How to end a friendship that isn’t working

For most of my life, I’ve felt obligated to keep close friendships. With a few of my friends, this has been easy, even if we live far apart. The love between us is tight, and distance and the passing of time only give us more to talk and laugh about.

But with some women, the friendship sours over time. I’ll stick it out for as long as I can because once I invest myself I tend to be loyal.

But staying in a friendship that isn’t healthy, for whatever reason, isn’t good for my soul or my friend’s.

And honestly, the older I get, the less time I want to spend on friends who aren’t interested in healthy relationships.

Have you ever felt stuck in a friendship that wasn’t working…

…but you didn’t know how to get out of it?

  • Maybe your friend is a drama queen, and you feel drained after an hour of listening to her latest crisis.
  • Or she’s a taker, never giving to the friendship. You’re tired of always being the one to nurture the relationship.
  • Perhaps she always wants your advice but never follows through with any of it, leaving you feeling used and ignored.
  • OR she’s a toxic friend, dumping her gossip, criticisms, and manipulative ways on you as if you were her favorite garbage truck.
  • And boundaries? Not on her radar.

All of these are good reasons to leave a friendship behind.

Consider it one of many ways you declutter your life—part of healthy soul care.

How to end a friendship through avoidance

I know ending a friendship isn’t on your fun-things-to-do-this-weekend list. I get that.

Even though I’ve gotten wiser as I grow older, I still feel like I don’t always know what I’m doing with friendships that aren’t working.

As a Christian, I’m supposed to be nice. To everyone. (At least that’s what my mom told me.)

Heaven forbid if I mess up and treat someone ungraciously through my words OR actions!

So one tactic I’ve used that seems nice is the avoidance method. At least it sometimes works in casual friendships.

You’ve probably tried this for leaving a friendship too.

      • Avoid getting together because of “busyness.”
      • Blame your lack of availability on someone who “needs” you… husband, grandkids, the dog. (Honestly, our dogs DO need me a lot. No joke.)
      • Ignore your friend’s phone calls.
      • Give short, sweet responses to her long messages.
      • Move to another country. Or planet.

Maybe avoidance worked. But you feel yucky about it.

Or maybe it didn’t work. And you’re still stuck!

How to end a friendship the right way

Avoidance isn’t always the best way. You know that’s true because when people have used that method on you, it left you confused.

So here’s a healthy plan for leaving an energy-draining friendship:

1. Take some time to ponder and journal about where you would like to invest your time rather than being with your friend.

Perhaps you’d enjoy more time for yourself to think and read. Maybe you’d like to do some volunteer work or start a new hobby? Are there other people you’d like to develop closer ties with? Write it all down.

2. Since these journal notes are all positive things for where you want to go in your life, they won’t reflect negatively on your friend. After all, your focus is on YOU, not her.

3. Plan a time to have coffee with your friend OR take time to write her a note—whichever works best for you and the peace of your soul.

4. During your coffee time, or in your note, tell your friend that you’re going to be stepping back from the friendship because you need to have some personal space to invest in yourself.

5. Let her know how excited you are about the next season of your life, but don’t feel obligated to give her any details of what this personal space will look like. After all, it’s personal.

6. Appreciate her … AND … be prepared, if necessary, to make your boundary clear that this new time in your life is something you’re not sharing with her. It’s your future, not hers.

After you’ve communicated your decision, stick to it!

Don’t feel obligated to take her calls or answer her messages.

Yes, be gracious when you run into her at the grocery store or church. Keep the conversation brief and don’t share about your life except for surface stuff.

Down the road, you may find that you want to reconnect with her once in a while.

If so, get together for coffee. But always evaluate how your time together made you feel. If you still get that emotionally drained feeling after meeting with her, don’t do it again.

And… if you feel you can’t end a friendship yet, read What to do when compassion doesn’t work. It’ll give you a few survival tips.

Do you have friendships that aren’t working well for you? What tip can you use from this post to declutter your friendships this week? Do you have questions or comments? Leave them below. Let’s have a conversation!

Hugs,

Susan

2 Responses to How to end a friendship that isn’t working

  1. I was thinking about friendships or the “getting together for coffee.” I realized that people have different motivations for wanting to be friends or to get together. For some, it might be just to have the comfort of communication. Others might be doers and feel friendship as an opportunity to create together. Analyzing motivations can be helpful for both people.

    Some people feel they should get together regularly because they are friends, and in that case, there can be not so much oomph to give to any relationship.

    Back in the day, I had some really fragile times. I cried and cried when another family told me they could not be friends with us because our son wore Ninja Turtle shoes (and we would have honored them by not wearing the shoes to their house).

    There are some people who are fragile, and perhaps one thing one might do if one wished, after praying about it, might be to help the other person problem solve into finding friends that are a better match, meeting with them every week or two as they walked the journey. But not every person is skilled at that.

  2. It sounds like the family that dumped you had some real issues, Jean. The way they handled it was certainly unloving and shows their own fear… of Ninja Turtle shoes, no less!

    My goodness, I’m so sorry you had to go through that, though you did gain much wisdom from it.

    I think your thoughts on different motivations for friendships are excellent. So often we never think of that, but it really helps define what we want out of a friendship and suggests what our boundaries might be in the friendship.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

    Hugs,
    Susan

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