When to end a friendship & when a close friendship ends

There’s a reason why some of the best songs in the world are written about a broken heart. It hurts like hell. But what no one tells you is that friends can give you as much of a broken heart as any ex. The Mix has put together a guide on how to cope when a close friendship ends and how to tell when to end a friendship yourself.

Illustration shows two young people, drifting away from each other on separate islands

What are friendships for?

Friendships are so important and so precious – friends are there to have fun with, to express yourselves with, to confide in. They love you unconditionally and celebrate you for who you are, without judgement.

But we know that not all friendships last forever. Friends come and go with each stage of life, and sometimes they go, come back and stay until the end.

Why do some friendships end?

Friendships can end for a tonne of different reasons. Perhaps you naturally grew apart? Maybe you got into a romantic relationship that took prominence in your life. Or maybe you had a big, drama-filled argument that can never, ever be resolved.

If any number of these things has happened to you, or happens to you at any point, it’s okay! In our lives we’ll meet so many different people, and we can’t always get along with every single one of them. We all have unique personalities, mannerisms and different ways of dealing with our emotions, sometimes those just don’t align. On the other hand, some people grow apart but still remain friends because of those core values – losing a close friend doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, the friendship might just be evolving.

When to end a friendship

Knowing when to end a friendship can be tricky but there are definitely some things that you should look out for. Perhaps you’ve noticed one too many red flags, or spotted some questionable posts on your friend’s social media. Maybe it’s a one sided relationship that leaves you emotionally drained. Be careful not to do anything in the heat of the moment, all healthy friendships go through ups and downs, but if this is a long term thing it may be time to end a friendship. If you want to find out more about bad friends, read this article.

Of course, in cases of major betrayals, like stealing your partner, the decision will be much more straightforward.

What to do when a close friendship ends

When someone decides to end their friendship with you, it can leave you angry and confused for a long time, especially if there’s no obvious reason for it. Here are some tips for coping when a close friendship ends:

  • Don’t punish, blame yourself or spend time dwelling on what you could have done differently.
  • Instead of feeling regret or anger, try to think of the fact that every person comes into your life for a reason. Every person gives you new experiences and teaches you really valuable life lessons.
  • If your ex-friend upset you, or if you had an argument with them which can’t be mended, it can be helpful to just close that chapter. If you’re around each other a lot, maybe because you share mutual friends, it might help to agree to be civil. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you have to be close to them. 
  • If a friendship ends bitterly, to start with, it might hurt to remember all the good times you had together. But in time the pain will gradually get better and you can appreciate that, although temporary, that friendship was fun and made you happy.

Things to remember when a close friendship ends

Accepting the end is key to finding closure. Set boundaries. Remove anything that might trigger sadness like old pictures and tuck them away somewhere safe so you can look back on them when you feel ready.

Friendships should always be a two-way street, meaningful for both people. And some really do last long term! While you may go through hard times and argue, friendships can survive all the ups and downs if you have the same values, intentions and respect for one another.

When a friendship ends you’ll probably feel a really strong sense of loss and sadness. Learning to let friends go can be difficult, but sometimes people take different paths in life. Just remember that you are unique and beautiful for who you are and they are beautiful for who they are, you’re just on different journeys. 

More support on dealing with a friendship breakup

If you need help coping with a friendship changing or ending, get in touch with our team, who are here to talk through any issue. You can also read our articles on friends arguing and losing a friendship for some advice and support.

Next Steps

  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Molly Gorman

Updated on 06-Nov-2021