Men's Life Today: Expert Q+A
How do I “break up” with a friend?
The phenomenon of wanting to end a friendship, be it with another guy or with a woman, is a universal one. It’s usually a mutual thing, and both parties just naturally grow apart.
But sometimes one becomes aware of it before the other does. Your friend is still trying to stoke the embers while you see where it’s all headed. And that’s the time to put your feelings out there -- in a note.
Although breaking up through a letter can feel like the coward’s way out, it actually allows for you to compose your thoughts without needing to explain things on the spot. It also provides the other individual an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve said, and if need be, to respond thoughtfully. To reinforce the point, you might explain: “I'm writing rather than calling because I want you to have something to read and digest at your leisure.”
From that point, say what you need to say upfront so you’re not building toward something the person doesn’t see coming. You might want to be as straightforward as: “This is hard for me to express, but I think we need to end this friendship, and I want to tell you why.” You can go on to say something along the lines of “This relationship has long been valuable to me, and I’ve learned a lot from it, but when I think about it, our lives have taken us in different directions. I don’t want to give the friendship just a part-time effort, or worse, feel like I need to fake it.”
Overall, you’ll want to explain the situation in language that’s caring but gently honest. You don’t want to prevaricate with the idea that you’re sparing them pain. They’re going to feel pain. But by your being honest, they won’t be grieving even more later, when they realize you haven’t been straight with them.
You might conclude by letting the other party know that if he or she ever wants to talk about the matter face-to-face, you’re available to do so. And if it does come to that, make sure you reiterate your feelings calmly. If you’re hit with a comment such as “This is a horrible thing you’re doing to me,” you might reply that you understand why the person is angry and that you realize anger can take a long time to subside. But reaffirm that you don’t want to make a pledge to restore the friendship when it’s a pledge you know you can’t keep. Offer to contact the person in a month’s time -- not to rekindle the relationship, but out of respect for the friendship you’ve shared.
Painful though this process will be, in the end
you’ll be doing the both of you a favor.