Oct 22, 2021
How to end a friendship or a romantic relationship

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash 

You thought you were best friends forever or a love story for the ages. Suddenly, you realize you don't share the same values anymore - or perhaps you don't have the same feelings you used to have. You've spent a big part of your life with someone you thought wanted the same things as you did, but something has changed and you can't go on like that. What happens now? Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to let that person go. A breakup is usually thought to be between romantic partners, but ending things with a friend can be just as hard.

As Dr. Sami Schalk states on Twitter, ending a friendship has a real emotional impact that should not be disregarded. The feelings involved in either connection are valid, be it a friendship or a relationship.

In this blog post, we explore some reasons why people end their relationships and how to break up in the best way.

Why would you consider ending a relationship

One of you moves away

Just as physical distance can be the final stop for a relationship, it can end a friendship. If you are used to meeting up with a certain friend face to face and one of you moves away, the transition to online friends can be difficult. Changing the way you connect with each other can be done, but both parties need to put in the effort. You need to actively decide to start conversations over messaging apps or perhaps plan specific times you can hang out over video calls. Not all friendships survive this transition. The conversations can either start feeling artificial or just fizzle out. Sometimes the kindest thing to do is to accept that the connection just doesn't work without meetups in the physical world and move on.

You've drifted apart

Not all distance is physical. It is natural to change interests and priorities over time and sometimes that means you grow apart from friends you were close to before. It doesn't have to mean you or your friend are doing anything wrong, this is a normal part of life. Whether your changing life affects your relationship with a particular person depends a lot on what your connection is based on. If you found a friend through a common hobby and that is the only thing keeping you together, it will be harder to maintain the connection when one moves on to different activities. Especially for younger folks who are still finding themselves, growing older can bring out personality differences you weren't aware of before. It does not have to be a relationship breaker, unless the difference creates existential conflicts you cannot resolve.

When friends change, it can happen that they are no longer someone you can relate to. Communicating with different people is very enriching for your understanding of the world, but the main thing is that friendships are still making your life better. If you realize you feel worse about yourself after meeting up with certain friends, try to evaluate why that is. A friendship that tears you down instead of building you up means that this person is no longer a good partner for you.

It's not an equal partnership

One of the important red flags to look out for is when the relationship is one-sided. Recognizing that can be difficult if you're used to the status quo. If you're not sure if it applies to you, try considering some of these questions:

  • Do you only talk with this friend when you reach out to them?
  • Does this friend only contact you when they need something from you?
  • Are you doing most of the emotional labor in the relationship?
  • Do you feel valued and listened to?
  • Does the friend accept when you say "no" to something?

If your friend seems to only be present when they have something to gain from the situation or when they need support, take a hard look at whether you need someone like that in your life. Perhaps your energy would be better spent on someone who puts an equal amount of effort into supporting you.

The relationship causes stress

Both friendships and romantic relationships should be something that add to your life and make it better. If the stress it causes outweighs the positives, it's time to make changes or let that friendship go. It's normal to have occasional stress in a relationship, but a consistently negative connection is damaging to your mental health and self-esteem.

In some cases, you can feel that stress is a constant background feature. It piles up until the connection starts tearing at the seams. In others, the conflict happens over a specific issue or event. If there is still mutual respect, there is hope to resolve the issue and move on. But sometimes, the clash pushes people to a breaking point and the friendship ends.

Another stress-causing factor is if your friend keeps bringing drama with them. You know the type - a day is boring if they haven't stirred the pot and caused someone to be upset. Everything is a problem, everyone is a cause for gossip and any obstacle is a potentially world-ending issue.

A friend like that can end up draining you like a vampire, leaving you little energy to deal with things that actually matter. Does their presence in your life spark joy? If not, it might be time for a little house cleaning.

Ending a friendship vs ending a relationship

In a lot of ways, ending platonic and romantic connections are similar, for example:

  • the ending can evoke strong feelings,
  • the other person can have been a vital part of your support circle,
  • severing the connection can require significant changes in your routines and the groups you socialize with, depending on how entwined your lives had become.

There are some additional difficulties you can expect when ending a romantic connection, especially if you're married. As hard as it is to say goodbye to a friend, in a relationship you are more likely to have financial and material entanglements. When dissolving a marriage, there is the additional layer of legal matters, though that can happen with long-term partners even without marriage, depending on the local laws.

