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Ask the Oracle - How do I end a toxic friendship

Ask the Oracle - How do I end a toxic friendship

Dear Oracle,

I need help breaking up with a friend! I worked with Cathy a few years ago but we kept in touch after I left the company and grew closer as friends. We never had much in common. I’m pretty introverted and modest while Cathy is a loud over-sharer. She can also be rude and super judgemental. Despite that, we had fun together. Plus, we were both in a city where we knew few other people. 

Then, I started hanging out with a co-worker at my current company and began to see a new, awful side of Cathy. She’s become clingy and jealous. She texts me constantly, wants to hang out almost ever night, and gets angry if I don’t message her back or if I’m not available to do something with her. I tried inviting her out with my new friend and a couple other colleagues but all she did was criticize and make fun of me in front of them. 

We had a big fight and I told her the friendship was over but several days later, she was texting and calling like nothing had happened. I didn’t know what to say so I just went with it and now we’re hanging out again but her behavior hasn’t changed. I understand it’s likely coming from a place of insecurity and I don’t want to hurt her. How do I end this friendship?

Ex-friend Ellen


Dear Ellen,

Not every friendship is meant to last a lifetime. Sometimes we form a relationship in a certain place or time and naturally move on from each other as life changes. However, a natural end isn’t always an option. When we find ourselves with toxic friend who won’t let go, it can be a problem. You don’t deserve the misery they’re causing you yet you don’t necessarily want to hurt them. 

You’ve already established that Cathy is toxic. Toxic friends leave us in a bad mood when we’re around them and leave us feeling drained of energy. They’re negative, competitive, mean, selfish and critical. These relationships can take a toll on your mental health and it’s ok to want to be rid of this influence in your life.  

The easiest way to end a friendship is usually to avoid contact. Don’t make plans with them. Respond occasionally and briefly if contacted. Hope they take the hint and move on. However, it sounds like this might not work on Cathy. You’re going to have to be more direct. Treat it like a romantic break-up. 

Explain why the friendship isn’t working for you. Try not to blame or insult, just focus on explaining how they make you feel. If you do this in person, allow her to express her point of view but you’re allowed to remain firm in your decision. Try to keep things calm and avoid argument. If she’s particularly volatile, you can always write a letter or email. Be prepared that she may not respond kindly, but you have to keep your emotional wellbeing as a top priority. No friendship is worth risking that.

Now it’s time to mourn the end of the friendship — it’s normal to be sad even if you “broke up” with her — and start surrounding yourself with positive people. Expand your social circle and invest time in your new, healthy friendships. Hopefully Cathy will move on and do the same. 

Yours in light & love,

The Oracle

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2018  Advisor since
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