How To End A Friendship Without Burning Bridges


 Today’s question is from a 20-something who has decided to distance herself from an 8 year friendship. Her question revolves how such actions should be handled.

As the 20-something overcame depression and became more confident, her friend resented that she no longer was the center of her life and has grown increasingly unsupportive:

“As I made efforts to improve myself, I began to realize that this friend was very resistant to the changes I was making. Without question, she wanted me to be happy. But, she had embraced being “more” than me and I think it was likely weird for her to see me branching out on my own without needing to run my feelings, opinions, thoughts by her before I made final decisions for myself.”

She now realizes that the friendship has been maintained more for the history they shared as opposed to common values, common interests, and a genuine interest in each other. Most of their interactions became her friend making negative comments about their mutual friends.

The friend asked her to be in her wedding then ended up slighting her (a little Bridesmaid style).  Since then she has cut back contact with her but the friend is not getting the message and she is seeking advice on how to make a clean break:


Dear 40-somethings,

After the wedding, I promised myself I would create distance. I continued to remind myself that if I am doing everything I can and it’s not good enough for her, that’s her problem, not mine. I can only be me, not who she wants me to be.

I’ve held true to my promise and have only seen her 3 times since her wedding in late-winter (each time lasting no more than 2 hours). I recently received an email from her, essentially asking what was going on, and I am conflicted on how to respond.

She’s the type of person who doesn’t take criticism well and I don’t think that I have a definitive way to explain my decision to distance myself. I came to my decision because of many little things over the course of many years and because we simply don’t have anything in common anymore. None of the “little things” would seem worthy enough of ending a friendship over when looked at in isolation, but I also don’t want to provide her with a laundry list of issues I’ve been holding in for years.

In all honesty, I’d love to never have to talk about it because I just don’t think it’s worth the discussion, but I feel some response is necessary. I believe that I need to surround myself with positive, compassionate people who are going to build me up instead of tear me down.

Am I being unreasonable. What suggestions do you have for ending friendships in your 20’s without burning major bridges? I am OK being acquaintances or friends who talk every so often, but I am not looking to remain good friends. Do you think full honesty is essential in this situation?

Dear 20-something,

I had a friend through childhood into my 30’s where it was a similar situation. She was incredibly undermining, jealous, and often created issues between myself and mutual friends. The way I handled it was to create distance between us. I never brought up the issues because frankly, I wasn’t interested in resolving the issue. The best way forward is to constantly dodge plans. If she asks what’s wrong, the answer, in a happy tone of voice,  is always “nothing”. Time will pass and eventually separation will happen.


Dear 20-something,

I think on ‘ending a friendship’, it’s useful to use the feedback model. Explain the specific instances of behavior. Be very precise about what exactly the person said or did. Explain the impact on you (this made me feel worthless, unsupported, whatever…). Then pause. Let the person take this in and make sure they have understood. Then suggest what you’d want to do about it.  The other person does deserve a chance to reply, and this should be done in person.  One question to ask yourself is whether you would value your friendship with this person if they were to change behavior?


Dear 20-something,

You have made a mature decision to end a friendship that is adding more negativity than positivity to your life.  You have no obligation, nor is it necessary, to be totally honest with her. Sometimes that can be more harmful than helpful.

I do think it is helpful to honor the integrity of the friendship and recognize the good parts for what they are worth.  You can do it on the phone or email can be easier. I would say something simple …

‘I feel as if we have grown in different ways over the years and this friendship is no longer serving either of our higher purposes. It no longer give me peace. While you may want more explanation… it is more important that you know this. I really care about you and thank you for the love and support you gave me over the years. What I liked about our friendship was …blank, You were especially good at at …blank. I think it would be most helpful for me if we don’t maintain regular communication…but I don’t see any reason why we reach out from time to time to let each other know how we are doing if you are interested. I wish you the best of everything.’

You don’t have to tell them what wasn’t working. It is hurtful…you can just tell then what you liked and want to remember. – 40-something, wellness coach, New York City

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