How do you back away from an unhealthy friendship without hurting someone’s feelings?
Here are a few tips to help you handle a tricky, and often uncomfortable, situation in way that minimizes hurt:
Make sure you really want to back away. Nobody’s perfect and friends, even very good ones, can say or do something wrong once in a while. If there has been a minor misunderstanding or disappointment, talk about it.
Never make the decision to end a friendship in anger. Give yourself a cooling off period to reconsider and also to figure out the best way to do it.
Consider whether you really need to end the friendship? Can you downgrade the relationship so you see each other less often or dilute it by seeing each other within the context of a group? Can you simply take a break (time off) to give each other a breather?
If the relationship isn’t very close to start with, you can merely drift apart. Make yourself less accessible. Tell a white lie and tell your friend how busy you are---e.g. studying, working, helping your parents, or seeing your significant other.
If you decide to go ahead with the breakup, develop a script and practice it---you might even want to put your thoughts in writing so you are clear to yourself and in your delivery.
Try to avoid blaming the other person. People change and their friendships change over time. Take responsibility for making the decision and handle the breakup with grace. After all, why would you want to hurt someone who once was your friend?
Dr. Irene S. Levine
The Friendship Doctor
Author of Best Friends Forever, Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend