Home article How to Break Up With a Bad Friend

How to Break Up With a Bad Friend

How to Break Up With a Bad Friend

The teenage years can be challenging in many ways, particularly in the realm of navigating the ups and downs of friendships.  While these years may be filled with many emotional roller coasters, the lessons you will learn from how you handle these difficulties will hold value for the rest of your life.

It is incredibly important for you to learn what it means to be a good friend, how to determine when someone is actually a bad friend, and how to end these bad friendships.

What is a good friend?  Let’s take a look at the definition of the word friend as defined by Apple Dictionary:

  • a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection
  • (often as a polite form of address or in ironic reference) an acquaintance or a stranger one comes across: My friends, let me introduce myself.
  • a person who acts as a supporter of a cause, organization, or country by giving financial or other help: Join the Friends of Guilford Free Library.
  • a person who is not an enemy or who is on the same side: She was unsure whether he was friend or foe.

I’d like to point out some words to focus on: mutual affection, supporter, not an enemy, on the same side, helpful.  Now, ask yourself if your friendships demonstrate these traits.  Do your friends like you as much as you like them, or are you always having to try to prove yourself to maintain the friendship?

Are your friends supportive and encouraging, doing everything they can to help you achieve your goals and dreams, or are they competitive and threatened by your success?  A truly good friend will be your biggest fan, will be there to cheer you on, and won’t allow jealousy to get in the way. They will be there for you when you’re struggling and will do everything they can to pick you up and help you feel better. They won’t walk away or feel bothered when times are tough.

A good friend will talk things over with you and work things out when you have disagreements.  Real friends are loyal.

Now, let’s take a look at what a bad friend looks like.  It is easy to mistake a bad friend for a good one, so knowing what to look out for can help you avoid that trap.  A bad friend may subtly undermine and try to sabotage you. They want to be better than you and can’t be excited for your success.  They might have low self esteem or get jealous of your achievements or other friendships.

Sometimes, they purposely give bad advice.  A bad friend may want you all to himself and may feel slighted if you don’t give them all of your attention.  Often, they don’t have your best interest at heart. Rather, they may hold their own interests as most important.  They might even be passive aggressive. For example, they might say things like, “It’s fine. Just go to the party with Sandy. Obviously, you’d rather be with her than me. I don’t care. I didn’t really want to go to that party anyway.”

A good friend, on the other hand, might say, “Have a great time at the party. I can’t wait to hear all about it. Maybe we can hang out tomorrow.”

Once you have determined that you have a bad friend, it can be hard to figure out how to “break up” with them.  But just as a bad romantic relationship can be detrimental to your well-being, so can a bad friendship. Sometimes, the friendship just fizzles out on its own and nothing needs to be said or done.  You simply grow apart and go your separate ways. Other times, you might need to take action to sever the friendship. Here are some tips for how to break up with a bad friend:

  • Stop being the one who makes all the effort. Wait and see what happens.  It might just be that you stop hearing from this person altogether. And then you’ll know that you weren’t really friends like you thought.
  • Have a face-to-face conversation. Tell them why you don’t think this is a good friendship, and let them know that you are no longer interested in maintaining the friendship.
  • Write a letter. It can be an email or a handwritten note. Include in the letter examples of why you don’t think this person is a good friend to you.  Explain that you wish to go your separate way.
  • Don’t avoid the person or tell lies to make yourself unavailable. That is immature.  Rather, use a direct approach.
  • Remember that people aren’t always good at taking hints. Just say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Don’t be vague.

Here is an example of what you might say if you’re ending a bad friendship:  “I’m not feeling good about this friendship right now. I don’t find you to be supportive or helpful to me. Your jealousy and attempts to control what I can and cannot do are not okay. I think it’s best if we go our separate ways.” This is not entirely different from how you would end any relationship, whether it is a romantic one or even a professional one.  As hard as it might seem, you can do this. Once you’ve done it the first time, it actually gets easier. When the need arises to break up with a friend in the future, you will have the skills to do so.

Quality friendships are one of the most important and satisfying things a person could ask for.  Keep the friendships and relationships that make you feel good and that are mutually beneficial and respectful.  Let go of the rest. You don’t need dead weight or negativity in your life.



Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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