Female friendships are the best. Girlfriends are fun to go on adventures with, they’re supportive when we’re going through hardships, and they’re our biggest cheerleaders when we’re following our dreams. … Until they aren’t, that is. Sometimes, no matter how much we loved a person or how well (we thought) they understood us, certain friendships can become toxic relationships. Realizing that a friend shouldn’t be in our lives anymore is confusing, heartbreaking, and stressful, but letting go of a bad friend is just as necessary for your well-being as breaking up with a bad S.O. If you have a friend in your life who just has to go, read on for our tips on breaking up with them the adult way.

A bored woman sits in a coffeeshop as her friend uses a tablet

1. Define expectations for the friendship. Both yours and theirs. Before you sit down for “A Talk,” figure out if a formal friendship-ending declaration is even necessary. If you’re still acting like besties who do everything together, you’ll definitely need to have a major convo — but if your relationship is more casual, it’s perfectly okay to just stop initiating plans and start turning down their offers to hang to let things slowly fizzle out. Either way, it’s important that you’ve thought realistically about this relationship and what it means to “break up” — there’s no use causing unnecessary drama if you can help it.

2. Remember honesty is always the best policy. With that said, if your friend asks why you’re suddenly MIA, you have to ‘fess up and be honest about where you’re at. Of course, you still want to be mindful of their feelings too: Now’s not the time to start a fight or play the blame game. Sure, you’ve kept a mental scorecard of every passive-aggressive thing they’ve said to you and any time they’ve made you feel insecure, but rehashing those moments with her now won’t help you heal. Instead, a simple “I need to move on” and being clear about your intentions should be enough. If it’s gotten to this point, we’re betting they know what’s up, even if they don’t want to admit it.

3. Set healthy boundaries. However you’ve decided to deal with your toxic friendship, make sure you follow through on your initial intentions. If you’re cutting someone out of your life completely, that means unfollowing (and probably blocking) them on social media, steering clear of social events you know you won’t be able to avoid them at, and turning down attempts at reconnection without resolution of their toxic behavior. Moving on only works if you actually move on. You’ll feel so much freer and more confident if you’re not constantly going down the rabbit hole of Instagram tags or prying pals for gossip. We can’t emphasize this one enough!

4. Keep it between you two. Speaking of those other pals, unless your friend’s behavior has actually been abusive, don’t put pressure on your mutual friends to choose sides. It may be awkward at first, but you’ll find a way to coexist peacefully, and those around you can make up their own minds how they handle your new arrangement. Often, breaking up (whether it’s a friendship or relationship) means disrupting more than just your own lives, so you can expect awkwardness and maybe even losing other friends in the process. Just trust that your instinct for self-preservation is leading you to a healthier, less anxious life on the other side of the initial mess.

5. Don’t let guilt get in the way. It’s so easy to feel like you’re the “bad guy” when you’re the one officially initiating the end a relationship, and none of us like knowing someone is mad at us — even when they’ve been bringing us down. It’s easier said than done, but try not to feel guilty for following your gut. Just repeat after Kourtney Kardashian: “I don’t need this kind of negativity in my life.”

Have you ever had to “break up” with a friend? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know what you learned through the experience.

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