How to End a Friendship in Your 30s, According to Experts
Has your friendship turned sour? Read these expert tips on the most effective way to cut ties.
Friendships – much like relationships — are as nuanced as they are layered and complex. And the types of friendships that worked for you as a teen, or an undergrad, or while navigating the bottom rung of the career ladder, may no longer serve you in your thirties.
In best case scenarios, a friendship can become stale. Worst case? Toxic. And while there may never be an ideal time to end a friendship, there are certainly ways to approach it that will ease the pain for both parties involved.
However graciously you go about it, if you’re planning on ending a friendship, chances are that your former friend will be hurt, confused or even angry. We spoke to Danielle Jackson, female friendship coach and founder of Better Female Friendship, to find out how to end a friendship in your 30s.
Jackson’s first piece of advice is to take a step back from the situation to ensure that the other person is aware of the reason you’re ending the friendship. So before pulling the plug completely, ask yourself whether you’ve made the friend aware that you’re not happy with their behavior.
Jackson says, “if there’s something your friend habitually does that makes you feel disrespected, but she doesn’t know about it, there’s still work to be done prior to making your decision.” She says that the question to always keep front of mind is, “If my friend had access to all of the information regarding our friendship and how I’m feeling, would she choose to behave differently?”
So, if your friend knew you felt unsupported at a certain event, or she knew you were consistently bothered by something, would she operate differently if you told her she was upsetting you? By withholding this sort of information from our friends, we sometimes don’t give them the benefit of the doubt or offer them the chance to change.
Jackson also notes that in some instances, we’re inclined to believe that “because there’s tension or awkwardness in a friendship it’s reason enough that it isn’t going to work.” Make sure that your friend is aware of any ways they may be upsetting you. This ensures there will be no crossed wires or misunderstanding when it comes to ending a friendship.
Another factor to bear in mind is the mode in which you choose to end the friendship matters. It should be determined according to both the history and dynamics of your relationship, and what you feel the friendship is owed. But, says Jackson, “you have to end it with as much dignity and grace as you feel the friendship commands. So, if you have respect for your friend and the bond you once had, it’s important to end it in a way that communicates that.”
It’s also worth taking into account how frequently you see each other, and what your main method of contact is. “So,” says Jackson, “if you’re used to seeing each other every day, it might feel inappropriate to end it via text, as they might feel very reductive to the friendship.” Again, ask yourself the question: “is the mode I’m using to communicate respectful of the friendship’s depth and history?” Use your answer to determine how you’re going to do it and what works best.
It’s also really important to be honest and direct when calling time on a friendship, rather than letting it fade out gradually, or denying anything is wrong if your friend tries to call it out to avoid any awkwardness or confrontation. Yes, it will be tense. Yes, it’s bound to be painful for you both. “But at least they will respect the fact that you gave them the truth,” says Jackson. Because, while it might hurt their feelings, try to see ending a friendship as an act of generosity – that’s a radical reframe.
Jackson suggests, “It’s generous for you to release yourself from a situation where you don’t feel seen or heard and your consistently dissatisfied and disappointed. And it’s an act of generosity for them too, because they shouldn’t be in a friendship with someone who doesn’t appreciate their company.” So, if you try to see it as a way to set you both free from a connection that isn’t fulfilling to either party, then it’s a gracious thing to do. Reframing can go a long way to removing some of the timidity and anxiety around it.
Be careful of the language that you use. Instead of pointing out the things they’re doing wrong, focus instead on what you want to pursue, which is being in spaces where you feel seen, safe and heard, where you can grow and where you feel affirmed. Jackson suggests making it “less about your friends inadequacies and more about you living a life that feels in alignment with your values.”
For example, let’s say that you feel that your friend is constantly degrading you or very critical of you and you just don’t want to hear it anymore. If you’ve already communicated this to her in an attempt to reconcile things and it didn’t work, then you might tell her that while you appreciate the history of your friendship, you now want to prioritize being in relationships where you can speak a little more freely.
Jackson says that while “the subtext or meta message might be the same, via our language, we’re not making it about the other person being flawed, but rather focusing on what you feel compelled to pursue. It’s a minor tweak but it helps end things graciously and allows us to and act tenderly and compassionately towards someone we once cared about.”
Next up? You need to figure out your social media approach, because to end a friendship and then to still be consuming their content is all kinds of bad news. So, you need to ask yourself: what mode of action do you need to heal and to move forward as much as possible? Do you need to block? Mute? Unfriend? Delete?
Jackson says, “figure that out so you can move forward as much as possible. And then, be mindful of what you share with mutual friends, which can become problematic. Because unfortunately even when those friends have good intentions, things can get messy.”
Because, if your goal is to release the dynamic and pursue something healthier, think about whether venting to other people and sharing what went wrong in an attempt to get people on your side is productive to meeting your goal of moving forward. Keeping that front of mind can help determine how we should act in certain situations.
Finally, try to be grateful for what you guys had. Jackson says, “as a friendship coach, one of the things I hear most often from women who are reluctant to release a friendship is that their friend was a good person. And ending a friendship doesn’t have to be about vilifying her; it’s about you having healthy connections where you feel like you can grow.”
Instead of holding resentment towards your friend, be thankful for the good times, and know that by ending the friendship you’ve not only set a boundary for future relationships, but you’ve also set yourself free from something that was no longer working. And there truly isn’t a bigger gift of self-love than that.