You Can Rid Yourself Of A Toxic Friend Without Going Full Ghost After All

Pop culture endlessly depicts the lead-up to and aftermath of romantic breakups, yet it's rare to see the end of a friendship portrayed in a way that is compassionate or normalizing. As a result, people tend to make it well into adulthood with the belief that all friendships should be lifelong. If (or when) they aren't, this can lead to the assumption that you must have done something wrong or are lacking some key component of social well-being.


In reality, it is completely normal for friendships to evolve. Sometimes, this means friends will grow in different directions and outgrow their current friendship dynamics. Since public discourse in this area of life is lacking, it can be tempting to let these friendships fade by simply ghosting the friend you're ready to distance yourself from until they get the hint. However, this isn't a healthy way to communicate and does not adhere to the golden rule of treating others the way you'd like to be treated. Here's how to end a friendship the mature and respectful way. 

Assess the situation

Ending a friendship, especially one that has lasted many years, is a delicate and emotionally challenging prospect. Before you commit to going through with removing your friend from your life, spend some time getting honest with yourself. Ask yourself why you feel motivated to put a stop to the friendship right now. Did an event take place that upset you? Has your friend exhibited a change in their behavior? Have you experienced a shift in your priorities?


Your goal is to separate temporary frustrations from long-term incompatibilities. Then, ask yourself if there is any chance that the friendship could be repaired and salvaged. More importantly, do you want it to be repaired and salvaged? If your discomfort with the friendship is new, due to potentially temporary factors, and you want to keep your friend in your life, it's okay to reconsider breaking it off. If you've been growing more discontent over time and don't feel that the relationship is one that you value anymore, it's time to resolve to go through with ending it. 

Plan a conversation

Once you've decided to move forward with your friendship breakup, hold off on any urges to send an impulsive text message or arrange a spontaneous meeting. If this friendship was worth your time and effort for months or years, then its ending is worth putting some time and planning into. Consider writing down your key feelings about your unhappiness with the situation without placing blame on the other person. Perhaps you feel like you've both changed as people and are no longer able to relate on the level required for a close relationship. Write it down and envision the compassionate way in which you'll explain it.


Take into consideration the general demeanor of the friend you're planning to essentially break up with. If they have a history of over-the-top emotional reactions, you may wish to plan to have this conversation over the phone rather than in person. If you suspect that they feel the same way you do, consider inviting them out for one last dinner or round of drinks to say your mutual goodbyes. 

Execute the discussion

When ending a friendship, compassion is key. It is difficult to hear that a person you value no longer wishes to be a part of your life. If this news is paired with accusations, criticism, or character assassination, an emotional outburst is nearly guaranteed. Deliver your news with empathy and utilize "I" statements to avoid placing blame on the other person. Even if their behavior has directly contributed to your decision to move on, framing the issue from a place of incompatibility and personal responsibility is more likely to elicit a productive response.


An example of an "I" statement may look like rephrasing the accusation "you refuse to respect my new spiritual beliefs" as "I feel disconnected from and incompatible with you now that my spiritual views have shifted." Be open and honest but take full accountability for your feelings and decisions. Regardless of how you feel about this friend, they deserve closure, respect, and consideration.  

Uphold your boundaries

It is quite likely that your friend will resist your breakup attempt if they don't feel the same way and didn't see the split coming. Be prepared to listen to their arguments or pleas with patience and empathy. After you've heard them out, acknowledge any valid points they've made. Then, reiterate that you still feel the need to move on. Apologize for causing them pain or sadness, but do not apologize for listening to your intuition and restructuring your life as you see fit.


In the weeks or months following the end of your friendship, your former friend may reach out to you to try to rekindle the relationship. Uphold your boundaries by keeping your responses brief and to the point. Don't hesitate to repeat your reasoning for ending the friendship and continue to wish them well as you move on to new relationships that support your current lifestyle and personal priorities.