After awhile, the relationship will naturally fizzle out.

This was the tactic I used with my friend that was high-drama.  She was a close friend, but after awhile, we both were naturally drifting apart, so it wasn’t too hard to intentionally spend less time with her and let it fully fade away.



if spending less time with her won’t naturally dry up the friendship, then you’ll have to speak with her.  

Plan ahead on what you’re going to say, don’t do it when you’re angry, and set time aside to talk to her privately.  

In explaining why you want to end the friendship (or dial it back), don’t use blaming to make your point.  Just explain what’s not working for you and why you want to move on.  Be honest but do it compassionately.  Put yourself in her shoes.  If one of your friends was going to break up with you, what would you want to hear and what wouldn’t you want to hear?



This is part of the taking-the-high-road that I mentioned earlier.  Don’t list out everything that’s wrong with her and how she may have contributed to ruining the friendship.

It’s best to stick with what you need for yourself at this point in your life and what type of friend you can or can’t be right now.

Even if it’s a case of standing up to a friend that betrayed you, you can still approach it from your perspective and not lash out at her.



Just like when ending a romantic relationship, when you’re done and ready to move on, you have to cut the digital ties.  

If you are still friends on Facebook, you’re still exposing yourself to what you’re trying to escape.



If the friend you are unfriending happens to be part of a group of friends, you will have to let them know once you do the deed.  

When letting them know, don’t add any details that aren’t relevant.  For the other person’s benefit, be respectful of them and simply let the group know you two aren’t friends anymore and it may impact the group dynamic if you’re not going to join them if the other friend is present.



Remember we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so it pays to be selective on who are these five people.

Maintaining a friendship that isn’t working isn’t good for your well-being. It can damage your self-esteem, weaken your self-worth, and hold you back in life.

Don’t feel guilty for wanting out of a friendship that’s not working for you.

To be the best version of you, you owe it to yourself to surround yourself with positive relationships.

Take the time to remove the toxic friendships and cultivate supportive ones.