5 Tips For Breaking Up With A Friend

As a profound quote from the New York Times bestseller "Love & Luck" by Jenna Evans Welch goes, "A good friend is like a four-leaf clover. Hard to find and lucky to have." There are over seven billion people in the world, but for most of us, the people we can truly call friends and be ourselves around can only be counted on the fingers of one hand. Moreover, as we get older, it's more challenging for us to make new friends. Just like other types of relationships, however, some friendships stand the test of time while others wax and wane. 

Research published in the SAGE Journals identified four key causes for friendship breakdowns. They include physical distance, the "new one in, old one out" mentality, a gradual loss of interest, and unfavorable effects from each person's dating or marriage. A friendship often doesn't demand as much of your time or energy as a romantic relationship, at least not to the point where you have to decide whether to call it quits. But when friendship wounds occur, they can be the hardest ones to move past. No matter the culprit in a friendship breakup, deciding to walk away from something you've invested time and emotions into isn't easy. With that in mind, we've compiled five tips to help you approach a friendship breakup civilly and amicably.

Re-evaluate the red flags before calling it quits

To end a friendship without having any regrets down the road, take time to ponder the reasons why you want it ended. Is your friend an abusive person? Did your friend breach the sis code by seeing your ex behind your back? Are you misunderstanding your friend about something? Whatever the reason, re-evaluate the aspects of your friendship that make you uncomfortable before concluding whether the relationship is worth keeping. Every friendship has red flags, and watching out for them can help you make the right decision. If your friend always criticizes or gaslights you, lies to you, and makes you feel inadequate, chances are you're in a toxic relationship and it's no good for you, says therapist Karina Aybar-Jacobs (via TODAY).

Disrespecting boundaries is also a sign of an unwholesome, codependent friendship, per Choosing Therapy. A friend who always demands your attention, makes you give more than you can take and acts as if they're immune from your limits is too high-maintenance to be friend material. A friendship is supposed to add meaning and joy to your life. If it always depletes you and makes you question your worth, it's not in your best interest and not worth keeping.

Quietly leave the relationship

An effective way to end a friendship is to quietly quit it and fade the unwanted pal out. Quietly quitting in a relationship, as per Psychology Today, is to weaken the emotional links between two people through progressive detachment. This strategy is especially effective when neither of you is interested in revitalizing the friendship. For instance, ReachOut recommends that you stop texting or calling the other person as frequently. If you have a group of shared friends, avoid hanging out with the person alone and instead limit your interactions to group events. If you don't want to go out with your friend, just make up some valid excuses, such as being snowed under with work or having to hold down the fort as your family is on vacation. Try not to act too cold or reserved all of a sudden, lest your friend thinks you're angry with them and questions you about it. The point of progressive detachment is to cut people off nicely without hurting their feelings.

Before long, the person you're trying to unfriend will get the message and will stop reaching out to you. If left unchecked, this sense of emotional separation will deepen until you are nothing more than familiar strangers to each other. Quietly quitting a relationship without officially admitting it can spare you some emotionally draining confrontations.

End a friendship over text or a letter

If you're nervous about ending things with your bestie eyeball-to-eyeball, consider doing it over text or a letter so you can express points calmly and articulately. In case your friend is easily triggered and has been verbally or physically abusive to you in the past, ending the friendship indirectly will be safer and less traumatizing for you. Written messages can also help you "assertively communicate" why you're not interested in continuing the friendship, explains Dr. Jen Douglas (via Good Housekeeping).

No matter how upset you are about your friend, avoid going into specifics and attacking them in writing. Try to keep everything concise and civil. You can open the conversation by using the "I" statement to express your point of view and foster better mutual understanding, a study in the PeerJ journal points out. For example, you can phrase it like, "It's hard to say this but I felt very uncomfortable with the way you treated me at the party. Therefore, I think it's better if we stop spending time together." If the recipient has repeatedly let you down, don't be afraid to come forward with a thought-provoking statement like, "I don't see how you're treating me like a friend. Therefore, I want to stop engaging in this relationship." Toward the end of the text or the letter, tell the person you appreciate your time together, wish them well, and be done with it.

Have an amicable grown-up talk

You can emotionally distance yourself from your friend or end the relationship over a well-worded text or letter, but if you and the other person have been friends for a long time and they don't seem to take your silent treatment as an invitation to break up, consider having an honest conversation to set the record straight. You've shared many memories together, it's appropriate to meet one last time to hear each other out, especially when you live in the same city and personal safety is not a concern. If your friend is the one who wants to cut you off, you would also want to be treated with respect, wouldn't you? "It's about treating others how you want to be treated," relationship therapist Vera Eck tells Refinery29.

Showing your friend respect is one thing, but letting them know how you feel is also a mature way to deal with relationship problems and aids in venting pent-up emotions. If the split is one-sided and your friend isn't expecting it, you need to be extra careful with your words and be honest without being brutal, says psychotherapist Gina Handley Schmitt (via WebMD). To prevent the convo from descending into a hostile confrontation, keep your message focused, refrain from blaming the person, and end things on a positive note.

Pinpoint unhealthy behavorial patterns

When all is said and done, give yourself some time to reel from the breakup. Even though you're the one who initiated the split, losing a friend is legit pain and you shouldn't shy away from it, says psychologist Dr. Nicole LePera (via Hindustan Times). As you grieve over your lost connection with the person, remind yourself why you wanted the breakup in the first place and that it's in your best interest. Meanwhile, focus your energy on high-leverage activities, like playing sports or traveling, to distract yourself from negative thoughts.

Another thing you should do post-breakup is to spend some time on self-reflection, says psychotherapist Dr. Andrea Bonior (via Women's Health), especially if you've regularly terminated friendships in a similar way. The demise of your previous friendships may not have been due to anyone's fault but rather to your personality or temperament. It could be that you're habitually befriending those who are not compatible with you. Or, your constant fight-or-flight response may be the reason why your friendship is always stressful and sort of doomed to fail. Being able to identify your behavioral patterns in failed friendships can help you make better relationship decisions in the future.