Friend Breakups Are Common. How Come No One Talks About Them?

Friendships can be full of ups and downs. People change, after all, so it's natural for these relationships to evolve as well. But sometimes it goes beyond feeling distant from a former bestie. When a friend becomes a major source of stress and negativity in your life, you may have to decide whether the relationship is worth saving or if it's time for a friendship breakup.

"Breaking up with a friend can be just as heartbreaking as romantic breakups, and sometimes even more so," says Jessica Alderson, the cofounder and relationship expert at So Syncd, a personality-type dating app. "Romantic breakups are continuously in the spotlight," she says. They're shown in movies and TV shows; they're referenced in breakup-song lyrics; our friends talk about them; we're used to them. Breaking up with a friend isn't talked about as much.

But it's OK — healthy, in fact — to walk away from a situation that no longer serves you or becomes toxic, whether it's romantic or platonic, says Shontel Cargill, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the regional director at Thriveworks. If you think it's time to break up with a friend, it very well may be.

Even so, people don't talk much about breaking up with a friend, so these splits can be difficult to instigate and navigate. This guide is backed by advice from relationship experts and contains useful info about the signs it's time to break up, how to break up a friendship successfully and respectfully, and what to expect post-breakup.

Signs You Should Break Up With a Friend

Every relationship is different, and you're allowed to break up with a friend based on your own needs and feelings. But if you're on the fence about whether you should end a friendship, the following signs are common red flags that indicate it's time to part ways.

  • You no longer feel supported. Friendships are all about mutual support and lifting each other up, Alderson says. "You should be stronger as a pair than you are alone. If you're not feeling supported, it's time to reevaluate if the friendship is worth keeping." Of course, friendships go through phases — it's not realistic to expect even your bestie to be your number one champion all the time, including when they're going through a tough period. But if there's a pattern of unsupportive behavior, pay attention.
  • There's a lot of drama and negativity. Friendships should be positive and uplifting — if not all the time, then most of the time. If you feel like a friend is constantly bringing down your mood or creating unnecessary tension, Alderson says it might be time to break up.
  • You can't trust them. "Trust is an essential part of any relationship, be it romantic or platonic," Alderson says. She says a breakup could be the right move if the trust between you and a friend has been irreparably broken and you feel like it can't be repaired.
  • The friendship is one-sided. Friendships should be balanced, and effort should be reciprocated, Alderson says. If you feel like you're the only one suggesting plans and initiating messages, it's time to take a step back and reevaluate whether the friendship is worth continuing.
  • You're no longer on the same page. "Not all friendships end in conflict or a dramatic argument, and sometimes, friendships simply fizzle out because people have gone in different directions and no longer have the same interest," Alderson explains. If you find that you no longer relate to each other, it's OK to part ways and cordially move forward.
  • They are unreliable. If your friend is constantly pushing back plans or canceling at the last minute, it's a sign they don't respect your time, Alderson notes. For some people, this isn't that big an issue — but for others, it's a dealbreaker.
  • You feel emotionally drained after seeing them. "If you constantly feel down or exhausted after spending time with your friend, it's a sign that the friendship is no longer healthy," Alderson says. It's normal to sometimes feel tired after socializing, but constantly feeling emotionally drained after seeing a friend is cause for concern.

Signs You Shouldn't Break Up With a Friend

The signs to break up may be clearer, but that doesn't mean every time there's a small hiccup, the friendship is over. The below tips are signs your relationship might be worth repairing.

  • They make you happy. You shouldn't break up with a friend if you bring positivity and joy to each other's lives, Alderson says. "If you feel like your friendship is a source of connection, comfort, growth, laughter, or happiness, then it's worth keeping, as long as the overall dynamic is healthy."
  • You're prepared to work through your issues. If you both agree that healthy communication and conflict resolution could improve your friendship, it's worth attempting to work things out, Cargill says. Friendships have rough patches, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need to throw in the towel. But the key word here is "both." You can't do someone else's work. Friendships are two-sided, and both parties must be involved in repairing the relationship.
  • You're willing to compromise. "Communication and compromise are key in any relationship, and if you both deeply value the friendship and are willing to put in the effort, you may be able to overcome the obstacles and come back stronger than ever," Alderson says. Be honest about your needs and feelings, and decide what's important to you. If the issues that are causing problems between you are things you're truly OK reaching a middle ground on, you may be able to avoid a breakup.
  • You've naturally drifted apart. If you drift apart naturally, don't feel like you have to sever ties completely, Alderson says. "Just because you're not as close as you used to be, it doesn't necessarily mean it's time to end the friendship. You might find that you become close again in the future." You can still remain acquaintances and keep in touch every now and then; if the universe throws you together again, the door will already be ajar.

