Knowing when to let go of a friendship
How to End a Lifelong Friendship
Ending a friendship with someone who you have been friends with for a long time isn't easy. But don't worry! As long as you stick to your plan, you will be fine. Summarize your reasons for ending the friendship into a paragraph. Make sure to rehearse what you want to say in front of the mirror. Then plan to meet your friend somewhere private to talk. Once you have ended the friendship, be firm in your decision and find support from close friends or family members.
Deciding What to Say
Identify and write down your reasons.Identify your feelings and reasons for wanting to end the friendship. Write down your reasons on a sheet of paper. When you are writing down your reasons, make sure to use “I” statements, instead of “you” statements.
- Changing or wanting to move in a new direction with your life could be legitimate reasons for breaking up the friendship.
- Feeling like you have been taken advantage of for a very long time is another legitimate reason to end the friendship.
- Not being able to trust your friend because they have lied to you on numerous occasions could also be a reason to end the friendship.
- Having incompatible or conflicting interests, morals, or ideals could also be reasons for ending a lifelong friendship.
- Having outgrown one another. You don’t have anything in common anymore.
Anticipate your friend’s reaction.Put yourself in your friend’s shoes. Your friend may be totally surprised by the conversation, or feel saddened and start to cry. Or perhaps they will become frustrated, defensive, or hostile. Understanding how your friend will react will help you frame the conversation.
- For example, try to start the conversation on a positive note or start with cheery small talk if you think your friend may cry or become defensive.
- If you think your friend may get angry, then start out by telling them how much you respect them as a person. But only tell them this if you mean it. If they have broken your trust or taken advantage of you, then you may not respect them anymore.
Rehearse the conversation.Write down a paragraph or two of what you would like to say and how you would like to say it. Rehearse what you want to say in front of a mirror. Practicing in front of the mirror will help you feel and sound confident about your reasons for ending the friendship.
- If you have a trusted partner or family member, use them as a sounding board. Pretend as if they are your friend and rehearse what you will say. They will be able to tell you how you sound and if your message is coming across the way you want it to.
Having the Conversation
Meet with them privately.Since breaking up with a lifelong friend is a sensitive topic, try to meet your friend somewhere privately. Do this especially if you think your friend may become very upset. Call your friend and ask them if they have time during the week to meet at the park or at your home.
- You could say, "Can you meet at my place for coffee any time this week? I have something important I want to talk to you about."
Start on a positive note.Start by recounting the good times you and your friend have had together, even if the relationship has taken a turn for the worse more recently. Then begin to tell your friend what you rehearsed earlier that week. Alternatively, start with small talk by asking them how their week went before launching into your speech.
- You could start by saying, “We have been friends for over 10 years and throughout those years we have made some great memories together. But I wanted to talk with you about something else today.”
- You could also say, "You have been a great friend to me over the years, and I am really grateful for that. However, we have been fighting a lot lately, and I don't think that is going to change any time soon."
- Try saying, "Our friendship has meant a great deal to me over the years, but I think we are starting to grow in different directions."
Be direct when you tell your friend that you want to end the friendship.Because you have been friends with this person for a very long time, they may not take you seriously at first. Or, they may feel like they can fix things. This is why you need to be direct when ending the friendship.
- You could say, "Because of the reasons I just mentioned, I feel our friendship has changed a lot. I no longer feel close.
- Try saying, "Our friendship has changed since you broke my trust, so I don't think I want to be friends with you anymore."
- You could also say, "I feel like my kindness has been taken advantage of for too long now and I can't deal with it anymore. I don't want to be your friend."
Give them space.Once you are finished, give your friend a couple minutes to process everything. Step away and give them space so they can gather their thoughts. Understand that they will be feeling vulnerable and hurt. If they have something to say, listen to them and tell them you understand that they are feeling mad or sad, or both.
- For example, “I understand you are feeling mad. This is really hard for me too.”
- You could also say, "I wish this was easier, but this is the way it has to be. I am really sorry."
Dealing with the Aftermath
Stick to your decision.Your friend may try to call, text, or email you a week or two afterwards. Be firm in your decision and try not to respond to them if you really want the friendship to end. On the other hand, your friend may become vengeful and start to spread rumors about you or try to turn mutual friends against you.
- If your friend acts out in revenge, don't give in under pressure and apologize or try to reverse things. Remember that you ended the friendship for good reasons.
Take some time to grieve your loss.Even though you are the one ending the friendship, that doesn't mean you won't feel sad, upset, or lonely after the relationship has ended. Instead of isolating yourself or repressing your feelings, find a way to express them.
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member about what happened. They may be able to help you work through your feelings and give you advice on how to proceed with your life without your friend.
- Journaling is also a great way to work through your feelings to figure out how to move on.
Focus on other friendships.Once you have taken the time to process your feelings, focus on creating new friendships. Join a volunteer or church group, or another group of interest to meet new people.
- Consider making a list of the traits you value in a friendship. Start to pay attention to people who are compatible with these traits.
- Alternatively, invite an acquaintance out to coffee, or treat a friend you haven't seen in awhile to lunch to catch up.
Try to avoid gossiping about your friend.Out of respect for your friend, keep your conversation private. It is ok to tell a trusted partner or family member. However, try to avoid gossiping about your friend with your new friends or acquaintances.
- Remember that anything you say may get back to your friend, increasing feelings of resentment or anger.
Be cordial if you see them in public.Running into your ex-friend is inevitable. When this happens, don’t ignore them. It is ok to say hi and to ask them how they are doing. But try to keep the conversation short.
- If running into the person is unavoidable, like at your workplace, try to keep interactions at a minimum. If the friendship did not end well, you may need to speak with your boss to see if you can change departments or work with a different set of people.
QuestionMade friends with my sweetheart's classmates, but now that he's deceased, they continue to call and include me. However, they are not really my kind of people. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTell them that you need a little time to yourself, and you're going to go on a little break.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if my friend is also a relative?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou are ending two things - the friendship and the family relationship. Establish clear boundaries and don't interact more than is absolutely necessary. Sometimes time apart will help soften the blow.Thanks!
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How to End a Lifelong Friendship