How to End a Toxic Friendship

Katie Sweeney

I’ll never forget the moment I first realized I had to break up with one of my best friends. She was my freshman roommate in college, and although we had our fair share of fights, our friendship extended past the four years of school and into our early 20s. I lived in Spain, and she came to visit for a few weeks. While I loved the culture, she hated it, and the entire trip was a nightmare. One night, she yelled out loud how much she disapproved of all of my Spanish friends (luckily they didn’t understand her). Another night, after I begged her to not dress so obviously American, her expensive designer purse was stolen right out of her hands.

On her second-to-last night, she picked a fight with a feisty Spaniard. As I stepped in to mediate, I was sucker-punched and knocked out cold in front of a discoteca in Barcelona. That was the last straw. When I came to and found her sitting on the curb crying hysterically, I knew that once she got on the plane to return home, I would not be seeing her anymore. Having her as a friend was literally threatening my life.

Ending a toxic friendship is never an easy decision, and it’s even harder to take the steps to dissolve the relationship. Yet as you get older, you learn that you don’t have time for people who are draining, dishonest, and disappointing. Why waste a night hanging out with a toxic friend when you could be at home watching The Bachelor with your long-time bestie? There comes a point in a woman’s life when she realizes she’s got to cut the negative people out. If you’ve recently come to the realization that a friendship isn’t working out, here’s how to end it.

Figure out if the friend is actually toxic. 

Are you just going through a rough patch in the friendship, or is she really a toxic person? In order to identify a toxic personality, you have to understand how this type of person acts. Toxic people are controlling and manipulative. They disregard your boundaries, always have to be right, take without giving, love to be victims, don’t take responsibility for their actions, lack accountability, and are dishonest. If you come across these traits, it’s probably time to consider cutting her off.

Look for patterns.

You can’t just decide to dump a friend overnight; you have to look for patterns of behavior that prove she’s no longer worth your time. Does she only talk about herself when you hang out? Is she constantly putting you down in front of your boyfriend? Make note of these actions, and once they’ve been happening for a while, take action.

Speak up.

Friendships are built on communication, so if you’re upset about one of her bad habits that’s turned into a pattern, speak up. Chat with her in a nonconfrontational manner (when you are both sober). Say something like, Hey, you’ve hosted two parties in the last two months, and I cooked all the food. You never thanked me or offered to help me with the cost of the ingredients. That’s not really cool. If she’s a good friend, she’ll apologize, but if you think she’s taking you for granted, end the relationship before she turns you into her personal caterer.

Ask yourself some tough questions.

Do you want someone in your life who is actively opposed to making your life better? To making you feel good? Everyone will answer no, but it may not be that easy to accept. Before you make your decision to cut someone out, think about the toxic person and ask yourself these questions: Can you trust her? Is she committed to making your life better? Does she care for and respect you? Does she bring out the best in you?

Stand by your decision.

Once you make the decision to close the book on your friendship, stand by your choice. Be clear with your intentions. If you tell her you don’t want to see her again but she hangs out with mutual friends, take a break from those connections for a few months.

Be prepared for the worst.

Know that your friend might get upset. Your decision could blow up in your face, and things may get worse before they get better. Accept that it might be a process. She might not respect your boundaries and start commenting on all of your Instagram photos. If she does, do what you need to do to find peace. Block her from being able to see your posts, or refrain from posting on Instagram for a month or two.

Explain things, but not overly so.

You don’t owe her a long-winded explanation. Simply say something like I believe our friendship has run its course. While I’ve had so much fun with you over the years, it’s time for me to move on. Or I don’t like the person I become when I’m hanging out with you. Therefore, in order for me to be okay with myself, I need to stop being your friend. If you feel more comfortable writing out your feelings in a letter, do so. Just write, read, and edit it before you send it. Note that a letter or email is something she can always keep—and show to other people. If you’re worried about her starting a friend war, write a letter but don’t send it. Use it for confidence and to remember key talking points when you have the cutting-off conversation. Don’t argue. Just state your boundaries and get out as quickly as possible—before she can cause a scene or make you feel bad.

Move on.

Sometimes you don’t have to tell the toxic person you’re cutting her out of your life. Sometimes you can just distance yourself. That’s what I did with my college roommate. She lived in California, and I didn’t move back from Spain until a few years later, at which point, I got a new phone number and email. Take the necessary means to completely move on. Block her from being able to contact you on any social media platforms. Block her from being able to text you or call you. Change her contact name in your phone to “Don’t Answer: Toxic Person” so you know not to respond if she randomly texts you two years down the line.

To learn more about ending toxic relationships, refer to the four books below.

Have you had to end a friendship? How did you do it? Tell us in the comments!

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