Do I Have to Explain Why I'm Ending a Friendship?

A direct conversation can be hard, but may provide the best closure.
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You met in the first grade and have been joined at the hip ever since, but over the last year you have realized that you and your once best bud no longer have much in common. Spending time together starts to lose its appeal, yet you find yourself hanging on to the friendship simply because you don’t know how to say “goodbye." When a friendship is over, do you have to explain why?

1 Understand That Friendships End

Even though you know this friendship is no longer what you want, you likely don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. Sometimes, the guilt over that potential hurt can cause people to hold on to friendships longer than they should. You have no reason to feel guilty, though. It is normal for you to outgrow certain friendships, as you grow and change, explains Florence Falk, a New York City psychotherapist, in the article, “Is It Time to End That Friendship." Remember that this is all a normal part of growing up, and don’t be too hard on yourself in the process.

2 The “Passive Rejection”

One way to end a friendship and to avoid having to explain why, is to do so passively. This can involve being slow to return phone calls and text messages, while also coming up with excuses for why you are too busy to get together. Eventually, your soon-to-be ex-friend will lose interest, explains Alex Lickerman, a general internist, in the "Psychology Today" article “How to End a Friendship.” The benefit of this approach is that you are able to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation, but the drawback is that it involves lying and can go on for several months before the friendship is over.

3 The Direct Approach

While it can be scary, taking the time to directly explain why a friendship is ending can provide some closure for you both. If you decide you are comfortable with the direct approach, you should plan on gently explaining to your friend the reasons why you no longer want to continue the friendship, without resorting to making hurtful accusations or tearing the person down in the process, advises Erika Holiday, a clinical psychologist, in the New York Times article, “It’s Not Me, It’s You." This can be accomplished over the phone or in a letter, but doing it face-to- face is always the kindest option.

4 Choosing for You

There are pros and cons to both the passive rejection and the direct approach, and only you can decide what is the best solution for your situation. If you feel comfortable telling your friend why your friendship is ending, and you aren’t afraid doing so will lead to a dramatic confrontation or others becoming involved, then that is always to best way to quickly sever ties and leave no questions unanswered. Sometimes those direct conversations can be difficult for all of us, however, and not everyone is mature enough to handle such a conversation with dignity. If you fear the potential fallout of approaching your friend directly, opt for the passive approach instead, but be prepared for it to drag on over months before your friend gets the picture and realizes that your friendship is through.

Living in Alaska, Leah Campbell has traveled the world and written extensively on topics relating to infertility, dating, adoption and parenting. She recently released her first book, and holds a psychology degree (with an emphasis in child development and abnormal child psychology) from San Diego State University.