Breakups can be hard. But some would say that breaking up with a friend is even harder. It can be hard to tell when it is time to let go of a friendship. Today’s culture throws the word “toxic” around constantly, but what does that really mean? While there are those friends that will be a constant in your life, it is okay to realize some friendships only suit you in certain seasons of your life. Here are the steps you can take when deciding to let go of a friendship.

Before You Make Any Decisions

You should take one final assessment of the health of the relationship you’re thinking of letting go of. It’s important to remember that all relationships have their peaks and valleys. If you’re in the middle of a valley, reflect upon the other rocky moments of your relationship. See how this one compares. You may just be caught up in emotion or the friendship may be hitting the end of its course.

The biggest thing to reflect on is how you feel after hanging out with them. Do you feel recharged, heard, or perhaps inspired? Of do you feel small or taken advantage of? Does this friend reach out to you? Or do you only hear from them when they need something? Can you be your authentic self? Or do you hide parts of your personality to make sure the boat doesn’t rock?

Factors to Help You Determine If You Should Let Go of a Friendship

  • Is the relationship consistently draining?
  • How genuine is your relationship?
  • Does it always feel transactional?
  • Do you encourage healthy habits in each other?
  • Or do you resort to negative coping behaviors like excessive drinking or over-eating?
  • Do you find yourself making excuses for the friend?
  • Can you count on them?
  • Do they over-rely on you?
  • Is it a two-way street?
  • Are you yourself when you’re with them?

First Step: Start Setting Boundaries

There are many quotes out on social media that discuss the importance of setting boundaries. Many of them say that setting boundaries is a critical part of self-care. Boundaries are important because they can help you communicate your needs with others. They also aid in self-confidence because they can remind a person of their own worth. What are you able to and willing to do for your friendships? What are you available for and what do you need to start saying no to?

While we understand the guilt that can stem from seeming to let others down, it’s time to start asking the question “How often are you letting yourself down but not honoring your authentic self?”. Remember, your setting boundaries is actually a means of salvaging the relationship. It’s a way of saying you care too much to let the relationship go. And that sentiment reigns true on the flip side. A friend setting boundaries with you is also their way of protecting the relationship. This is a good lens to practice using when you feel hurt by a friend.

Option 1: You Could Let Nature Take its Course

If you’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to let the friendship go, one option is to let its course end naturally. As we get older, our priorities shift. Close college friends move apart and get settled in their individual narratives. They find a dream job, or their forever person. They get married, start their own families, maybe move again. And it’s normal to begin to let those friendships go when these things happen. There’s a chance you’ll just begin to outgrow each other, and that’s okay too. We are supposed to change and evolve as we learn more about ourselves and the world. Some friendships exist simply to help you learn a specific lesson during a specific chapter of your life.

Option 2: Be Proactive

If the above option feels a little prolonged, you can always talk to them about your concerns. Bring up the reasons you feel your friendship may be coming to a close. Without judgment, tell them how they hurt you or make you feel small. They honestly may be unaware of the way their words/actions impact others. Or they may admit they’ve been having a hard time or feel insecure

when they say or do those hurtful things. This option gives you both a chance to try and change together by meeting where you are rather than where you expect each other to be. With reset expectations and insight into the other, you have the chance to extend the life of the friendship and grow even closer as a result.

However, you may come to realize the friendship really has ended. Maybe they are a person the “new you” can’t truly get along with. And that is okay. Not everyone you encounter is meant to stay on your path with you forever. Be thankful for the things the friendship taught you and the good times you had together. Hold onto the good and let it go along with the bad.

Finally, Allow Yourself to Grieve

As we said before, friendship breakups can feel more devastating than a regular romantic breakup. Losing a friendship can be painful. Give yourself the time and space to feel the feelings you feel. You can be angry about the way things are turning out. Cry if you need to cry. Journal if you find writing therapeutic. Do your best to trust the process and hopefully, in time you’ll be able to see the reasons things are better off this way.

Letting Go of Friendships with CPA Counseling

Life is going to continually throw us obstacles. What matters most is not what comes our way, but how we cope with it. We know you need a toolbox full of skills in order to cope with the challenges that life -especially when friendships are involved. At CPA, we will always encourage patients to explore coping mechanisms that work best for them. However, we also know that a number of those skills come from counseling and different methods of therapy.

Cristina Panaccione and Associates has one locations in the South Hills and one office in Robinson Township. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about our counseling services can help teach you the skills to cope with letting go of a friend.

* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.

Dave Lori – LPC

Dave has had the honor and privilege of working in the mental health field for the past 20 years.  His experience ranges from family-systems work to individualized-focus. His clinical orientation ranges from client-centered, solution-focused, humanistic and Existential approach. Dave believes in providing a strength-based, supportive, authentic and non-judgmental approach to the therapeutic process. We all face various challenges and have the ability to reach our personal goals given the independent choices we make each day.


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