Q: I would like some advice on how to end a friendship in the kindest possible way. This person has been in my life for a long time but I feel the relationship is no longer healthy for me. I believe my kindness has been taken advantage of over the years and when I have tried to talk to my friend about how her behaviour has impacted on me, nothing really changes. I no longer feel I have the energy to support this exhausting relationship.
A: This is an awkward situation and especially so due to your desire to approach this with kindness. It seems that you have thought carefully about this relationship and the value it brings (or doesn’t bring) into your life. You know you are ready for change when the pain of remaining in the relationship becomes more difficult than the pain of change.
There are a few ways to approach this sad ending, directly and indirectly. There is no single way to end friendships successfully; even if you do so for the right reasons, it won’t feel good. Over time, if you have made the right decision for you, you may feel a sense of relief as well as some grief.
If you feel that the relationship was mostly one-sided and you were the one who made the effort in keeping communication open, you could attempt to gently “fade out” of your friend’s life. You may choose no longer to initiate contact and if there are phone calls, you could provide vague responses about the best time to meet. However, this may leave unanswered questions for your friend, especially if you did have a close relationship.
If you feel you would like to provide some explanation and be clear about your intentions, you could try the following:
- Arrange for a face-to-face catch-up and if this is not possible, at least a phone call.
- Be prepared about what you want to say but also careful in how you say it. If you want to be kind, don’t take a 'blame' approach. You may instead talk about the actual relationship and focus on the way you two have been interacting and how that no longer works for you. Be honest about how the relationship has made you feel; as you have said above, you feel exhausted. You don’t say that your friend or her personality is to blame, but again, the way you two have communicated over time has resulted in this feeling.
- If your friend attempts to make promises that you feel will be broken again, do show some kindness but also be firm if your decision remains the same.
- If your friend insists things can improve or change and you don’t feel confident that your message is clear, you could suggest having some time apart so that you can think about things and digest what she has said. But don’t leave your friend hanging for too long – both of you deserve some closure.
Once you have spoken to your friend about ending the relationship, try to act out that resolve so that there is no misunderstanding in the future.