Advice column: how do you break up with a friend? (part I)

Dear Seer,

I have a friend that I feel is really not the person I met and became friends with anymore. I mean, if we met today, we would never become close. We don’t have that much in common, and sometimes I find him to be really offensive and irritating. I don’t think he’s really that into me a lot of the time, either. I just don’t know how to break it off. We’ve been friends for more than a decade, and we have people in common. Usually, all my friendships end with a blowup or a situation (someone divorces or some fight happens and everyone chooses sides). How do I get out of this relationship gracefully? Thanks!

–Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’

Dear Lost,

It can be done. In my experience I can think of two kinds of relationships and their endings. There are the kind that end with confrontations and the kind that die out. There are a great variety of relationships within both of those ilks, but they have two things in common: how you are going to handle them moving forward.


I handle with confrontation the relationships where I am in constant contact with the other person, I cannot escape them, they are all up in my grill, they cannot understand why I don’t want to be friends anymore, and/or it is getting awkward. First, I figure out what I want to say. It’s best if I can run it by someone else first. You can even write a script if you need to, like a weirdo. It doesn’t–and shouldn’t–have to get into what an asshole the other person is, only that I don’t want to continue the relationship anymore. Keep it about you, and that you don’t feel that this is working for you anymore. You don’t have a lot in common. You wish them well, but you feel like you’re going in different directions and talking about different things. The friendship killer is always, “My life is really full right now.” Only psychos don’t get that one. If someone tells you their life is too full for this relationship, that means they don’t like you anymore. I’m sorry. I still like you. Email me and we’ll IM or something. They can eat a dick.

If you really feel uncomfortable because of some behavior, you can mention it, but it’s usually not best. See, you don’t want to work on your relationship together, so getting into what is wrong with the other person is really a little unfair. Just as you don’t tell your partner everything he or she needs to work on when you leave, you don’t tell a soon-to-be-ex friend that they need to get their shit together, and see ya! This confrontation isn’t for processing. It’s for closure and explanation, so they’ll stop calling. Telling them why is only really cool if the other person has been especially changed since you’ve met them (into drugs, joined a cult, abusive behavior, grand larceny, or something else that is way against your values and lifestyle), and you feel what they’re up to is really dangerous to you/them/society/the children (at least you’re thinking of them–but not like that), or they really can’t get what you’re saying otherwise.

Example: someone I knew was engaged to a friend, and involved in a secret internet relationship with another person who lived across the country. This person expected me to be true to her throughout breaking up with my friend and marrying the secret boyfriend. I didn’t want to. She couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to kick it anymore, because she didn’t see anything wrong with her behavior. I needed to point out how her behavior hurt me, how it was against my values, how I felt I didn’t really know her, and how I felt I never really did.

I did not tell her what I thought of her choices, because that was irrelevant. Judgment has no place in this sort of confrontation. You are trying to get out of this relationship, and telling them what you think of them is only tying you to the person. You need to pinch this shit off, and the less you say, the better. Keep it moving, and if you can, wish them well. The more good feelings you can end things on, the better. You may have to see this person again someday, and your circles may overlap. This person is in a third degree of mine, and I don’t care if I hear about her from other people. It isn’t awkward. If I see her, I won’t mind. We aren’t friends, and we aren’t enemies. Mission accomplished.

I find a neutral place to have the confrontation. Not at my house, not at theirs, not at mutual friend’s. A cafe or a park or something works well. It needs to be a place where everyone can escape as soon as it’s over, and where there are no witnesses who are in your circle to stir shit up. It should be private to your community, in case someone feels embarrassed. No alcohol if it might get volatile (I don’t know if your people are crazy or not). Take care of all your debts with this person as well. If they owe you money, you have to forget about that shit. Sorry; that’s part of the price of getting out.

Personally, I think these things are done best in person. I think it is way more respectful than any other way. Yes, it takes more nads. Yes, it’s scarier. But people don’t feel as disregarded or disrespected when you actually face them and say something kindly then when you rattle off an email or god forbid a fucking text or facebook message. It’s also way more final and much less likely to be misunderstood. So often, people don’t understand the tone of an email and are offended. Kind words in person are easily interpreted. You’re also far less likely to see that shit come round to you, me, and everyone we know in this age of digital transmission. I mean, really, what’s the biggest fear of talking to them? That they’ll be mad at you? Man the fuck up and just do it. Once you do it one time, you’ll be able to do it again. If you run away like a little bitch, you’ll never have this skill.

I will handle the other kind of friend break-up in another post. This is getting lengthy!

your pal



One comment

  1. Pingback: Advice column: how do you break up with a friend? (part II) | Occipital Hazard

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