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How to Say Goodbye to an Unhealthy Friendship

Tips for breaking up with a friend


Healthy friendships are essential to our wellbeing. When we find our tribe, we can share and relate. Unfortunately, it can be challenging when we realize a friendship is no longer working. It’s not always a specific event that precipitates the end of a friendship. The pandemic has certainly impacted many relationships, and not all are meant to survive the long haul. How do we know when it’s time to say goodbye? And how do we tell them?

First, it’s important to be aware that when we connect with people there are three connections:
  1. Some connections are just for a brief time. We might connect with someone on a school project related to our kids or on a work project. When the project ends, the connection is gone.
  2. Some connections last longer, maybe a few years, maybe just a season. For example, in the tennis club, you hang out, you play, you may even be on the same team, and when you don’t play tennis any more or move to a different city that relationship fades away. You no longer play tennis together, so you lose touch.
  3. And only a small number of relationships stand the test of time; if these relationships are healthy, they nourish and sustain you.

Different relationships are laid out to have varying lifespans. They are not all there to hold onto forever, that is often not their purpose. The purpose is to come together in a relationship—for however long it lasts—and share a sense of belonging and purpose, provide emotional support, and more. We learn from each relationship we’re in, but we often feel in our gut when a relationship is ending.

Relationships change in different seasons of our lives. So, how do you know when a friendship is no longer healthy? You feel it.

Start by evaluating how you feel in the relationship. How do you feel after talking to your friend?
  • Elated and excited?
  • Depleted and heavy?
  • Uncertain whether you want talk again anytime soon. Are you thinking: I’m not looking forward to seeing her?

If you feel good and are full of energy, that’s a positive sign the friendship is healthy. If you feel drained or depleted, it might be a sign that it’s time to move on from the friendship. While most friendships have their ups and downs, it’s important to recognize the difference between when a friend is just going through a rough time and needs your support and when a friendship has become unhealthy. It doesn’t mean you no longer care about the friend in question, it just means there is an imbalance in the relationship, and you’re no longer able to meet each other’s needs. Perhaps, this friend requires too much of your energy, or her energy no longer feels right in your life. Whatever the reason, no one is at fault. Sometimes, people just grow apart. It’s important to acknowledge that.

What do you think about this friend? Are you excited to hear from her? Or do you find yourself dreading the thought of getting together. Is there an equal energy exchange with both of you giving and receiving?

Friendships are a good tool to learn to trust yourself.

If you have thoughts like, why didn’t she call me? why do I always have to call her? or do I really have to see her?—then there’s probably something off in the relationship. Friendship is about feeling good. It may not always be easy, but it worth it. If thinking about and talking with this friend brings you joy, that’s a healthy relationship. While someone may give more at some point, the other will step up and give more at another.

Only you will know if you feel that there is that balance. Trust yourself. If you are dreading the call, or are generally not really excited to spend time with a friend, then maybe it’s time to take a break or say goodbye.

How do you do that?

Remember, it’s about you, not them. This might sound counterintuitive, because of course, it’s about them. However, in this case, you want to make it about you.

  1. We don’t want to criticize, judge, or expect the other person to change just because it’s not working for us.
  2. Say “It’s not working for me.” In my experience, this is the gentlest way to explain to anybody that you need to take a break or distance yourself.

There is no need to defend yourself when it’s not working for you. That’s how you feel. Trust yourself. That’s the only reason you need. You could just say, ‘you know, our relationship is not working for me right now, I need to take a break’ or ‘our relationship is not working for me, for now I have to stop having contact’. No reason to make yourself small or wrong or defend your choices, or make the other person small, or wrong. It’s that simple, it’s not working for you anymore.

Really being aware: It’s not about who the other person is. It’s about you. Women so often want to make others feel better, and in the process, we make ourselves at fault. There is often no one to blame for a relationship that no longer fits. Once you decide the relationship can’t be saved, it’s time to be your own best advocate. Just remember to be kind and compassionate. Breakups are hard, and they generally come with hurt feelings.

Finally, say it from a place of love, sending a positive farewell to your friend. By leaving the relationship in the energy of love, you’re able to honor the friendship. Just because it is coming to an end doesn’t mean it wasn’t good and meaningful. You might be growing. You might be looking for new things. And your friend may just not be on the same journey as you. Some people are in our lives for a brief time, some for a while, and others may eventually turn out to be forever friends. It’s important to know the difference. That is part of growth, and part of loving yourself is really stepping up and saying, “This is not working for me. Thank you. I need to move on by myself.”

About The Author
Nicola Fernandes

For more than 10 years, Nicola, a self-love expert, life coach, and shaman, has been helping thoughtful and open-hearted leaders move from self-sabotage and doubt to self-worth, self-love, and success. With her Wholeness Mastery Method, she helps her clients to reconnect with themselves and their spirit. For more information, follow her @SelfLovewithNicola.