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No matter how much we love our friends and value the memories we’ve shared with them, the natural evolution of our lives sometimes requires that we bring certain relationships to an end. This happens for any number of reasons, but most frequently these breakups occur when the friendship is deemed to be, on balance, more negative than it is positive. We think these endings can often be more difficult and painful to navigate than those related to romantic attachment, so we’ve put together some advice for dealing in the most mature and respectful way possible. Here, 6 steps for ending a relationship that no longer serves you.
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Do you feel zapped after spending time with this friend? Does this friend bring out your worst traits? Do you dread their relentless judgement of your choices and perspectives? Do you consistently give more than you get in a way that makes you feel resentful? Do you feel bad about yourself after spending time with this friend? Do other people close to you in your life dislike this person? If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, chances are this friendship is no longer bringing you joy and therefore no longer has a place in your life. After all, friendships are a choice, which can be difficult to remember at times. You only get one life, and it's up to you who you spend it with.
In some cases, your friend may not realize that you are about to boil over with resentment towards them, or that their actions are hurtful, etc. In other instances, they may likewise feel that the dynamic has become toxic. (Most of the time, a soured friendship isn't necessarily the fault of one party—it take two to tango, and the blame falls on the particular mixture of personalities as opposed to the actions of one person.) Take a moment to evaluate whether or not you think they know that the relationship is no longer in a good place—some clues may include constant bickering, conversations that are defensive in tone on both sides and interactions that end leaving you feeling weird on a regular basis. If you think they are aware of the issues, chances are that you can do a slow fade on the friendship. If not, you may have to take more direction action.
Ghosting a friendship is not as immature as it sounds, as there is no reason to add drama into your life where it needs not be. If you think your friend is on the same page as you in terms of ending the relationship, the best course of action can be to slowly cease communication and interaction over time. Once you've shifted the prominence of this relationship in your life, it's perfectly lovely to reach out occasionally to send a funny link that reminds you of them with a "hope you're well" line or two attached. Honestly, the slow fade is a best case scenario for the end of a friendship, as it means you can technically still consider each other friends.
This is the worst, but sometimes it's an unavoidable course of action, especially when you don't think your friend is at all aware of your feelings about the relationship. Our best advice on this one is to get it out of the way as quickly as possible—the more you procrastinate, the worse things will become, and the more anxiety you will build up around the impending breakup. Once you've scheduled the conversation, keep in mind, once again, that this isn't necessarily about them being a bad person, and it's best not to make the conversation about their faults. Sure, you may think they're selfish, or a narcissist, or whatever the case may be, but no one likes being attacked for their character flaws so this approach is not likely to be well-received. Instead, focus on yourself, what you need, and how you think it's best for the both of you to part ways. No matter how they respond, attempt to be the bigger person—if they attack, breathe through it and focus your comments on the ways in which you no longer vibe with each other as opposed to the ways in which you think they are a sociopath (as an example). No one likes to be dumped, so it's unlikely this convo will end well regardless. Still, this doesn't mean you shouldn't try to close it out with grace if possible.
Inform Your Mutual Friends We're going to go ahead and refer back to our findings on gossip for this one. It's likely that, in the aftermath of the breakup, your mutual friends will get involved. No matter what your ex-bestie says about the split, though, we'd encourage you to stay elevated in your accounting of events, or to remain mum entirely. If you don't feed the gossip machine, it will run out of fuel, and if your friend is badmouthing you while you continue to say only nice (if generic) things about them, they will eventually just seem like a bully. We suggest you default to something like "Our friendship wasn't healthy anymore, so we're going to part ways, but I will always love (bestie's name) and cherish the good times we had."
No matter how unhealthy your friendship was, you are going to feel sad about its demise—trust us on this one. It's not at all unlike a romantic split, and you will probably feel nostalgic and even remorseful at times. Allow yourself time to mourn and get closure as you would when losing a significant other, but try not to dwell on the past. If you truly miss the person and feel like your life was better with them in it, there's no harm in reaching out to see if they feel the same once some time has passed. (As Emily Bronte said, "Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves." Don't let pride get in the way of what you want.) Otherwise, try to make peace with the fact that while your friend was a meaningful part of your life, the relationship no longer serves your best interests. It's healthy to allow your life to evolve, and relationships are often a casualty of positive change.