Moving on: When it's time to break up with a friend?

Photo: Tyler Nix/Unsplash
"Sometimes letting go is the first step toward creating a stronger friendship circle."

Holding on to a friendship that you aren't genuinely interested in maintaining can lead to resentment.
Brandpoint - Friendships are an essential part of living a fulfilling life.

Charles and Viktor (both names changed to protect their identities) had been friends for over a decade. Drinking buddies and lacrosse teammates in college, they found jobs in the same city. With similar interests, they became close friends.

A few years before the 2020 election, Charles started to change. His political views became increasingly intolerable. Viktor's wife could no longer stand to be around Charles, as his misogynistic and racist comments were a source of constant disgust and discussion.

Just like any other relationship, some friends are only meant to be part of your life for a reason or a season, rather than a lifetime. The problem is, no one really talks about how to evaluate your friendships and let go of the ones that are no longer adding value to your life.

While an overwhelming majority (77%) of respondents in a recent Bumble For Friends survey* believe that friends are one of the main factors to a happy and healthy life, 42% have never intentionally evaluated the existing friendships in their lives, and 1 in 4 (25%) agree that they are stuck in outdated friendships that no longer serve them.

Danielle Bayard Jackson, Bumble For Friends’ friendship expert, shares her advice on how to intentionally assess your friendships so that you can find peace in letting go of the ones you’ve outgrown. She suggests starting by asking yourself these questions:

Does the friendship feel like an obligation?

Many people have circumstantial friendships, meaning relationships that are mostly based on convenience, such as taking the same classes or having the same hobbies. Bumble For Friends’ survey* found that 1 in 3 (35%) people have these kinds of friendships — they're common, and they add value to life by offering a certain kind of companionship. However, when these friendships become obligatory, meaning that you maintain them out of a sense of duty, it’s time to reassess.

Why are you maintaining the friendship?

It took almost a year for Charles and Viktor to go on their own separate ways. They would talk on holidays and occasionally do lunch a couple of times a year to catch up. Vicky was happy, and Viktor felt relieved he no longer had to endure his friend's ultra-right banter.

One of the most common reasons why people hold on to friendships that no longer serve them is that they feel they owe it to history. They may also feel scared that if they let a friendship go, they’ll have a hard time finding new friendships. If the reasons you’ve elected to keep a friendship don't include a value-add to your life, then it might be time to mend or end the relationship.

What is maintaining the friendship costing you?

Holding on to a friendship that you aren’t genuinely interested in maintaining can lead to resentment, as you’re investing time, energy and emotional bandwidth that you most likely can’t afford. It can also impact your other friendships, as you’re dedicating space that you could be using on friends that fill your cup. There are only so many hours in the day, so it’s important to focus on friendships that positively impact your life.

If you decide that it’s time to part ways with the friendship, Jackson recommends a three-step formula for approaching the conversation:

  • Show that you’re intentional about the decision. Say, “Listen, I’ve been thinking a lot lately….”
  • Address your needs without blaming the other person. Use ‘I’ statements as much as you can; rather than “you are never there for me when I need you...,” try saying, “I need friendships in my life that can prioritize and support me in times of need.”
  • Tell them how much you appreciate them and what your intention is for moving forward. This could be, “I have appreciated our friendship so much, and you have been such an integral part of my life. However, I won’t be able to show up in this friendship in the same way that I have before.”

“Sometimes letting go is the first step toward creating a stronger friendship circle,” says Jackson. “Ending a friendship that no longer fits doesn't make you mean or disloyal. Instead, it creates space for the both of you to be better positioned to invite new connections into your lives.”

If things have changed in your life and you feel like you've maybe outgrown a friendship, Jackson suggests intentionally doing things to form new friendships — whether that be joining group activities, asking friends of friends to tag along to their next event, or downloading Bumble For Friends, the friendship-finding mode on the Bumble app. By putting yourself out there, you’ll be on the right track to creating a stronger social circle around you.

For more expert advice on building (and maintaining) strong friendships, visit

*Research was commissioned by Bumble and carried out online by Censuswide in February 2023 amongst a sample of more than 1,000 US adults who have either attended college or are currently in college.

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