Whatever the circumstances are, it’s always tough to break up with a friend. That’s because women tend to bare their souls to their closest girlfriends—almost suspending the possibility that these friendships will ever end. However, the harsh reality is that most friendships, even very good ones, don’t last forever. Friendships fray and fall apart as people change and their lives veer in different directions.
When a friendship begins to unravel, you’re likely to have legitimate concerns about breaking up. You might fear that the person who has been privy to all your secrets will become so angry that she’ll betray your confidences. Or you may worry that as a consequence of ending the friendship your friend will wind up feeling inconsolably hurt. You also may have concerns about how others will view the breakup, especially mutual friends and co-workers.
There are no hard and fast rules for breaking up with a friend. So much depends on the people involved and the nature of their relationship. However, to help minimize negative repercussions, it’s always prudent to be as gracious and kind as possible. It’s also the right thing to do because after all, this person once was your friend!
Here are some tips for breaking up in a way that it makes it easier for yourself, your friend and the people around you.
Make Sure You Really Want To Break Up
Once you start down this road, it will be very difficult (if not impossible) to turn back and resume the friendship at the same level of intimacy and trust. So never break up impulsively out of anger. Be thoughtful in making your decision.
No relationship is perfect so perhaps you can find a way to get over this latest hurdle. It may be that you simply need a break (time off) from your friend. Another alternative: You can dilute the friendship so it’s less intense by seeing your friend less often or seeing her with other people (as opposed to one-on-one).
Try The “Slow Fade”
Most friendships end when two people drift apart, with neither one having enough energy or motivation to maintain the relationship. Rather than initiating an out-and-out breakup (which can be very upsetting to both people), see if you can delicately opt out by not extending or accepting invitations.
Write A Script For Yourself
After you decide you really want to end a friendship and realize that it’s not going to burn out on its own, you want to express yourself with all the kindness you can muster. Putting things in writing (for yourself) will help you think through the best way to convey a difficult message that the other person may not be ready to hear.
Bear in mind that your friend will probably always remember the words you used to break up, so make sure you are careful in what you say.
Figure Out How To Deliver The Message
Depending on your relationship, it might be best to break up in person. For example, if it is a colleague you see at work every day, you can’t get away with sending her a “Dear John” email. Try to find a time outside the office, perhaps after work, when you are both relaxed and can talk privately.
If it is someone you rarely see because the friend lives far away or is primarily an Internet friend, pick up the phone and call. It’s usually best not to put anything in writing that can be passed around and shared with other people.
Take Ownership Of The Breakup
Don’t blame the other person. Regardless of the backstory, you are the one who made the decision to break up so it isn’t fair (or useful) to blame someone else. In fact, it will just make your friend more defensive and argumentative. Use first-person statements that begin with “I” when you speak. For example, “I”ve decided I need a break from our friendship.”
Don’t Be Afraid To Tell A “White Lie”
No one likes to be “dumped” so you want to be sensitive and do whatever you can to preserve your friend’s sense of dignity and self-worth. This isn’t the time to unload all the negative thoughts you’ve accumulated over the years.
Instead, explain that the relationship isn’t working for you. You can talk about all the responsibilities you juggle and your desire to reclaim time for yourself, other people or other interests.
Don’t Involve Other People In The Breakup
If you have mutual friends, work together, or belong to the same groups or organizations, don’t badmouth your ex-friend. If you are in the same place at the same time, say hello and treat her cordially, like an acquaintance.
Be careful not to inadvertently involve anyone else in the breakup. If someone directly asks you what happened, simply say you aren’t as friendly as you once were but refrain from offering details.
The Bottom Line
If a friendship has consistently been draining and unsatisfying, it’s likely that it was also feeling that way for your friend.
After a friend gets over the initial shock and pain of a breakup, they often feel a tremendous sense of relief. Moreover, they are poised to find new friendships that build upon what they’ve learned from their past experiences.