Do I Have to Explain Why I'm Ending a Friendship?

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Ending a friendship can be painful, but if the friendship has turned toxic -- if your friend is critical, demanding or is a taker -- it is best to end it as soon as possible. You must decide whether to explain why the friendship must end. Some people cut ties without explanation. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

The Upside

An explanation is the kind thing to do, unless your friend has done something cruel. In that case, you don't owe your friend anything. Ideally, a discussion about why you are ending the relationship will bring closure and allow both of you to gracefully go your separate ways. The best way to have this discussion is face-to-face to avoid any misunderstandings, but if your friend has been cruel or abusive, you might feel safer sending an email or handwritten letter. Never send a text to end a friendship.

The Downside

As with any honest discussion -- whether in person or in writing -- there is the risk of drama and hurt feelings if your friend feels he or she has been wronged. Your friend might plead her case, promising to change. She might be so hurt that she seeks revenge through gossiping about you to others. If you are going to make an explanation, be prepared to handle the hurt and anger that come your way, and be prepared to stand firm if your friend wishes to continue the friendship.

Winding Down

In some cases, gradually spending less time with your friend may be the best way to go, according to Jan Yager, professional relationship consultant and award-winning author of “When Friendship Hurts: How to Deal With Friends Who Betray, Abandon, or Wound You.” In The New York article, "It's Not Me, It's You," Yager says that breaking off gradually can avoid drama and hurt feelings. Instead of doing lunch every week, start doing it every other week. It is fine to tell a white lie to avoid hurting someone's feelings, says Dr. Carol Landau, a professor of psychiatry at Brown University, also quoted in the Times article. For example, you might say that you were out of town visiting family when your friend threw her holiday party. In this way, let the friendship die a natural death.

Moving On

Often, friendships end because life takes you in different directions. One friend marries and has children. The other lives the single life. Look to make new friends in the direction your life has taken. It is trickier to move on if you and your friend move in the same circles. You may see your friend at events, which may trigger painful feelings in your friend even years later, according to Unless you want to rekindle the friendship, treat your friend as a polite acquaintance.