The Most Positive Ways To Break Up With a Friend

Jo Yurcaba
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From Woman's Day

Friendships are incredibly important to us — so important that studies have found that stronger social support systems improve your health. But only if those people are actually supporting you. Just like good friendships can help you, toxic friendships can hurt your health.

There's a number of ways to spot a toxic friendship, and a few steps you can take to try to improve it. But if it doesn't get better, you might have to break up with that friend, which can be incredibly hard to do. Dr. Jenny Yip, a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles, told Woman's Day that the longer you've known someone, the more you've come to depend on them, and the harder it will be to end the friendship.

"Our support system is hugely important to our quality of life," Yip said. "It serves as a huge buffer to stressors in our environment." Losing one of those "buffers" can be just as difficult as any other major loss in your life, but it might be necessary if you have a friend who just isn't respecting you or your boundaries anymore. Here's how to tell if you need to break up with a friend, and how to do it.

They put you down

Kimberly Hershenson, a psychotherapist in New York, told Woman's Day that a friend repeatedly putting you down or insulting you is a sign that the friendship might need to end. But first, you should have an open conversation with them. "Communication is incredibly important," she said. "Talk to your friend about what's going right in a friendship so you both can be on the same page, and continue doing the behaviors that feel good. But also talk about what you feel is not going well and come up with solutions that you both can try to make the relationship work."

They cross your boundaries

Hershenson said a lack of boundaries can be a sign of an unhealthy friendship. "If they are not respecting your space, they're wanting to be around you all the time, or they're calling and texting daily or at hours that are not comfortable for you," then the friendship might need some firmer boundaries.

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Yip said conflicting boundaries or unclear boundaries can lead to a lot of misunderstanding in friendships. For example, someone with firmer boundaries would not want their friend telling them what to do or how to do things. But someone with looser boundaries who wants a closer connection could read their friend's firmer boundaries as a lack of support. "Boundaries mean different things for different people," Yip said. "So it really depends on if the boundaries that you feel comfortable with correspond to what your friend also feels comfortable with."

If it feels like your friend keeps crossing the line with how they talk to you or treat you, they might not know where the line is.

There's no balance in the relationship

If you feel like you do the majority of the listening and supporting in a friendship then it might be unbalanced. Hershenson said a friend who is "constantly coming to you with their issues and not reciprocating and allowing you to go to them for things" isn't upholding their end of the friendship.

Joyce Morley, a marriage and family therapist in Decatur, Georgia told HuffPost that a friend shouldn't be constantly taking from you and not giving. “Think of it this way: A friendship should be a reciprocated process, and each of you in the relationship should yield a return.”

They give their opinion without you asking

Yip said a friend who doesn't respect your boundaries might also give uninvited opinions or judgements. This could also mean talking about subjects that are off limits, such as your romantic relationships, or other important people in your life.

It's hard to spend time with them

Psychologist Irene S. Levine told HuffPost that it might be time to end a friendship if it seems increasingly difficult to spend time with them. They should make time for you, and if they don't, that could be a sign that it's time to move on.

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If you do see them, “pay attention to how you act when you do get together," Levine told HuffPost. "If you feel uncomfortable and have nothing to say, it may be because you no longer share much in common.”

Their life is full of drama

Everyone goes through tough times, but it might be a red flag if your friend seems to constantly attract drama. Kailee Place, a licensed professional counselor in Charleston, South Carolina, told Business Insider that the drama might be exciting at first, but it's a bad sign if their life seems to be a constant state of chaos. "Sooner or later, you'll become part of the chaos versus just a spectator," she said.

How to break up with a friend

If you've had a conversation with your friend about improving your relationship but nothing seems to change, it might be time to end it. Though you might just want to avoid making plans with the friend to phase them out of your life, Hershenson said it's better to be honest with them. She suggest saying something like "I feel like you're not respecting my needs, and I need to move on from the friendship." That way "they know exactly what's what's going on and they're not left in the dark with what with how you're feeling," she said.

Yip said you might not need to cut that friend out of your life entirely, but you should make it clear when you are OK with seeing them. For example, you might want to only see them in group settings.

Both Yip and Hershenson agree that you shouldn't ghost your friend to avoid talking to them or avoid ending the relationship directly. "People ghost because you don't want to deal with the problem, so you're just going to ignore it," Yip said. "However, that's very passive aggressive. A much healthier and mature way of handling it would be to voice your concerns in a very assertive way."

After you've ended the friendship, Hershenson suggests taking care of yourself, because it may hurt for a while. "Really take care of yourself and treat yourself like you're your own best friend," she said. Rather than avoid or mask the pain you might feel by socializing with other friends, she suggests taking a step back and spending some time alone to process the end of the friendship. "If it gets to a point where you're so upset over the situation, then it may be time to seek professional help from a therapist," she said.

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