Got a toxic friend? Someone who takes more than they give? Puts you down? Drains your energy?
I recently broke up with such a friend. She hadn’t done anything ‘wrong’—although I’ve ended friendships for that reason, too—we just weren’t compatible anymore.
She kept asking me to hang out and I couldn’t keep making excuses, so I asked her if we could meet for coffee and chat.
Over coffee, I explained that although I’d enjoyed reconnecting with her (she was an old friend from school) I wasn’t sure we had much in common and our friendship felt forced. I cringed, then asked her how she felt. She said it wasn’t quite the same for her… but she totally understood and respected my truth.
Honestly, the relief was palpable.
Breaking up with a toxic friend is going to involve an awkward convo. But here’s what I learned from this experience, so you can handle it with grace.
Talk to your toxic friend (and be honest)
Don’t avoid this person and hope they’ll “get the hint”. Please.
If you’ve ever been frozen out by someone, you’ll know how much this sucks. It’s much better for everyone to know exactly where they stand.
It takes courage to be honest, but I promise it’s worth it.
Speak to your friend and let them know what’s going on for you. Ideally, keep the language focused on YOUR feelings and concerns, for example:
- “I feel overwhelmed by the amount of listening I do…”
- “I feel exhausted after we spend time together…”
- “I feel sad that we’ve grown apart…”
Make it about *you*, not about *them*.
Yes, this is hard.
It might also be hard for your friend to hear. But focusing on expressing your feelings—without blame or judgment—makes it a hell of a lot easier to swallow.
Top tip: write down what you want to say before having this conversation and rehearse speaking your truth in front of a mirror.
Tell them what you want and set your boundaries
Before you chat with your friend, think about the outcome you want.
Do you want to cut ties? Or are you open to giving the friendship another try?
I’ve been in both situations, so I know from experience that if you want a clean break, you need to be clear about this and be firm with your boundaries.
You might express this desire as:
- “I’ve decided that I’d like to end our friendship…”
- “I’m not interested in remaining friends at this point…”
- “I’d prefer not to have any contact with you moving forward…”
If you’d rather not have any contact, state your boundaries and stick to them. I once had a friend—who’d hurt me deeply—bombard me with messages after I said I didn’t want to keep in contact. I had to reinforce my boundary by letting her know if she didn’t stop, I’d have to block her number.
If you’re open to continuing the friendship, you can let your friend know what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t, so you can find a new way of connecting that works for both of you.
You could renegotiate the terms of your friendship by saying:
- “I’d love to find a way to resolve this…”
- “I want to figure out something that will work for both of us…”
- “If this changes, I could see our friendship lasting a lifetime…”
Once you’ve said your piece, give your friend space to offer their ideas and opinions.
They might be shocked to hear your perspective and be willing to change to keep you as a friend. If it feels right, give them the opportunity to resolve the problem.
Leave it on good terms—if possible
Breaking up with a toxic friend doesn’t mean you have to become enemies.
Think of it more like “consciously uncoupling”.
It can be a process for both of you to clear the air, speak your truth, and say goodbye with love. Clearly, there was a connection between you or you wouldn’t be in this position now.
Having an honest, blame-free, compassionate conversation can honour that connection so you can both make space for more fulfilling friendships in the future.
I “broke up” with my friend… but we’re still connected on Facebook. We like each other’s posts and we’re still on the periphery of each other’s lives, just not as close as we once were.
And that’s okay for both of us.