How To Break Up With A Friend–And How I Fell Short
The exact reason is neither here nor there, but I had to break up with one of my friends a while ago. I tried responding to her invites with an “I have to wash my hair” excuse nearly 1,000 times, hoping they would peter out. They didn’t. So I decided to tell her the truth—via text.
I still have it in my phone, though I’m not sure why. It reads:
“I dont feel the same about you and our friendship since you treated your daughter that way and I cant get it out of my head. when we meet up, I end up uncomfortable and anxious. My mental health is my priority–so it would just be better for me if we stopped doing stuff together. Sorry”
Years later, my attempt at honesty (I may have owed her that—I just didn’t owe her my brutal brand of it) still makes my neck tense when I think of it. It turns out that there is good reason that I feel my tendons tighten, because according to the civilized world, I really f*cked up.
Here’s how the pros, as they were, say to navigate a friend breakup:
Meet In Person
Speaking to Time, Rachel Sussman, a New York City psychotherapist and author of “The Breakup Bible,” insists that face-to-face is the only mature and considerate way to go. But Guy Winch, a New York City psychologist and author of “How to Fix a Broken Heart,” adds that a text may be sufficient—if the relationship is fairly new. Welp, right out of the gates I biffed it, since our friendship was nearly a decade old and was firmly established. In retrospect, I could have taken a kinder approach; she surely had earned one.
Make Sure They Know Their Friendship Was Meaningful
Clinical and forensic psychologist Ahona Guha’s counsel is very specific:
“State clearly that you have valued the friendship…but that you cannot continue your contact any longer.” This sage advice didn’t even cross my mind, since I was hyper-focused on expressing my thoughts. And, honestly, I did truly value the friendship. She had been a main source of support during my horrible and isolating mental health crisis, a clinical depression that dragged on for years. I certainly could have devoted a few words to thank her for her steadfast loyalty. Instead, I plowed forward and omitted that very relevant fact.
Explain Why, But Don’t Point Fingers
Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of “The Friendship Fix,” tells Buzzfeed that, when approaching a breakup, you need to avoid mentioning their shortcomings, and make it about you and your needs. Ugh. When I think about this one, my breakup text nearly makes me sick. Within the first sentence, I indict her, when it would have been sufficient to pinpoint my anxiety as the core catalyst. I absolutely didn’t “make it about me and my needs”; I made it about her and how she felt short in my eyes. I, sadly, showed little mercy.
I really thought I was going the right route, especially since her invitations didn’t organically fizzle out. I chose texting since I didn’t want her to have to juggle plans and meet me over lattes, just to hear I didn’t want to be her friend anymore. And, I wanted to give her an explanation instead of ghosting her. But a little pre-breakup research could have made the whole thing easier on her. Would I do things differently next time? Yes. Do I pray there won’t be a next time? Also yes. One can only hope.