Hopefully, most of your friends are keepers: They celebrate your successes and support you during tough times.
But on occasion, a so-called friend can end up dragging you down instead of helping you thrive. The first step to getting back to a good place is realizing that she’s toxic; the next is figuring out how to break things off.
So we asked seven women who went through a friend breakup to share their insights. Here, they share the wake-up call that showed them they had to end the relationship, and the strategy they used to cut ties. Their full names have been withheld to protect the anonymity of the toxic friends (and the dumpers).
“A couple of years back, I had to end a 10-year friendship. It was very, very difficult to do. In general, I’m a remarkably loyal person, so I didn’t take the decision lightly. At the time, I traveled a great deal for work, and I gave my friend a key to my house just in case anything went wrong. Once, I returned a day early, and when I got home, the front door was wide open and there was a man sitting on my couch, eating a ham sandwich and looking at pictures on Facebook. His belongings were everywhere. She had a long-distance relationship, and it turns out that she had given my key to her boyfriend and he was staying there every time I went out of town. I confronted her and told her she should have asked my permission first. She refused to say sorry and even went so far as to demand I apologize to her—for thinking her boyfriend wasn’t good enough to stay in my home. By refusing to accept any accountability for this complete and utter violation, our friendship was over. I very politely told her I needed my key back. I didn’t yell, I didn’t curse. I just calmly explained that we were no longer friends. As soon as she left, I changed my locks and blocked her on every social media account I had. I haven’t spoken to her since.” —Terena B.
“I had a roommate from college with whom everything was a competition: Which sorority we got into, who made the dean’s list, who landed the first and best job out of college, who got promoted quickest, who could lose the most weight. When I started dating my now-husband, this friend told me she’d find someone and be married before me. Within six weeks of my engagement, she was married—and I made the decision to not be in her wedding, knowing that would effectively end our friendship. I never heard from her again.” —Suzanne G.
“I had a toxic friend who I had known since the first grade. When we graduated high school, her life took a radical downward direction made up of bad relationships and bad jobs. Every conversation with her was full of blaming and negativity. I thought being a good friend meant giving her a shoulder to cry on, but eventually her emotions began to infect mine. So I made a decision that every time she complained about a person or circumstance, I’d ask her, ‘How can you turn this around to be a positive, rather than a negative?’ She finally got tired of being asked this question over and over and stopped using me as a sounding board. I still see what she’s up to on social media, and I can say nothing has changed in the past 10 years since our breakup. I’m so grateful I made the choice to step away from the toxicity of our friendship.” —Jodie S.
“I’ve dumped a few toxic friends once I realized that they made me feel bad about myself. Basically, I didn’t feel like I could be me with them, and I didn’t like the person that I became—I always had to comply and cave in. With one friend, I simply stopped talking to her. I’m not proud of the way I did it, and it made me feel bad about myself. So I acted differently with the next friend. I told her that I felt our relationship had run its course and that I needed to take a break. I tried to soften the blow with the, ‘It’s not you; it’s me’ approach. I’m sure she was hurt, but she didn’t pursue it.” —Iris S.
“Ending a 15-year relationship with a friend didn’t come easily for me. I had to do some soul searching. So I honestly asked myself how I felt around this person. ‘Is she draining me or energizing me? Do I really enjoy our time together, or is hanging out with her just a habit?’ Once I had the answers to those questions and placed solid boundaries around myself, our relationship naturally fell apart. It wasn’t that I’d stopped loving or caring about her; I just needed to start loving and caring about myself more.” —Sandra L.
“Dumping a toxic friend is a lot like dumping a romantic partner. I had a friend who was having a tough time at school and work. Her attitude started getting progressively worse, and she would yell and scream at her loved ones and gossip about her friends. I knew it was finally time to end things when I was becoming emotionally drained from being around her. I felt frustrated, tired and angry after spending time with her—and this was not my normal disposition. I dumped this friend by telling her that she did and said things that I didn’t agree with, that her attitude was killing my spirit and that we were just going in different directions in life. It was a great conversation because she agreed that her behavior was out of control and that it was best to go our separate ways. Although we don’t see each other anymore, we’re still Facebook friends.” —Ariel N.
“I had a friend who was super-judgmental and sanctimonious and felt the whole world needed her moral and intellectual correction. Yet, I was willing to turn a blind eye to all of this for a while because she’d befriended me when I was new in town. How did I eventually end it? Just never called, emailed or went back to her place again. Walking away from this friendship was the most liberating thing I’ve done in years. Without her regular criticism, I feel lighter, brighter and more confident. The final shocker: After I cut her loose, my other friends admitted they were glad she was out of the picture and no one would have to deal with her any more.” —Jacky L.