Dear Nikki: How do I break up with my best friend? We were close for many years, but we're not anymore, and I need to move on.
—Best Friends Forever Is a Long Time
Dear Friend Without Benefits,
This one is a toughie, and no doubt something we all go through at some point in our lives. Maybe your "best" friend is kind of a mooch or dishonest or embarrasses you, or maybe you simply don't enjoy his or her company much anymore. Maybe you've known each other for over a decade, and as teenagers you had a lot in common like getting high and listening to Soundgarden—and now you just don't seem to jive anymore. Though you may feel a bit of sadness over a relationship that's gone south, I imagine the guilt you are feeling over the prospect of having to reject this person is more upsetting to you.
There are potentially two distinct ways to go about this. If your friend lives far away or if you see them only on occasion, the task is a bit more manageable. I suggest the “drift away” approach. Stop returning calls. Stop accepting social invitations. Just be busy. This person will eventually get the hint. You will stop calling to wish each other happy birthday or happy anniversary. Social media can get a bit tricky in general with these sorts of things regardless. If your friend is constantly "poking" you and commenting on your Facebook page, ask them via Facebook or email to cool it, as you're trying to maintain a more professional cyber persona and just don't have the time for such trivialities. Then block them from seeing your comments and feed.
If your friend lives next door or rendezvouses with you on a regular basis, a direct approach may be necessary. Before you drop the ax, make sure you've retrieved all of your belongings previously lent to your friend. If you know the break-up is imminent and you find yourself at their house, you can say, “Hey, can you find my Cannibal Corpse t-shirt I lent you awhile back? I want to wear it to the monster truck show Friday night." Anything you have that belongs to them can be tucked in a box and sent via the trusty United States Postal Service. Try not to be harsh, but don't be a pussy either. As someone random once said, "The kindest gesture is a swift blow to the back of the head." Do it quick, and be honest. It's okay to do it over the phone. Otherwise, try a public place. This goes for romantic break-ups too. I once had an ex crying uncontrollably on my couch for some inordinate amount of time, and I had to say, “Alright, gather your stuff, and say goodbye to the dog.” You don't need that kind of soap opera bullshit. Simply tell your old buddy that there were good times together, but you've drifted apart, and the friendship you once had is gone. Tell them you truly wish them well and that you'd like to focus on your: marriage, kids, knitting circle, church group, heroin habit, etc., but you're sure you'll see them around. Don't let them take you on a guilt trip of pleading and questions. Just say that you've given this a lot of thought, and it's the right decision for you in your life right now.
You’re obviously not trying to hurt someone’s feelings here. This is a choice that requires a tremendous amount of courage on your part, and you should commend yourself for that. People often stay in relationships that no longer work because they believe it’s easier than making the changes necessary to move on. You will be a happier person and enjoy your life more fully when you gravitate toward people who are like-minded, and free yourself up to focus your time and attention on those who feed your soul.