How to Dump a Friend: Ending a Friendship Like an Adult

Sometimes friendships, even long-lasting important ones, can sour. Many guys opt for the “pretend they don’t exist, and they’ll get the hint” approach. We say you’re more of a man that that.

The BFF Breakup

You and your BFF are no longer BFFs. The guy you once sent NSFW links to is now the guy you have zero interest in hanging out with. Do you quietly let things fizzle or  tell him you’re busy this weekend, next weekend, and the weekend after that and hope he gets the message? Or do you meet with him and explain why the friendship is over?

You might read this and think that formally breaking up with a friend sounds girlie or totally high school. But is it? If your boss or coworker wrongs you, you don’t let them get away with it, do you? No. You rationally and maturely explain what they did, why it pissed you off, and what you plan to do about it. Dumping a friend requires the same honest confrontation.

Cowardly ducking a confrontation isn’t cool. Be a man (listen to Macho Man’s “Be a Man” track for inspiration).

Why Do People Screw Over Their Friends?

I’m no Dr. Phil, but I have a few theories as to why people screw over their friends.

Maybe a friend feels that you are so close that nothing can ruin the friendship. Borrow money and don’t pay it back? No big deal because, hey, what’s a little money between buddies?

If it’s so easy for your BFF to stab you in the back and end your brotherly connection, he probably never valued the friendship in the first place. Maybe he’s an opportunist, waiting for the perfect moment to crash on your sofa, promising to contribute to the rent only to skip town and leave you hanging the day it’s due.

There are other surefire friendship deal breakers. Consider how you’d feel if your BFF cut you down and insulted your intelligence every chance he got. Is he temperamental and always picking fights with you? Did he break an unfixable trust, like hooking up with your fiancé?

Sometimes, an extended conversation about why things are over isn’t necessary. All you have to do is point out what he did wrong and, in the words of Barney Stinson, shout, “FRIENDSHIP OVER!” But other times, a sit down is necessary.

These five tips may help you get through the BFF Breakup.

Step 1: Evaluate the Situation

Perhaps you’ve simply grown apart or fallen out of touch. You don’t really need to formally end things. Time, and perhaps maturity, has replaced any need to officially end things. And maybe the things that brought you two together initially will reunite you down the road.

If not, think carefully about the decision you’re about to make. You could lose more than just your friend. There will be consequences, especially if you and your buddy have mutual friends or hangouts.

“It’s important I surround myself with people who make me happy.” – Adam Sandler

Ask yourself if the friendship really needs to end. Perhaps some time apart would be beneficial. Schedule your routine so you have less time to see your buddy and see if things improve. If it doesn’t …

Step 2: The Talk

Ending a friendship can be brutal. Too bad we can’t hire Donald Trump to end our soured relationships. Let him sit back in his boardroom leather chair, toss out a quick compliment followed by obliterating his victim before kicking him/her to the curb. It’d be a lot easier than mustering up the courage to do it yourself.

Confrontational meetings are difficult, but it should be done in person. Don’t resort to texting or email. You don’t want a written record of words that always seem to get misinterpreted. That just adds fuel to the already combustible mix. Sit down with your perhaps soon-to-be ex-friend and explain what’s been going on. If your friend said or did something to upset you, be honest. If your friend reacts defensively or with anger and hostility, which is to be expected, that should make the break up easier. If he wants to make an effort to repair the friendship, that’s super … if you concur. If you don’t …

Step 3: Re-Re-Evaluate the Scenario

Have things improved? Are you two closer than ever? Great. Stop reading this article right now (assuming you’ve been reading one paragraph at a time while trying to fix your impaired friendship).

If things have gotten worse (or you’ve decided not to go for a repair) then it’s time to go all “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and open up a can of (verbal?) whoop ass.

If you’ve raised concerns during your initial talk, your friend won’t be blindsided. But that doesn’t mean he won’t react with anger. When put on the defensive for some shitty behavior—even if your friend knows it—emotions can get in the way.

Set up some parameters before you have the sit down.

  1. Keep it short.
  2. State your case. Tell your friend why the friendship is ending.
  3. Leave no room for debate. It’s over and that’s the bottom line (‘cause Stone Cold said so).

Step 4: The Fallout

Get ready for it. Your ex-friend will talk shit about you to mutual friends, trying to pull them into the drama. Your ex-friend will tag you on Facebook calling you a piece of shit before unfriending you.

You will feel inclined to defend yourself. Don’t.

When you’ve ended a friendship, there is no winning. There is no need to drag things out and prolong the fighting. Don’t spend your precious time defending your image to someone with whom you are no longer speaking.

Sometimes, an extended conversation about why things are over isn’t necessary. All you have to do is point out what he did wrong and, in the words of Barney Stinson, shout, “FRIENDSHIP OVER!” But other times, a sit down is necessary.

Be prepared for some of your mutual friends to side with your ex-friend and some to side with you. It sounds like high school. But it’s likely that’s how it will go, unless all parties involved are mature adults. Yeah, right.

But you are a mature adult who values discretion and dislikes gossip. There’s a difference between explaining to other friends why a friendship soured and talking shit about your ex-friend. Be the bigger person.

Your friends might have a harder time dealing with the breakup than you. They might vigorously try to make you and your former BFF patch things up and reconcile. If you’re dead set against the idea, ask your friends to move on and cease discussing the fallout.

Don’t turn anyone against anyone. Let the chips fall where they may. If you lose additional friends in the process, be thankful they’re out of your life if they’re petty enough to pick sides.

Step 5: Moving On

Breaking up with a friend is a lot like breaking up with your girlfriend. You two were supposed to check out The Expendables 2 … but now you find yourself wondering how you’ll enjoy two hours of intense graphic violence without your buddy sitting next to you? But if you had a solid reason to end the friendship, remind yourself of what the ex-friend did to betray or upset you to the point of ending things.

I know it sounds cheesy, but time really does heal (most) wounds. You’ll move on and a couple of years will pass—maybe even a decade or two—before you’ll bump into your ex-friend on vacation in Afghanistan. (In two decades, Afghanistan could totally be the new trendy vacay spot. You don’t know.) He’ll confess that he was in the wrong and ashamed or too arrogant to admit it. Or maybe you’ll confess that your youthful stupidity caused you to overreact.

Whatever the reason, the friendship that ended ages ago might be mended somewhere down the road. Or it won’t. You know. Whatever.

Kenneth Suna is a writer and self-employed stock trader who lives in Washington, D.C. His novel, Roman, was recently published. He is the founder of Revolvist.com, an online magazine which features human interest stories and social commentary. Follow him @KennethSuna