3 ways to end a toxic friendship

Friends are the best…until they’re the worst – and that’s when things can get really tricky. If you’re feeling belittled, put down, uncomfortable or pressured, you might be dealing with a toxic friendship.

Being in a toxic friendship can really suck, and it’s hard to know how to deal with it. If you want to make it work, check out our guide to dealing with a toxic friendship for some tips. If you’ve tried but your friend isn’t meeting you halfway, it might be time to think about ending the friendship gracefully, even though it’ll be hard.

Cutting a friend out of your life because they have hurt you is a big decision to make when you’re feeling very emotional. Perhaps, when you’re feeling calmer, you’ll be able to work things out with your friend; only you can decide whether you want to save the friendship. A lot of people find, though, that with a little time and patience, friendships can grow stronger after moving through hard times together.

If you can see no way forward, here are some ways you might consider ending a toxic friendship.

Fade them out

The slow fade only works if you’re both on the same page and are mutually putting less effort into your friendship. It’s a non-confrontational approach that’s often effective.

Here are some things to try:

  • Don’t message or call them as frequently. If you used to text three times a week, bring it down to twice a week, and then once a week.

  • If it’s tricky because you’re all in the same group, you could try limiting your catch-ups to group stuff so that your interactions are less personal.

However you do it, it isn’t easy ending a friendship. Remember that the fade-out is only healthy if you’re both pulling away. If it’s not mutual, this could make your friend feel like you are ignoring or judging them. For example, if they ask you why you’re not hanging out with them, this means that the fade-out isn’t mutual.

If this is the case, or if you’d rather be upfront about ending the friendship, having a direct conversation to clear the air could work better for you.

Officially end the friendship

This method involves sitting down with the person and letting them know that the friendship is over. This is a pretty tough option and requires a lot of courage from you, the same way that breaking up with a partner would. The great thing is, it gives you both the opportunity to get everything out in the open and get closure.

Learn here how to have the conversation with your friend.

Completely drop them

If your friend is being physically or emotionally abusive or making you feel like crap – for example, they call you names to put you down, physically hurt you, threaten you or control you – this is not okay. You don’t owe them anything and you have the right to remove yourself from the situation.

To stop the friendship, delete or block them on social media, or anywhere else they might be able to contact you. If you go to school or uni with them, see if you can make sure you’re not in any classes together.

But remember, cutting off a friendship can have major consequences. Your friend could become aggressive or cruel towards you, and you might lose some of your mutual friends. Make your friends aware of the situation and have them there for you as support. It’s worthwhile also letting them know that you don’t expect them to choose sides.

Breaking up a toxic friendship is something you have to do for yourself. When you move away from a toxic friendship, you’ll be moving on from a whole lot of negativity and will be free to be yourself.

Getting help

Sometimes, we need professional help to deal with the effects of ending a relationship. Also, if you think your friend needs to talk to someone, or that they’re a risk to themselves or others, encourage them to seek help.

You could visit your school or uni counsellor to begin with. These counsellors are normally available during school/uni hours and you can make an appointment with them for a free session. Check out our getting help section for more information on who can help.

If you feel like you need to talk about what’s going on, contact a phone counselling service such as Lifeline (13 11 44) or Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800).

What can I do now?

  • If you haven’t already done it, suss out if your friendship definitely is toxic with this quiz.

  • If you’re not ready to break up with your friend, check out some ways of dealing with a toxic friendship.

  • Write down exactly what you’re feeling focusing on “I” statements – this will help when talking to your friend.