How To Break Away From A Longtime Friend


The Spice Girls were wrong: Sometimes friendships do end (see: Spice Girls 2016). Throw your hands up, because it just happens. And while there are plenty of pieces out there talking about how to break up with a friend who’s just “too much” or more toxic than a day trip to scenic Chernobyl, far less is said about those people who are just…there, long after you ceased to have anything in common with them. The ones you don’t dislike, but may have outgrown.

So, how do you break away? And how do you keep your sanity intact in the process? Here are some less painful ways to end a friendship that’s just not working for you anymore.

Fade Out

This is the easiest, if not most effective method of saying goodbye. Chances are — and this might sting a little — your friend is just as done with your friendship as you are, so if you just stop texting outside of a “Happy Birthday” or a “sorry to hear about your dog,” they might not be so surprised. Then, as you lose further and further touch (imagine slipping away from each other into a warm void of safety to make yourself feel better), you won’t even have to do that anymore. It’s possible that your lack of contact might kick up an initial spurt of resistance because your soon to be ex-friend might wonder why they haven’t heard from you, but if you can stop yourself from responding right away (or at all), everything should just die down on its own.

Stop Guilt-Liking On Social Media

You don’t have to delete your Facebook or even unfollow the friend you’re breaking away from (although unfollowing (or even just muting) is a lot less drama than unfriending), but social media adds a whole new layer of “let’s get in touch” that you want to stay away from. Because most of us haven’t figured out how to make ourselves invisible when we’re scrolling our feeds, people could message us at any time because they misinterpret a polite like as a true means of wanting to connect. That’s why you shouldn’t use those awful new expression things, and why you should never like or comment on a post that you think might facilitate the awful dance of “let’s get together for coffee real soon.”

It’s tough to talk about being mindful on Facebook–the same place your relatives post their well-researched theories on where America is headed–but sometimes it helps to ask yourself “am I just liking this status out of guilt because I don’t hang out with this person more, even though we haven’t had anything in common since freshman year of college and that was only because we were forced to live together by a computer system?” If the answer is yes, don’t do it.

Don’t Make Plans You Have No Intention Of Keeping

Last year, The New Yorker published an amazing fictional conversation between two people who planned to hang out but never did, and then one-upped each other in trying to decide who was the worst for making and breaking plans. The verdict? Everyone in the scenario. It’s normal to feel a little guilt when you see someone and feel like you should make an effort, but a great way of taking care of yourself (and remembering that guilt is useless) is to repeat the mantra “we’ll never have drinks” in your head as you politely tell the person you’re breaking away from how great it is to see them. Then just tell them you have to run (even if you don’t) and hightail it on out of there, if you can. If it’s a party situation, excuse yourself to visit the bathroom (where the line will last forever) and continue reminding yourself that not wanting to hang out with this person you’ve outgrown doesn’t make you a bad person. You’ll see them at another party. You’ll feel a little bit warm. And then you’ll move on.

Also: if the other person tries to make concrete plans with you and can’t take the hint when you say “oh man, I’m so busy right now. Let’s text it out,” there’s not much you can do. They might think you’re a dick for never texting, but since we’re all adults here, it’s unlikely they’ll care for very long.

Remember That High School Is Over

If you want your future, sometimes it’s okay to forget your past (that’s the second quality Spice Girls reference in this piece, so you know we’re getting serious), and that means saying goodbye to people you were friends with way back when; people you have no real connection with now. It’s hard to admit, but it seems more and more like a chore to see them when someone comes into town for Christmas because the only thing you can really talk about now is the fact that Mrs. McElroy really didn’t have any idea of what she was talking about when she told you that diagramming sentences was one of the most important skills you’d use in the real world. What’s that conversation going to last, like two hours, tops?

The same goes for people who you took a college class with, childhood friends with whom you were pushed together by parents who were friends with each other, and former co-workers who you swore you’d always stay close with but have nothing in common with now that you don’t even share the same copier code.

So say no to “drinks one evening” because “ugh, I have to” and hang out with the people you actually care about now. Or watch Netflix. No one burns in hell for not staying friends with a system admin you knew ten years ago.

Stop Inviting People to Places and Things (Out of Guilt)

You never want to leave anyone out, but do you really need 27 people at your birthday party? If the answer’s no, then it’s okay to just not invite people who aren’t in your core group. Don’t make plans in front of people who won’t be invited (that’s always rude), but if someone questions why they didn’t get invited to your housewarming or baby shower, just let them know it was a small thing.

Be Honest

This one’s the hardest, isn’t it? And sometimes–in the case of toxic or manipulative people–it’s necessary. Letting a friend know that you need to pull a Kelly Clarkson is sometimes inevitable, even if they’ve done nothing wrong but be someone you just don’t jibe with anymore. Most experts will tell you that you should have this conversation in person (or at least on the telephone), but in the case of just not wanting to hang out on the regular (or ever), sometimes it’s best just to send an email then hope that the other person takes it well and doesn’t launch a social media crusade against you.

Just remember this: Being honest is not the same as being explicit. So be as kind as you can when you cut the other person away. Or just send them this post and be all “omg guess which one is us?”

Move to Liechtenstein and Begin a New Life

If nothing else has worked and you just need to start over (especially if people are lashing out at you on Facebook), consider moving to a new country and assuming a new identity, just like they do in all those movies where Bruce Willis is a retired spy who promised never to fall in love again but does so anyway, leading to a series of hilarious and deadly hijinks. Except, you’re doing this to get away from the drama.

According to everything the world knows about Liechtenstein, it’s a lovely place full of lovely people whose only failing is that they can’t get Amazon Prime because it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere. But there’s a museum, a castle, and hiking, so you’ll never run out of things to do! How can you go wrong with a country that boasts its postage stamp gallery as one of its main attractions? You can’t! Plus, there are at least 37,000 people living there who will be pleased to make your acquaintance and share new memories with you. Clean slate!