A step-by-step guide to breaking up with a friend, according to relationship experts

It's never easy to break up with a friend, but it is possible to go through the process smoothly

Leighton Meester, Blake Lively on location for GOSSIP GIRL Season Three Shooting in Manhattan, Upper East Side, New York, NY July 13, 2009
(Image credit: Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection)

Splitting from the Tully to your Kate? If you're curious how to break up with a friend—with minimal casualties, of course—allow the experts to help make the process feel a little less heavy. 

Yes, friendship breakups are often as challenging as romantic ones, sometimes even more so. That's why it's advised to go about them the same way. 

"While you might feel guilty about choosing to end a friendship, it is best for both of you to be authentic with one another rather than moving forward in a disingenuous way," says Maria Sullivan, a dating expert and the vice president of Dating.com

Though there's no Adele involved, you'll catch a few familiar movements in the process.

How to break up with a friend, according to experts

"It is time to evaluate a friendship when it starts to feel like a chore and the relationship is no longer serving you in a way that makes sense," Maria adds. 

Here are the ways in which to get the conversation going, work through difficulties and ultimately, make your friendship breakup coping mechanism feel less draining. 

dating.com logo
Maria Sullivan

Maria Sullivan is a dating expert and the vice president of Dating.com.

1. Have an honest conversation

The only way to make progress is by acknowledging what's not working. An honest conversation—which shouldn't get nasty or turn into a blaming match—is encouraged.

"Like a regular relationship breakup, the best way to begin a friendship breakup is by confronting your friend and having open and honest communication about why the friendship is no longer working for you," Maria says. 

A lot of us might choose the ghosting approach, but that will only leave you with breakup guilt. Plus, it doesn't leave any potential for resolutions. 

"Instead of ignoring their calls and texts and trying to phase them out slowly, it’s better for both of you if you are upfront about your concerns," she adds. 

2. Don't be subjective

If you're prepared to dish on the ways in which your best pal isn't living up to her title, be prepared to get a little criticism, too. 

"Be sure to listen to their point of view or what they need to say," says dating coach Rikki Dymond.

Rikki Dymond
Rikki Dymond

Rikki Dymond is a dating coach and Flirtini dating expert. Her mission is to "help women reconnect with themselves and use their natural feminine energy to bring forward mature and lasting love."

3. Give them time

You don't necessarily need to throw in the towel right away. Let's say you have a conversation: this could potentially allow you both to make improvements and get back on the proper path.

"Explain why it’s necessary for you both," sex and relationship Pippa Murphy of codoms.uk says of the changes. "If it's something that can be changed, explain how you'd like them to change it so that both parties can continue being friends in the future."

But if you expressed your concerns but don't see things changing, then it's time to reevaulate.

condoms.uk logo
Pippa Murphy

Pippa Murphy is a sex and relationship expert at condoms.uk, which provides access to safe and trusted brands within the sexual health industry, as well as information about your sex health.

4. Shift your focus

"Focus your energy on the remaining friendships in your life, and after time you will have moved on from the old friendship," Maria says. 

5. Set boundaries

"No one should feel guilty about staying in a toxic friendship because it is a habit," Pippa adds. 

If you've decided that talks have fallen on deaf ears and that changes aren't being implemented, listen to your gut. Don't make excuses for your friend's bad behavior. If they can't provide what you need in a friendship, you're within your rights to move on.

6. Take time to grieve

Yes, you have permission to feel blue when you lose someone significant in your life. 

"If you are mourning the loss of a friend, go easy on yourself," Rikki says. "Grief can look different for everyone, so be kind to yourself and allow yourself to let go.

Likewise, Pippa believes the phenomenon really shouldn't be underestimated.

"People often don’t realize how emotionally invested they were until a friendship ends," she says. That’s why it’s incredibly important to let yourself feel sad, angry or even confused after a friendship breakup."

7. Evaluate what went wrong

You don't want the same issues to come up in a new friendship, so be honest with yourself about what you need and what you won't accept. 

"Consistency, dependability, trust, and communication are the foundation of all good relationships," Rikki says. 

She recommends you ask yourself the following when it comes to friendships:

  • Do their actions match their words?
  • Do they show up for you?
  • Can you rely on them when you need them, and do they do the things they say they’re going to?
  • Do you trust them fully?

We're sending you that hug you need during this difficult time, but like romantic heartbreak, you'll manage to make your way through.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.