How to Break Up With a Toxic Friend

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 25, 2021
4 min read

Healthy friendships should be enriching relationships in which both parties offer each other kindness and companionship. Of course, you will sometimes disagree and occasionally experience rough patches, but that’s normal in any relationship. But sometimes, you may have a friend who causes you heartbreak. No one should have to put up with a toxic friend, so it’s important to know how to identify them. Recognizing when you are in a toxic friendship means you are one step closer to ending that destructive relationship.

A toxic friend is:

  • Threatened by your success: A good friend will always be happy for you. Unless they have a genuine reason for concern, your friend should not speak badly about something — like a promotion at work — new in your life. If they are being judgmental and won’t celebrate with you when something great happens to you, you may have a toxic friend.
  • Always talking about themself: Friendship is about sharing, even the spotlight. A toxic friend will want to both overshadow your progress and be the center of attention in the friendship. Sometimes it can be so bad that if you’re not talking about them, then there is no conversation at all. It is not healthy if you feel like you need to keep quiet rather than talk to your friend about whatever is bothering you.
  • Not happy that you have other friends: Regardless of the nature of your friendship, you should always be free to meet new people and spend your time as you need/want. A toxic friend will get in your way whenever you want to spend time with other people you care about. They make you feel bad when you choose time with someone else over time with them. 
  • A troublemaker: Although friends may fight, it should never be because one person is always starting the arguments. If they can’t let go of something wrong you did in the past, that could be a red flag. 
  • Not willing to fix things: In a true and healthy friendship, it is not possible that one person is always at fault. It may not always be a fifty-fifty situation, but neither of you should feel like you are the one always compromising. A toxic friend will have you take the fall whenever times get tough.
  • No longer fun to be around: If you’ve reached the point where you no longer enjoy being around your friend, it is probably time to reconsider the friendship. 

If they’re still your friend and they genuinely care about your feelings, both of you should be able to come to an understanding and save your relationship. But when a friendship is pulling you down instead of building you up, you should gather your strength and take a break. Here’s how to do it:‌

  • Confront them: It may be possible that your friend doesn’t realize that they’re being toxic. If you think that’s the case, explain to them how you feel. Communication goes a long way when it comes to resolving conflicts in relationships. So look for a way to talk to your friend about what they’ve been doing — or not doing — that has left you unsettled about the relationship. Be careful not to dwell on their actions but rather on your feelings. It will help you to maintain focus on all the red flag behaviors that are threatening your friendship.
  • Stay away: Give yourself time to see how your life changes without the toxic friend around. This is the first step towards being able to deal with a breakup, especially if you’ve tried to talk it out before to no avail.
  • Accept how you feel: Avoiding someone you cared for is not easy. It’s going to feel awful, but it’s for your peace of mind. Accept whatever feelings of sadness and loss come along. Allow yourself to experience these emotions so that you can move on.
  • Take your time: Despite the loneliness, allow some time to pass as you heal and get back to your normal self. Don’t let anyone force you back into the situation you have already walked away from. 

Consider these three tips for healing after a breakup: ‌

  • Find support: Whether it comes from other friends or your family, comfort is always welcome after a breakup with a friend. You may find that they missed you when your once toxic friend wouldn’t allow you personal time with others.
  • Look for closure: Try writing a letter to the toxic friend you just broke up with — but don’t send it to them. Instead, seal it in an envelope and shred it. Weird as this may sound, it might help you get any bad feelings off your chest in a way that doesn’t involve contacting that person.
  • Move on: If you’re wondering if you can even manage it, give yourself more time. It may take up to a year or more to completely move on from a toxic friendship, but eventually, it will happen. The good thing about moving on is that you will feel better in the end — and be proud of your ability to walk away from negative relationships and situations.‌

If you think you need professional help dealing with a toxic friend or breaking up with one, don’t shy away from talking to your therapist. There is a possibility that the breakup may be followed by negative consequences, which a professional can help you navigate.