In high school, one of my best friends was a girl we’ll call Tara. Tara and I had been close since middle school, but as we got older we developed an unhealthy dynamic: Tara demanded so much of my time and energy, and I wasn’t good at putting up boundaries. She had a mean streak, and I was constantly getting hurt. I started to get the feeling it would be better if we went our separate ways, but how do you break up with a friend? There’s no precedent for such things. Ultimately I wrote her a long email telling her that I didn’t think we were good for each other. It was a rough breakup, but when it was over I felt like a whole new woman, and I had learned an important lesson: life is much too short to spend time with people who make you feel crappy.
It’s a New Year and if you’re ready to dump a toxic friend (you go, girl!) here are five things you need to know:
1. Give yourself (and your friend) some space. Sometimes a friend breakup can be as simple as this. Start being busy more often. Don’t pick up the phone. Make plans with other friends. Be a little more aloof.
2. If your friend is the confrontational type, you might need to confront them. Some friendships will fall away pretty easily after a few missed calls, others will get more intense. If your friend is pushing for an explanation, give them one. Don’t play into any drama, but be honest and firm. If you’re lost for words, try something like, “I don’t think we bring out the best in each other,” or “I really need some space from this friendship.” Set up paramaters for when and how the two of you will talk again, if you want to talk at all.
3. Stay strong. Stick to your guns. If you want space, take it. Don’t let your friend talk you into a situation you’re not happy with. Hear them out, but remember: if someone has been a negative force in your life for years, their last-ditch promise to change probably doesn’t carry much weight. It’s not fun to end platonic or romantic relationships, but staying true to yourself will be so worth it in the end.
4. Pamper yourself a bit. In some ways, friend breakups are harder than romantic breakups, because there are no rules, guidelines, or cliches like “It’s not you, it’s me” to fall back on. This uncharted territory is stressful, so take a page from the romantic breakup guidebook and pamper yourself during and after the process. Eat ice cream. Vent to your good friends. Watch “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” and sigh dramatically.
5. Dumping a bad friend will open up room for good ones. In the same way that being in a relationship with the wrong partner takes you off the market from all the potential good ones, dedicating time and energy to a toxic friend makes it much harder to form new, positive friendships. It was less than a year after I dumped Tara that I met a girl named Katelyn in one of my college classes. We quickly formed a strong and inspiring friendship that simply would not have been possible if I were still embroiled in my friendship with Tara. There are so many amazing people in this world. Don’t waste your time with the non-amazing ones.
Have you ever broken up with a friend? How did you do it? Are you glad that you did?