How to End a Friendship

As I mentioned last week I’ll be home from this fantastic journey in November and when I get back I’m planning on ending certain relationships that weren’t really working out. (Gulp!)

Know When it’s Time to Say Good-Bye

Breaking up with a romantic partner can be one of the hardest things to go through in life, especially if you were with that person for a long time, but breaking up with a friend is sometimes just as bad. Knowing someone a long time doesn’t necessarily make them a good friend— it might be hard to admit, but not all friends are good friends. There are a lot of different reasons to end friendships but here are a couple of types of “friends” that I just can’t deal with anymore:

  • Complainers. Friends that hang out with you and waste your time simply because no one else is willing to listen to them complain. Most of the time, their complaints aren’t even valid—i.e., “I know she got that job because she’s cuter than me,” grumble grumble.
  • Users. There’s nothing wrong with letting your friends enjoy certain aspects of your life, but friends who come around only when you’re having a party or when you buy a new car that they’d like to borrow are most likely using you.
  • Addicts / Abusers. Speaking of users, friends that are addicted to drugs or alcohol aren’t exactly healthy to you, either. If you offer help and they refuse, it’s not your fault. Let them find help elsewhere—hopefully professional help. Friends who engage in physical abuse are also a huge no-no in my book.
  • One-Uppers. I’m spending the summer in Europe, but I know someone back home that will have to let me know that they took two week-long cruises, flew down to the Bahamas for three weekends and met a few movie stars while they were there. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, a one-upper has done something better (in their eyes, anyway.)
  • Two-Facers. Two-facers are just what they sound like—nicey-nice to your face but love talking about you behind your back. They’re easy to recognize because they often talk about others in your presence, even though you know for a fact that they hang out with those people all the time.

Telling a person, “I don’t think we should hang out anymore,” and explaining your reasons is probably the best way how to end a friendship, but if you can’t picture yourself telling them outright, consider the following:

  1. When they invite you somewhere, decline the invitation. Likewise, don’t invite them to parties you have or ask them to go places with you.
  2. Don’t call them “just to talk,” and if you have caller ID (who doesn’t?) don’t answer the phone if you can see they’re calling you. Try to stop returning their calls.
  3. If you can’t bear to totally ignore them (at least initially) call them back on your time—don’t rush to do so.
  4. Start making new friends so you won’t be tempted to go back just because it’s easy.
  5. Continually remind yourself why you decided to end this friendship.

That list is by no means exhaustive and some friends fall into a few different categories of their own. It might be difficult, but if a friendship is toxic I feel it’s in your best interest to end it. Your own health and well-being is important!

Take Action. Get Results.

24 thoughts on “How to End a Friendship”

  1. Hi Scott,

    This subject is something that really resonates with me because I’ve had to make some drastic changes in my relationships, some of which were really uncomfortable, but nonetheless necessary.

    One thing, though, should be remembered: Wherever you go, you always take yourself with you. I’ve had experiences where I stopped seeing certain people because of their bad habits, only to have very similar people appear in my life soon after. This taught me to first clean up my thoughts and expectations and then start ending toxic relationships.

    Thanks for a great post!


    • Just wanted to chime in and say that very profound, Josip “…only to have very similar people appear in my life soon after. This taught me to first clean up my thoughts and expectations and then start ending toxic relationships.” It’s really important to remember the type of people you don’t want in your life anymore and what you are willing to do to attract a different type of person into your life.

    • Very good point Josip. It is easy to make a tough decision, but if you do not take steps to change yourself too it can be possible to fall back into the same bad patterns.

  2. Hi Steve,

    It’s a difficult process to release friends. As you note it might be as difficult as breaking up with someone. I’ve released a few friends over the years and although it stings at first the feelings subside and you can meet new like-minded people. I gradually stopped talking to them and eventually they got the hint.

    Thanks for sharing the solid tips and have a fun weekend.


    • Yup, releasing friends can be very tough thing. I guess they usually get the hint if you lay off talking to them long enough, so there ma not be a need to be confrontational and hurt them.

      I hope you have a great weekend too

  3. Good Morning Steve:

    I did read your blog post first thing and I felt that you are thinking very seriously about life during your vacation. But then again this is the best time to think and sort things out too.

    Just decide what is best for you. Do what you like to do. Make sure you are happy with your decisions with no regrets and no going back. And I say this because I know you by
    your blog post. You sound like a very mature, reasonable, caring person. I want you to have the best life style to live the life you expect for yourself.

    Choices in life are to be used to have a better life and to have what you want. But not to be alone and not to keep looking for the perfect friend, perfect partner. As no one is perfect. We all miss people that we leave behind and this makes another whole in personality. Your post can make me talk or think all day but your last sentence overcomes it all “Your own health and well being is important” Keep track of your mental and physical health both. I wish you the best and only the best. Choose wisely.

    Fran Aslam

  4. Thanks for such insightful comments! Yeah, I have had a lot of time to think about things while traveling. Some of them are things I have been thinking about for a while others are longer term things.

    I think it is important to constantly access the way things are going and do what you can to improve those things.

