Knowing When To End A Friendship

This originally appeared on Mamamia. Republished here with permission.

Last year I had to euthanize a friendship. It had been unwell for some time but after attempting all manner of optimistic treatments to try and nurse it back to good health, I finally realized I had to end its suffering.

Or, rather, my suffering.

This person was toxic and after every interaction, I felt angry, upset, or frustrated. There was no upside to this friendship anymore and if there ever had been, I could no longer recall what it was.

And so I ended it.

Unlike romantic relationships which are understood to usually have an expiration date, there’s this weird belief that friendships should last forever. But why?

There are friends who you have nothing in common with anymore—except that you used to be friends.

There are friends whose lives are just so different to yours that it becomes difficult to remain close.

There are friends who move countries, who get busy, who make other friends.

But there is no de-friend button in life.

So what do you do?

There are two ways you can end a friendship: quickly and with lots of drama; or slowly, allowing it to simply die of neglect. A lot like any plant I have ever owned.

From experience, I find that the second way, although far less satisfying, is ultimately the most effective. And far less confronting. (Coward? Who, me?)

Because if you confront your soon-to-be ex-friend about why the friendship is no longer working for you and try to detail all the reasons why you’re breaking up with them, they will inevitably defend themselves. Probably, they will accuse you of doing all sorts of things that have contributed to the toxic dynamic between you and they may well be right.

There will be heated discussion over wine, coffee, email, and text. It will be exhausting and emotional and at the end of it, if your friendship is truly broken and irretrievable, nothing much will have changed.

Sometimes it’s just time to walk away. Just like with any other kind of relationship.

That’s why I’ve come to favor the death-by-neglect approach. Scale back communication. Take longer to answer texts. Be unavailable for social arrangements. Eventually, they’ll get it. Hopefully, they’ll get it.

And you’ll be free.

Of course, if you are American, you may want to try friendship counseling which is one of the fastest growing areas of therapy. According to news reports:

As the phrase ‘toxic friends’ becomes commonplace (and recognized by the American Psychological Association), more than 10,000 registered psychologists and counselors are offering sessions on relationships with friends in the U.S.

Friendship counseling is a growing trend among women who are finding themselves feuding with the one’s they love—outside of their marriage.

Christy Stewart, 32, a school teacher and nanny, spent more than $3,000 on counseling with her best friend of six years, Kim, after their co-dependent relationship grew strained and toxic.

I’m not suggesting you chuck away a friendship if you think it still has potential. But sometimes, you know it doesn’t. Sometimes, you look at a friendship dispassionately and realize this person adds no value to your life. In fact, they diminish it.

And life’s too short for toxic friends.

Mia Freedman is the editor and publisher of, the website she founded in 2007 when she left traditional media and didn’t quite know what else to do next. You can follow Mia on twitter @miafreedman.

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