How to Break Up With a Friend

This is one way a friendship split differs from a romantic one: with former friends, it may not always be necessary to have a full-on breakup conversation. In many instances, you may be able to simply put some distance between you and the person in question.

But other times, you may need or want to have "the talk" — if they've violated your trust in a way that requires an instant or complete separation, for instance, or if they're not on the same page about it being time to wind down the friendship.

When you have a breakup conversation with a friend, the goal should be to be as kind and respectful as possible. "Even if the friend hurt you or did something wrong, remember that no good will come from dealing with the situation in a malicious way," Alderson says.

It's best to have an in-person convo, if possible. "I strongly recommend having the conversation in person and avoid text messaging or FaceTime, if possible, if physical safety is not at risk," Cargill says. Texts can be misinterpreted, and while phone or video calls are the next best option to an in-person meeting, because you can't see body language on them, they can still lead to misunderstandings, she says.

During the conversation, try to always use statements that begin with "I feel" rather than blaming the other person. For example, Alderson suggests saying "I feel like our friendship isn't making me happy anymore," instead of "you're not making me happy anymore." This will help maintain a constructive dialogue and avoid making the other person feel attacked or defensive.

Also remember that ending a friendship can (and likely will) be sad, so it's important to maintain emotional and physical self-awareness and recognize if the conversation has shifted from productive to toxic, Cargill adds. If it does, it's fine to gently end the talk. It's not your job to manage someone else's feelings.

Of course, if at any point you feel unsafe, you're not required to explain yourself or formally break up with a friend. Your well-being must come first.

How to Break Up With a Friend You Live With

It can be tricky to break up with a roommate, but it's not impossible. The same tips as above apply, and the key is to be respectful and honest as you talk things through, Alderson says. "Reassure your friend that it doesn't mean you don't care about them and explore how you can continue being civil while living in the same space."

This will involve making sure to set clear boundaries, especially if one of you can't immediately move out, Cargill says. "Cocreating a plan to coexist in a living situation will be important to avoid conflict and/or creation of a toxic living environment for both parties," she says. This requires maturity on both sides, but it's doable, especially if you're able to give each other as much emotional and physical space as possible.

As above, in this situation, it may feel more comfortable to simply create some distance between you and your friend without having a formal "breakup" conversation, until a move-out day is at least in sight. But if you go that route, your friend may notice and ask what's up — in which case, being clear, honest, and kind is usually the right move.

How to Get Over a Friend Breakup

Whether you're the person who did the breaking up or you were broken up with, healing can be difficult. Here's how to make a start.

  • Take time to reflect. There's always something you can learn from any kind of relationship, so take a step back and think about what you would do differently. This isn't about pointing fingers but is instead about personal growth, Alderson says.
  • Allow yourself to heal in your own way and timeline. Just like with any other loss, it's important to give yourself time to grieve. This doesn't mean you should wallow in your sorrows or completely shut yourself off from the world, but allow yourself to feel the pain and heartache that comes with a breakup, Alderson says.
  • Pursue your passions. Spend time doing things you love to channel your attention toward activities that are positive and productive. It's also a good time to explore self-care, Cargill notes. Try meditation, using affirmations, taking time to process the end of the friendship, tapping your support system, or even seeking therapy, she says.
  • Don't ask "what if." You might find yourself spending a significant amount of time thinking about what went wrong and how you could've done things differently, but no good can come from obsessing over what could have been. "If you find yourself constantly asking 'what if,' try to reframe your thoughts and focus on what you are currently grateful for in life, as well as the exciting opportunities that lie ahead," Alderson suggests.
  • Be clear about your boundaries. It's important to set clear boundaries post-breakup, which could include anything from not speaking for a few months to unfollowing each other on social media, Alderson says. If possible, you and your ex-friend can mutually agree on boundaries; if not, you can still set and enforce your own.
  • Let go of guilt. It's common to feel like a friendship failing is a personal failure, but it's not. "Some friendships last a lifetime, while others come and go, and people and circumstances change, so it's not a reflection of your worth as an individual, it's simply life," Alderson says.