10 Steps To Breaking Up With A Bad Friend

By Alison (Alley) Pezanoski-Browne

Toxic, or bad friendships are unhealthy. They drain you emotionally, mentally, and even physically. They can encourage bad habits, unhealthy ways of thinking about yourself, and serious damage to your self-esteem.

It’s not only romantic relationships that need break ups. Friendships sometimes need to end too. It’s an equally hard thing to do, especially in an era when social media makes it difficult to break ties with anyone. But sometimes it has to be done. It doesn’t mean that either of you are bad people. It just means that you no longer encourage the best out of each other.

You have a toxic friendship if you:

  • Put each other down.
  • Encourage each other’s bad habits.
  • Don’t let each other be yourselves.
  • Create a power imbalance where one of you has too much control over the other.
  • Don’t allow each other to talk about the things that matter in your lives. You don’t always have to agree or like the same things, but you should at least be able to talk about them.

A lot of the time the above warning signs of a bad friendship don’t necessarily forecast the death of the friendship, but just mean that you and your friend have some serious talking to do. But if you’ve tried to work it out and can’t, here’s what you do:


  1. Put up boundaries. If your bad friend is a co-worker, a roommate, or a family member, you probably can’t cut them out completely. In these cases, a trusted, neutral mediator should be called in to help you work out your issues. If there is no working it out, what you can do is put up boundaries. Only see that person when you have to. Don’t spend too much emotional or mental energy on them, and don’t share too much about your life with them.
  2. Prepare for the break up. Your friend break up will be hard, so prepare your exit strategy in advance. Decide if you want to stay casual acquaintances or if you want to cut them off completely, but realize that you can’t control their reaction. They might be so angry that they’ll want nothing to do with you, so prepare for this possibility in advance.
  3. Let it fade. Friend break ups don’t need to be dramatic. Author and life coach Christine Arylo says that it’s okay to let a friendship fade away quietly if you can. Stop calling or start making the conversations shorter. If you let it end this way, you keep things open for friendship in the future.
  4. Be nice. If you need to talk about a break up make sure you’re nice about it. Express your reasons honestly and firmly, but keep your criticism constructive and polite. Also focus on the ways in which your friendship showed you how you would like to change. Don’t make it all the other person’s fault.
  5. Focus on your good relationships. When you’re having a problem with a friend, it can seem like the end of the world. You can feel extremely alone. But chances are, you’re not. You most likely have other friends and family members to reach out to now that the negativity of your toxic friendship has cleared.
  6. Get to know yourself. Was the friend you’re breaking up with someone you spent a lot of time with? You may feel pretty lonely for a while if this is the case. But the alone time can be a great opportunity for you to hang out with yourself. Push yourself to do things just with you – go to the movies, read a book, take up a new hobby. Use the time to think about what sort of friendships you want to have from now on.
  7. Get to know new people. Ending a friendship is a great moment to start some new ones. Join a co-ed sports team or a book club or some other group that will introduce you to new people.
  8. Stay positive and stick with it. Write down a list of all of your reasons for breaking up with your friend. Remembering your reasons will help you keep up your nerve when things get rough. It’s also a good idea to write down the good friendships and other things you have in your life to remind you that just because this friendship is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean the world is too.
  9. Make it easier on yourself by cutting off electronic ties. It’s funny, but de-friending a person on Facebook can seem like the most drastic step in a break up. But it’ll be easier for you, and for them, if you cut off all electronic ties. Delete their number from your phone, de-friend, and move on.
  10. Remember the good times and learn from your mistakes. All friendships, even ones that were toxic in the end, must have had their good moments. Remember your old friend fondly and look at what went wrong. Thinking about this will make your friendships more positive in the future.


Photo: Nestor’s Blurrylife

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