    Obviously you are specifically right about the last sentence any relationship the actively harms you physical or mental health are the most toxic ones. Those are the relationships that you really cannot just take a few steps to improve them.

    Thanks for your thoughts and well wishes. 🙂

  5. Steve, I can really relate to this post.

    I hate users and backbiters. What really drive me nuts are the so called friends who only remember you whey they need favors.

    I have had many friends in my life but I have noticed that good friends are really few and far between. Over the years as I have matured, I have learned to say no to the ones that only want to be my friend for a reason. Oftentimes, this is not easy. But who needs a friend that are toxic and want to pull you down instead of giving you a boost?

    • Adam,

      It can be a difficult thing. Even in some of the worst one-sided relationships there can be some sort of affection. But many “friends” really aren’t friends. They are just people that appear that way because of proximity. It is good that you have grown past some of your friends and shed some of their toxic ways.

      You can grow past a true friend, not see him for years and instantly be comfortable and happy in his/her presence. Then there is someone you see all the time and somehow always leave them feeling bad about yourself or something. It is not hard to figure out which is a friend.

  6. Hey Scott,

    Well, you can’t say that you didn’t warn any of your ‘friends’ that this wasn’t coming (especially if they read your site) 🙂

    I think that you have outlined some great ways to end toxic friendships. People do get the picture after awhile, especially when you don’t initiate or accept their invitations. I think that this is just part of life sometimes and that people naturally grow apart. When you have new experiences you gain more knowledge about yourself and others – that worldview doesn’t fit in with your old self who may have put up with the toxic relationships. But, now you know better so that you are strong enough to stand up to what you want and don’t want in your life.

    • LOL,

      Good point, any “friends” that read the site should see it coming if they fall into a “user” type of category.

      I hope most of my friends do not take it wrong. 90% of them are great and I look forward to seeing once again.

  7. Well written post steve ending relationship is never easy sometimes as you rightly said using the avoidance method is good but as humans we need to be able to say to some one that this friendship is not working out may it be romatic relationship or just social. thanks for the heads up.

  8. Josep really nailed this. What kind of friend are you and when you are satisfied, it is time to prune your friendships. Loners like me never have to worry about either problem.

  9. Hi Steve,

    I have had to let people go and I didn’t like it, but I had to do what I had to do, in order to have peace of mind. Can you believe some of these people were relatives too?

    You are so right…just because we have known someone for a long time, doesn’t mean they are a good friend. That’s true!

    I’ve learned that as I’ve gotten older, I can’t tolerate any of the type of friends that you described. I use to try to hang on to people, now I just let them go. Thank goodnes for caller id. 😉

    Take care,


  10. I don’t think I’m at that point in my life where I could make the decision to end a friendship but I have let many go over the last few years as we’ve drifted apart. But come to think of it, there are some people where I would just like to move away from because whenever we talk it kind of brings me down – it’s really tough because I’ve known them for so long but I think there needs to be some kind of moment where it’s like “okay dude, start doing something”.

    I’m forward thinking and have been working on my success but they seem to just want to continue to do really nothing; I’m okay on some levels with that but it’s annoying when I want to work on a project with them and all I get is excuses, ya know?

    • Drifting apart is one thing. I have friends, good guys, that I do not have much in common with anymore. I still consider them friends though. The difference is that some friends can actually have an active negative effect on you. If they do nothing, but support you it is cool. If they do nothing and seem to want to keep you with them it can be an issue. Maybe it is a fine distinction, but an important one.

      If they hold you back or try to draw you to do things you should not really do it can be an issue and one that needs to be addressed, either directly or subtly.

  11. I move to a new country every couple years. That sometimes makes holding onto the friends whom I cherish tough, but on the upside it’s really easy to shake the bad ones.

  12. Steve, I hope it went well when you did the thing that was right for you.

    Too often, people forget that a friend is not the same as an acquaintance. I find that I often have users around because I am a pushover, and I want to help the world. After a while, giving without even getting a hug in return gets very old, and you have to move on. I try to only surround myself with real, true friends. You find out quickly who your true friends are. If you have more than one true friend in life, then you are blessed more than you know. I have a few, so I know I am blessed.

  13. great post! unfortunately, my “friendships” became too toxic and i had to blast two different so-called friends to clear the friendships for good. one was via a phone message and one was a phone call. neither person called back to apologize for their actions (which caused my reaction) and i feel better for it. it’s like caffeine withdrawal. but, it’s easier now to prune the deadwood friends from my life. i need positive people around me.
    i have (had) an alcoholic friend; last night was the final straw. he began screaming at me as he had done a week earlier. so, i thought, that’s it: i gave him (more than) a second chance, but i don’t need that in my life either. that “friend” i won’t confront. if i go out to a bar to see other social drinkers (once or twice per week), i’ll say hi but i won’t pop over for a visit to him at his place to be verbally abused.
    scott, thanks again for the tips!

    • Colin,

      Glad to hear you are shaking lose some of the deadwood. It is tough, I know. Real friends don’t strive to drag you down with them. Great to hear you are staying away from the “bad” friends. Stay Strong.

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