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How to End a Friendship of Many Years

by Melanie Scheller

The end of a friendship can feel like a death, even when you choose to end the friendship yourself. Ending a friendship may be necessary because of complex issues, such as a friend's substance abuse, or simply because you and the friend have grown too far apart to maintain a connection. Whatever the reason, a calm and thoughtful approach can minimize the hurt to both parties.

How to End a Friendship of Many Years

Clarify your reasons for ending the friendship. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can provide insight into the best way to end the friendship. You could jot down the key points, or you could write a letter to your friend explaining your decision – with no intention of sending it. Talking to another friend or a professional counselor can also help you sort out your thoughts.

Plan your strategy. You can tell your friend directly that you want to end the friendship, or you can simply make yourself unavailable and hope she takes the hint. Think of how you'd want to be treated if the positions were reversed. How would you feel if a close friend stopped returning your phone calls and began making excuses about being too busy to get together? If you dread having an emotional face-to-face conversation, think about whether sending an email or letter would be an honorable end to the friendship. Most etiquette professionals agree that ending a friendship with a text message is in poor taste.

Acknowledge the positive things about the friendship. Memories of the good times you've had with your friend can weaken your resolve to end the relationship. Take time to review those memories before you meet with your friend or write a letter. Looking at old photographs or souvenirs can refresh your memory. Allow yourself to experience whatever feelings may be triggered by this process. When you're done, remind yourself again of your reasons for ending the friendship.

Prepare yourself for your friend's reaction. Based on your history together, think of how your friend is apt to respond. Will he cry, become angry or act like he doesn’t care? Imagine what you could say or do to keep the conversation on track. To avoid becoming defensive, be prepared to acknowledge any mistakes you've made that may have contributed to the friendship's decline. Consider whether you're open to negotiating if your friend apologizes, offers to change his behavior or pleads with you to change your mind.

Let yourself grieve. Friends can't be replaced like burned-out light bulbs. When a friendship ends, there's no need to rush out and find a dozen new ones. Mourn the old friendship and acknowledge the gifts it brought you. The wisdom you've gained from the friendship -- and its end -- will be yours forever.

About the Author

Melanie Scheller has been writing about health for more than 20 years. Her work has been published in "American Baby," "Medical Self-Care" and "Current Health." Scheller holds a Master of Public Health and a Master of Education.

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