Letting a friend go is never easy — but sometimes it’s the best decision for your financial and mental wellbeing. When you end a relationship with a significant other, you usually follow a process, but friendships can be trickier. There’s no standard process to help you let go of a friendship, and as a result, the emotions you’ll experience can be confusing.
You may have been feeling anxious about a friendship for some time. Or perhaps you might be feeling disappointed or let down by a friend consistently. Either way, you might already be aware that the relationship is toxic, emotionally draining, or simply no longer serves you. That’s okay — people change and evolve over time, and friendships that once felt like lifelines may no longer fit into our new lives.
How to peacefully let go of a friendship
Here are a few practical tips you can apply for letting go of a friend to help ease the transition and end the friendship on positive terms.
1. Consider redefining your friendship
First, you’ll want to decide if it’s best to cut all ties with your friend or perhaps readjust their role in your life. For instance, maybe you’re letting go of a best friend, but you work together every day. Keeping a work friendship and transitioning out of your friend’s outside life might be an option worth considering.
Of course, there are times when it’s better to go your separate ways. Only you know which path is best for you. Before you let go of a friendship, think about how their role will change in your life and if you want them to be in it at all.
2. Invest in healthy friendships (and lean on them for support)
During this time, you’re bound to feel nervous, upset, sad, and possibly regretful. It can be helpful to take stock of your healthy friendships and relationships. You may even want to make a list of all the ways the good friends in your life build you up and enhance your life. This can make it easier to identify exactly why a friendship is no longer working.
Be sure to tell another close friend or family member about the situation. Also, keep them updated on the process of ending the friendship and how you’re feeling.
3. Give yourself time to mourn when letting a friend go
Letting go of a friend can be even worse than ending a relationship with a significant other. It’s hard. It’s painful. And it’s devastating. It may be tempting to throw yourself into your other friendships and relationships, but it’s important not to completely neglect the heartache you’re experiencing.
Don’t ignore the pain that comes along with letting go of someone who was once very important in your life. Instead, allow yourself to feel these emotions and lean on your support system for help.
4. Reduce your contact with the person in question
When letting go of a friend, you don’t always have to have a tough conversation. Some friendships naturally fade away. If you’re not feeling as close to a friend anymore and find yourself naturally hanging out and talking less and less, limit your contact.
You might find the friendship dissipates on its own, with no hard feelings. Even if you know you’ll need to bring up the subject with the person, lessening your contact can make the conversation easier and help both of you transition out of the friendship.
5. Write them a letter
Of course, sometimes you need to clear the air before exiting a friendship. In this case, it can be helpful to write a letter to the friend in question. Take this opportunity to recount the reasons why the friendship isn’t working.
Explain what you would like to see in the future — less contact, no contact, etc. You don’t necessarily even have to send them the letter. You could read it to them or simply use it to get all of your feelings out on paper.
6. When letting a friend go talk to them respectfully, but bluntly
If you do need to have a final conversation with them, go prepared. Be friendly and respectful, but try to keep the conversation short. Let them know you’re both different people than you were when the friendship was working, but now you don’t feel like you’re a good match.
It’s important to understand that you can’t control the other person’s feelings or responses — only your own. They might be upset and may not handle the news well. Remember, you’ve had time to sit with this, but they might not see this news coming. Be supportive and kind, but don’t back down if you know deep down the friendship isn’t healthy.
7. Let yourself reflect on the good memories
Once you’ve ended the friendship, it may feel easy to just move on and forget the person was ever in your life, to begin with. But, once you’ve adequately mourned the friendship, it can be healing to focus on the good memories you made with your ex-friend.
Those memories helped mold you into who you are today, and it’s okay to focus on them every now and again. Sure, not all relationships are meant to last forever, but that doesn’t mean they impacted you any less. When you let go of a friendship, it's okay to cherish the good times and let the rest go.
8. Seek professional help
If you’re ending a significant friendship or having a difficult time letting go of the friendship, or handling your former friend’s reaction to the news, seeking professional help could ease your mind.
Talking to a therapist can be beneficial and help you deal with the difficult emotions that go along with letting a friend go. At a minimum, you’ll be able to explain what you’re going through and talk through your feelings with an objective observer.
Letting a friend go isn’t always an easy process
Letting go of a friend is bittersweet, but all friendships change and evolve. If you’re struggling to make sense of a friendship that no longer fits into your life, it’s okay to be brave enough to admit it may not be a relationship that’s working anymore. Give yourself some grace after ending the friendship.
You might find yourself grieving in different ways and bouncing back between stages of grief. There’s no right or wrong way to mourn a friendship — but surrounding yourself with those you love, reflecting back on the good memories, and reminding yourself of why your decision was right for your life can help you move on faster.
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