Is It Time to End a Friendship?

Do you simply stop picking up a friend’s call or should you be more upfront?

Posted Sep 25, 2015

When considering how to handle true friendships that have come to a dead end, it is really important to have an open and honest discussion about the relationship. It’s not easy for many of us, but it can certainly help each member of the relationship feel that some sort of clear resolution was reached. I was speaking at an event about toxic friendships and the rules for dealing with relationships, when a woman shared that she had a friend who would call her every month or so and they'd have a pleasant conversation. However, this same friend would seldom pick up the phone when the woman called and was no longer willing to make plans to get together face-to-face, as they once had done on a fairly regular basis. On the rare occasion that plans were made she would inevitably flake. The woman felt that the friend was trying to end the friendship without “formally” ending the friendship.

The woman was disappointed and felt that her friend was not being the best friend that she could, and I encouraged the woman to check in with the friend and be honest about her feelings about the relationship. We don’t always know exactly what is going on inside another person’s mind, no matter how we might believe we do. The woman contacted me a few days ago to share that she had called her friend and let her know that she was confused about the friendship. The friend apologized for being unable to make time to do things with her friend and revealed that her husband had been diagnosed with cancer and that caring for him was taking up most of her time and she had not wanted to “share her business” with the woman. The two women agreed to be “phone friends” until circumstances changed. The ability to communicate about the seemingly faltering friendship allowed the two friends to actually clarify and strengthen the relationship.

Press "Ignore" to End a Friendship?

Thus, sending a message via unanswered calls can send a powerful message to someone who considers you a friend — and if you take this action, one of three things may happen. One, the friend will get the message and realize she is off your radar and will stop trying to reach you. Two, she will get the message that you’re screening her calls and will let everyone in your shared social world know that you have cut her off and possibly share a little more of her thoughts about your actions. Or three, she will be confused and hurt and will try and figure out what is going on with you or show up to confront you in order to see what’s going on. Be prepared for any of these!

Reading between the Lines (of Texts)

In interviewing women about toxic friendships, I was a little amused at the number of women who expressed anger at friends for using Facebook or texts to communicate relational messages to friends, yet admitted that they had texted “friendship break-up” texts, too. Texting is the easy way out, but you won’t be able to refine and develop your best relationship skills if you try and avoid difficult conversations. Learning to communicate with others in a way that can be heard is an important skill that requires maturity and honesty. Both of these skills are definitely worth the effort required to master them! Ending a friendship -- or any relationship -- face-to-face is generally the most honorable choice.

Honesty is always a Good Choice

If you are ready to end a friendship, be open and honest. Own your own feelings and refrain from verbally beating up on your soon-to-be ex-friend. Use those classic couples communication strategies of “I statements” and avoid laying blame. Acknowledging the good that came of the friendship can really be a powerful way to end the relationship. Not every friendship is built for the long haul, but you don’t have to leave a wreck alongside the road if you can avoid it.


How's your adult sibling relationship working out?

Some of us learn about friendships through our early relationships with siblings. If you are still working through sibling drama or enjoying sibling harmony, please share your stories: