Sign up here to get advice and true stories about mental health in your inbox every week.
Welcome to Coping, Episode Thirteen.
As much as we’d all like to believe in the teen trope of BFFs, sometimes that second F needs to be “fuck off.” Maybe you’re in a friendship that was toxic from the start. Now you’ve grown healthier and are ready to cut them out of your life like a suspicious mole. Maybe your friendship started out healthy and now your friend has morphed into one of those people who makes you feel like a loser every time you’re together.
Breaking up with a friend can be even harder than breaking up with a lover, says Sharon Saline, a Massachusetts-based psychologist and lecturer at Smith College School for Social Work who has experience as both dumper and dumpee. There’s a lot of information and advice out there about breaking up with someone in a romantic relationship. “And those break-ups seem to be more expected and accepted socially,” she says. “With friends, the structure and boundaries are much less clear. It's often harder because we expect those relationships to last.”
Of course, it pays to take time and think about whether a friendship is worth taking some serious effort to mend. But if you decide that ship has sailed, capsized, and sunk, here's some advice for getting yourself free of it unscathed.
Q: How do I get rid of a toxic, clingy friend?
Be honest. To yourself and your friend. Prior to talking to the person, write down what you’d like to say to them. Avoid attacking them; politely tell them that the friendship is no longer working for you and you feel it’s best to go your separate ways. Go over it once or twice to make sure you have a clear and concise explanation for why.
Set boundaries. Make sure you know going into the split with this friend that you have clear boundaries you want to follow, whether it’s about not talking for a set number of months, or agreeing in advance to not show up at the same parties. Be prepared for the possibility that the friend is likely to try to make a comeback in one way or another, which will force you to remind them of the boundaries that you’d set.
Unfollow them. It’s no different from a romantic relationship in this case. Keeping your exes on social media, whether they’re platonic or not, only keeps them present in your life. It allows you to check in on them and vice-versa.
Identify some new activities to enjoy. Go do things for yourself, engage in healthy friendships, volunteer. These things will not only serve as a distraction while you focus on moving on, but will also help create healthy habits—and, with luck, decrease the likelihood that you’ll befriend toxic people down the line.
There are more specifics—and an actual script to follow—here.
This week's answer is from Rachel Aredia, a therapist and ADAA member.
Some related stories:
- As holiday party season approaches, here's some advice for managing your social anxiety.
- And some tips for how to talk to someone you disagree strongly with.
- Also: general thoughts about how to navigate awkward interactions.
Today's comic, by Matt Shirley
📩 📩 📩 Send your questions to email@example.com and we might run the answer in next week's newsletter.