How to break up with someone who is a friend without being an arse

how to break up with someone
image: Ariel Lustre

Breakups always suck. When its a friend, rather than a lover, it’s no easier. Knowing whether you should and how to break up with someone who is a friend can be a sticky minefield.

Jennifer Linney had a toxic friend. Jennifer and Annie had been friends for two years and Annie was Jennifer’s bridesmaid. They were inseparable but somewhere along the way Jennifer shit went pear-shaped.

“She had gone through a separation not that long before I met her and as a result was extremely needy and insecure. I was very much her ‘crutch’ for a long time, but it got to the point where she wasn’t helping herself and I was exhausted with trying to help her.”

The friends moved interstate together and quickly shared the same group of friends. Before long, Annie had caused waves within the group.

“It wasn’t long before she had slept her way through the guys and caused rifts with many of the girls. It was really hard as I didn’t want to leave her out, but she just approached things the wrong way and didn’t care about the consequences of any of her thoughtless or careless actions. She was extremely self-centered and selfish,” tells Jennifer.

After one too many dramas interrupting their friendship, Jennifer was reaching the end of her patience with her narcissistic friend and a heated text-off spelled the end of an era.

“She was having yet another drama one night and wanted me to go around. I said no and she responded by saying she would contact a ‘real’ friend. I just about exploded. I had put my whole marriage and social circle on the line for her and she had no appreciation or consideration for me whatsoever. I told her that was fine and never to contact me again,” recalls Jennifer.

Jennifer has never regretted her decision, in fact, she wishes she’d done it sooner.

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Not all friendships are made to last, but what to do when you see the writing on the wall can be a cause for dismay. Knowing whether to go the “friend break up” head-on and potentially cause disruption to social circles or cause hurt to another person is a tough decision, so many people do nothing or let it gradually fade.

Kirsten Burns has a long history with her friend, Alicia, but their current status quo is one of disharmony. That said, a break-up between the ladies would spell a break-up for their entire families.

“We see each other really often … kids and husbands, the whole shebang,” tells Kirsten. “My husband thinks I should just keep the peace and leave things as they are.”

Letting sleeping dogs lie is a simple solution, but if it involves a compromise of your true feelings it may not be worth it just to “keep the peace.”I feel like she and I aren’t evolving in the same direction. Like she hasn’t changed her opinions since 1998 and is scathing of other people I’m friends with,” says Kirsten.

“I feel like she and I aren’t evolving in the same direction. Like she hasn’t changed her opinions since 1998 and is scathing of other people I’m friends with,” says Kirsten.

Arguments aside, Kirsten feels she will hang in there to save her friend’s feelings.

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Breaking up with a friend is much the same as walking away from a lover, and knowing if it has truly run its course can be difficult but relationship counselor Clinton Power of Clinton Power and Associates believes there are some obvious signs.

“A friendship has run its course when you longer have a desire to spend time with your friend. Of course, if you are in a toxic or destructive friendship where you constantly feel belittled, put down, attacked, abused or manipulated this is also a sign that your friendship needs to end.”

If you have decided the friendship is finished doing a “phantom” and simply disappearing in a puff of smoke, or fading out of their life, is not the most mature way to handle it. Bravely deciding how to end the friendship is a more evolved tactic.

“Unfriending or not returning calls is a cowardly way to end a friendship, particularly if this is a long-term friendship and have many years,” says Clinton.

“Be clear and direct with your friend that things have changed for you. You’re moving in a different direction, you want different things out of life and you no longer want to invest as much time in the friendship.

“Make sure you use “I” statements and take responsibility for wanting to end the friendship. Don’t use blaming language and avoid criticising your friend on your way out the door. If your friendship is truly over, you need to end it with dignity and respect.”

Showing your one-time-friend the respect of ending it humanely and bravely is not always the best option, however, and if you feel your friend has not treated you with respect or dignity perhaps the “phantom” would be less detrimental to you.

“If you’ve been treated very badly by your friend or your friendship has been toxic there’s no need to have a face-to-face break up. In fact, it would be best to avoid a face-to-face break up with someone who has treated you badly. You could be opening yourself up for more attacks and abuse,” tells Clinton.

Friendship can be like the ocean with ebbs and flows. Sometimes we grow apart and sometimes we “In the end, you don’t have to feel guilty about ending a friendship. The reality is some relationships, including friendships, have a use by date. The upside of ending a friendship is it can help you open up to meeting new people and making new connections in your life.”


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