Friend-Breakup Etiquette | Alyssa J Freitas: Friend-Breakup Etiquette

June 30, 2016

Friend-Breakup Etiquette

When I think of the word "breakup" I imagine teary eyes and pints of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. I think of a broken heart and Taylor Swift music and trying to convince yourself that there are always more fish in the sea. What we don't often call to mind is a breakup of a different kind: one with a friend.

Sometimes you naturally grow apart from people and you talk less and less until all communication ceases and you sort of move on. To me, that is a common course of life (even though it is sad) and is an acceptable way that we grow and change. On the other hand, when you are in a toxic friendship it can make sense to stop talking, cut your losses, and focus on people who build you up and who add value to your life. But then, there's a third sort of situation, when something is said. 
Friend-Breakup Etiquette
Just like in my post about romantic breakups, I'm going to go over with you what you should keep in mind, whether you are the one doing the breaking up or are being broken up with.

When you are doing the breaking up

This advice will slightly vary depending on the length and depth of the friendship, so I trust you to use your own discretion in addition to these guidelines :)
  • For the love of all things decent, don't do it over a text. This is seriously a cowardly, immature, unkind way to communicate when you are dealing with a sensitive topic like this. Meet in person or call at the very least.
  • If you are looking to completely sever ties, don't lead the other person on with "I'm really busy now" or anything like that. You can say something like, "I've been thinking about our friendship, and while I have enjoyed spending time together, I've realized that we have different *insert life priorities/beliefs here* so I think it would be better if we went our separate ways."
  • BE KIND. There is absolutely no reason to ever be cruel (or at least, I have yet to come across a situation where that was the only option). You don't need to point out everything you don't like about someone or outline their shortcomings. What do you actually get from that? Nothing except being a rotten person. 

When you are broken up with

Just like the previous advice, this will depend on how the other person is approaching the situation. I sincerely hope that they are gentle and clear, but in my experience people get nervous and don't know what to do. Or, they are just mean. 
  • Be graceful by refusing to lash out or fight with them. I recently had an incredibly close friend breakup with me via text message (so many of my posts are inspired by what's going on in my own life!), and I replied by thanking her for the good times we had spent together and wishing her the best. As I told my friends and family about this incident, they were incredulous that I would not tell her how wrong she was in what she said and point out her lack of gratefulness and decorum. However, while I may have momentarily been satisfied to get my two cents in, I realized that it is better to take the high road and not engage with someone who is so clearly not worth the time. 
  • Respecting their decision and refraining from holding on and trying to convince them to continue on the friendship is a must. I can tell you that trying to hang on is rarely a good idea because, honestly, why would you want to be around someone who doesn't want to be around you?
  • Remember that just because one person decides they don't want to be friends with you does not mean that you are any less valuable or not a good friend! While it is a good idea to reflect on the friendship to see if perhaps there were areas you could have improved or been more supportive, you certainly don't need to let one person's opinion influence your self image. 
Moving on is tough, but life is always in flux. Learning to act with kindness and avoid unnecessary conflict can help make you happier and better enable you to deal with situations like this.

How do you deal with breaking up with a friend or being broken up with?

-AJF

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