Another major difference is that while relationships tend to have a clear ending, it's not as common to explicitly cut ties with a friend. With most friendships, a gradual fade-out is more likely to happen, where you talk less and less with that friend until they are considered more of an acquaintance or a friend from the past.

It can be beneficial to have a clearly defined break in a friendship as well. If you want to get closure when ending a friendship, the second part of this article should help you achieve that. 

How to end a friendship or a romantic relationship

Things to consider

Once you have decided you don't want to be friends anymore or that the relationship is dead, the next step is deciding how to tackle the issue.

If you have any financial, material, or work-related entanglements, first consider how to deal with those in case the breakup goes badly. Safety should be your top priority, so you may want to postpone the discussion until you feel you can get a safe break.

In case of a toxic relationship, you need to be ready for the possibility that the other side will not want to let things go. It can be helpful to be prepared to block their number and all social media contacts with them. This way you can hopefully make a clean escape and not have them harass you later.

Arrange the talk

When you are ready to handle the breaking up with your partner or your friend, it's best to have a face-to-face conversation. They were important to you in your life, so show them kindness and respect when tackling such an emotionally difficult topic.

An exception to this rule is if meeting them in person would pose a threat to you (like if you were in an abusive relationship) or if you cannot meet up due to distance or other significant restrictions. If you have no such things to take into consideration, do try to avoid breaking up over text. Even a call or an email is more decent.


Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash 


For choosing where to have the conversation, a public place can be a great option. Once the talk is over, you can make a quick exit without being stuck in someone's home. Try to find a somewhat secluded spot though - the breakup should not be a public spectacle.

In some cases, you may want to not have a direct confrontation at all - sometimes you have already drifted so far apart with your friend that you barely talk anymore. In a situation like that, it might be easier to just let things fade out naturally unless you feel like closure would help both parties.

Be kind

During the talk, be honest and clear. Focus on delivering an "I"-message, phrasing things through your own emotions and experiences. Avoid accusing your conversation partner. That would only serve to put them on the defensive and conversations are not as effective when one side hides behind a wall.

Leave space for your friend to speak as well, don't dominate the entire conversation. They need a chance to have their own say and get closure. It might mean enduring a few uncomfortable silent moments to give them time to formulate their feelings into sentences.

Be specific about your expectations. Do you wish to have a clean-cut and avoid further communication? Make sure you communicate that. Do you want to take a break? If so, set clear boundaries for the break so you don't end up in a Rachel and Ross kind of situation.

Do you wish to still give the friendship or relationship a chance? In that case, what needs to change in order to make things work? These are important things to figure out with the other person if you expect to make a difference for the future.

Keep in mind that it's likely that the other person feels hurt and needs time to process everything. This is not an excuse to not deal with the situation at all, but rather a helpful thing to remember. Listen to their concerns, hear them out. While you had already made a decision, they are still figuring things out.

What to do once it's over

Well done, you handled the difficult part! As hard as it might feel now, as long as you did this for a good reason it will change your life for the better. Now take some time for yourself. Allow yourself to go through your thoughts and feelings, especially if they are painful. Show yourself the same kind of kindness you showed to your former friend or partner. Don't be hard on yourself if you feel emotionally drained, sad, or even grieving. You lost something that had been a part of your life. It might even feel like you lost a part of yourself. As licensed psychotherapist Sharon Peykar explains in this Instagram post, grieving a friendship is not abnormal. The feelings you're experiencing are just as natural as when cutting a romantic attachment.

Often we don’t acknowledge the layers of grief when a friendship ends because we were taught that not all losses are considered “socially acceptable. -Sharon Peykar, LCSW

While you're recovering from the end of this one connection, it helps to reach out to others. It can be other friends or family - or it can be new people to show yourself that there are more future friends still waiting for you. When you feel ready to bring something (or rather someone) new to your life, we do have an app for that. Respect and honesty are cornerstones of any good friendship and those are also the core values of Hily. With over 22 million users, you're sure to find someone you click with. Don't worry about getting into a new relationship or replacing your former best friend - just make some connections with people. The rest is for the future.

Conclusion

There is no cookie-cutter solution or specific rules to follow when you feel like you can't be friends with someone anymore. Both friendships and relationships are messy and they can hurt. But they also bring a lot of joy and comfort, as long as you find the right people at the right time.

We hope this article can serve as a brief guideline. The most important thing is that you look out for yourself and decide what you really need.

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