I think the beauty of entering adulthood is realizing that you can cut people out of your life who no longer serve a positive purpose. Certain people will come into your life and stay. Others will come into your life to teach you about yourself and the world. Annnnd others are straight up crazy and you should run the hell away as soon as you meet them. But, let’s focus on the second group. I think most of us are comfortable with the idea of a romantic breakup, but for some reason we struggle with a friendship break up. We’ve all heard the saying “relationships come and go but friendships are forever.” But, a bad friendship shouldn’t be forever. Why can’t we break up with a friend who mistreats us the same way we would break up with a significant other who mistreats us? Just because you’re not having sex with someone doesn’t mean the stakes are any less high if you stay with them in a harmful friendship. I’ve had friends that I’ve known for a few months that I’ve cut out of my life. I’ve had friends that I’ve known for a few years that I’ve cut out of my life. And I’ve even had a friend that I’ve known for 18 years that I’ve cut out of my life. The overarching message from all of them: it felt amazing to cut out the drama. Here are the steps to take to let go of a bad friendship:
Step 1: Assess The Friendship
We all know when we have a friend that sends us on the express train to crazy town. Maybe they constantly embarrass you when you’re out together. Maybe they put you down a lot. Maybe they’re always going after the people you’re interested in. Maybe they’re unreliable and flake on you all the time. Maybe they make you pay for everything and drive them around everywhere without offering to pay you back or even say thank you. Maybe they do a whole bunch of things and never take ownership for them when you confront them on it. Whatever it is, you need to figure out what it is about this person in your friendship that you don’t like and why.
Step 2: Confront Your Friend
Once you’ve figured out what your issues are with your friend and why they’re such big issues to you that cause you distress in your friendship, it’s time to have a conversation with your friend about it. Be genuine, honest, and lay it all out there in a “this is what you do and this is how it makes me feel” way. Sometimes people don’t realize how their behavior affects others and all it takes is a conversation for them to turn their behavior around. In that case you can save your friendship. However, if your friend is not willing to accept and change their negative behavior, it’s time to move on to step three: the break up.
Step 3: Tell Your Friend Respectfully That They Are No Longer Your Friend
This step is probably the simplest of all. In a very non-dramatic matter-of-fact way, you tell your friend that they are no longer your friend. They might get upset. They might cry. They might even get angry and lash out at you. But, all you have to do is say “I tried to work things out with you and you’re not taking ownership of your actions and so I can no longer have you in my life. I’m sorry our friendship has to end, but it is for the best.” And then you walk away or hang up the phone and block their number. This is what I call: shutting it down.
Step 4: Inform Relevant People Around You
You don’t want to go around telling everyone you’re no longer friends with the person you just broke up with because that just adds to the drama, which you are trying to eliminate. Also, if it was a genuine friendship, you should be respectful of the person and not bad mouth them to a large number of people. However, it is important to tell the people who are close with the both of you that you are no longer friends so that they don’t create situations where you’d have to interact with them. You may be in a tight group of friends with this person and your other friends might ask you to continue to be friends with that person for the sake of the group, but you have to have the confidence in yourself and your decisions to do what’s best for you.
Step 5: Stick To Your Guns
And this is where number five kicks in. As long as you remain confident in your decision to let go of that bad friendship, you can stick to your guns and not give in to becoming friends with that person again. Maybe other people in your life will try to force you to make up. Maybe even the ex-friend will reach out to you to be friends again. But, unless you can tell that that friend has changed for the better, you should continue to keep them cut out of your life so you can move on with only positive relationships that add value to your life.