We all know that romantic relationships sometimes end. Things go well, then they don’t, and eventually one partner breaks up with the other. There have been countless movies and songs dedicated to the break-up of romantic relationships and the pain that it can cause. But what about friendships? If you can break-up with a boyfriend or a girlfriend can you - and should you - be able to break-up with a platonic friend?
It can be a little more complicated, but the answer is yes, you can, and sometimes you should break-up with a friend – although most of us never have thought to do so.
Why you should break-up with a friend.
The same way that you might discover that the person you’re dating just really isn’t right for you, you may also discover that what seemed like a good friendship actually isn’t. Most of the friendships we make are with people that we see on some kind of a regular basis. We see them at work, school, the gym, or other regular events. This proximity automatically gives us something in common and therefore a connection. Sometimes this connection will take us beyond casual conversation due to proximity and into the next level of friendship.
But just like in dating, getting to know someone as a friend can lead to surprises and sometimes those surprises aren’t always good ones. If any of the following are occurring in your friendship, new or old, it’s probably time to consider breaking up with your friend, or at least put some distance between you two.
You feel drained after spending time with them. We all have known those people that take a lot of effort to be around. We often refer to them as “high maintenance.” They can require things to be done a certain way, try to call all the shots, or are always suffering through some emergency or drama. If spending time with someone leaves you regularly feeling like you need a nap or quiet time afterwards, then they may not be a good fit as a friend. Spending time with a friend should be an invigorating, happy experience, most of the time anyway.
You find yourself becoming more and more negative. We are all influenced by those around us. Often with both romantic partners and friends we will take on some of their habits and mannerisms. We may not even realize we’re doing it. In the best case scenario we emulate the positive traits, but in some cases it can go the other way. If your friend is a toxic one, prone to insecurities and negativity, those traits can rub off on you too. If you have found that others are noticing you being more caustic or sarcastic, or if you can feel yourself seeing more negatives than positives in life, it’s time to consider why. And if these behaviors are being influenced by someone in your life it’s probably time for that someone to go.
You do all the listening and none of the talking. Friendship is a two-way street. As much as you give someone and are there for them, they need to do the same for you. Narcissists may know this in theory, but find it nearly impossible to put into practice. If you find that in every conversation, no matter what the topic, your friend somehow makes everything about them and dominates the conversation, you may have developed a friendship with a narcissist. These people make maintaining a friendship very difficult. If your problems, concerns, accomplishments, or opinions go unheard and you find yourself constantly just listening and nodding, you’re probably in an unhealthy friendship.
You make all the effort. A friend that never reaches out to you is probably not really a friend. If you are making all the plans, all the calls, and all the effort to get together without reciprocation then the balance in your friendship is off. Or it’s not really a true friendship.
You begin to look for reasons to avoid them. It can happen slowly, you may not even realize you’re doing it, but when you have reached the point of dodging phone calls, avoiding texts, or changing behaviors because you don’t want to talk to someone, it’s time to call it. That friendship has ended.
How to break-up with a friend.
When you want to end a romantic relationship it’s pretty straightforward. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but what you are doing is very clear – you are breaking up.
In a friendship it can be a little trickier. You don’t necessarily sit down and explain that it’s not working out and that you’d like to see other people. But if things have been going down a bad road and you need to put some space between you and a friend you should make time for a conversation to explain. It can be awkward, but actually taking time to talk shows respect and maturity. Consider the following do’s and don’ts when it comes to modifying your friendship.
- Find a neutral space for a conversation.
- Be kind in your explanation.
- Make it a “change” or “modification” and not a break-up per se’.
- Have 2-3 clear reasons for the change.
- Leave things in as positive a way as possible.
- Be accusatory
- Blame or make them feel like they are a bad person.
- Be cruel
- Talk to other people about the details of your conversation.
- Be false or insincere
Can we get back together?
Yes, potentially. Re-initiating your friendship will depend on a number of factors, such as why you needed to distance yourself in the first place and whether those issues have resolved themselves. It’s also possible that the when you made the decision to put distance between you and your friend, no matter how gentle you tried to be, you burned that bridge. It can sometimes be even harder for someone to get over a broken friendship than to get over a broken romantic relationship.
Breaking-up with a friend can feel like an odd and uncomfortable thing to do. But if you aren’t getting what you need from that friendship, or if it’s turned toxic, it’s perfectly fine to move on. You alone have the right and the responsibility for determining who is part of your life and who isn’t. The key will be in how you handle making those decisions and implementing them.