Illustration by Weronika Marianna
How to Break Up with a Friend
Maybe there was a distinct turning point. Or it was more of a slow build. Maybe it’s you; maybe it’s them. Regardless: Friendship breakups are painful. They can bring up feelings of anxiety, grief, and loneliness. And the period after a split can be filled with moments you’d normally turn to your friend for advice on—which makes it hard to remember that parting ways with someone can move you (both) forward.
“Pruning my relationships is how I was able to navigate out of a life that didn’t serve me and into one that did,” says Lalah Delia, a spiritual teacher and the author of Vibrate Higher Daily, who has made a career of helping others navigate some of life’s most difficult and rewarding decisions. “You have to trust that the universe has something better for you out there,” Delia says.
Parting ways with a relationship that’s no longer serving (or never served) the people in it is the first step—and the way you approach this part is important. But the real opportunity comes in the healing process that follows: How do you fill the space left behind?
A Q&A with Lalah Delia
Sometimes, we’re friends with people just because we’ve known each other a long time or because we went to school together or because it’s convenient for us. That kind of context or history can keep us in friendships that we’ve outgrown.
There was a time when I would stay in a relationship or in a circle where I wasn’t being respected. That shifted when I started working on myself: I was able to feel and sense what I wanted in a relationship and what wasn’t serving me. I was able to look at a relationship and say, “Wow, I don’t actually feel comfortable here”—whether it was with an old friend or a new romantic relationship with a man. I saw the importance of actually stepping into the whole exercise of having the “no” conversations, from “No, I didn’t like how you said that” to “No, I just don’t need this relationship.” There was so much more that would come on the other side of that conversation, whether it resolved some issue in the relationship or put an end to the relationship entirely.
It’s so important to do it with grace, mindfulness, and compassion. That’s how you get the best outcome for all involved. Because sometimes, we can break off friendships or relationships in a way that feels gratifying to us—like, oh okay, just a quick cut off and you move on and you’re done, right? But that’s not always fair to the other person, who might be left a little lost or confused, and with no ground to grow from.
Instead, we can end relationships with compassion. You have a conversation with this person. You let them know why you’re leaving, and you hear them out in return. Then you wish them well going forward—genuinely—and you move on with your life, wishing them no harm.
“There was a point when I stopped wishing the person who abused me any harm and wished him healing instead.”
When I learned how to do that, I saw things shift. There was a point when I stopped wishing the person who abused me any harm and wished him healing instead. I created space for him in my own head where I could believe that he could grow and find happiness. And then I started seeing a lot of my friends that way, too. If you let them go, you do so without attachment or judgment—and you move forward thinking of them not as they were when you left but as who they might grow into.
I found that if this person didn’t ever heal, it just wasn’t the right relationship for me. It could be right for someone else, but it wasn’t for me. And there was no heavy judgment around that. You have to reach a place where you’re okay with it.
If it’s meant to be, it’ll come back. It won’t happen with every friendship. But it has happened with two or three in my life. And it’s beautiful. Sometimes, growing and healing together as friends might take boundaries. As you grow separately from a friend, they might snap awake and recognize: Oh, you’ve been doing work, and you feel different, and you feel beautiful. And that creates a shift in a relationship dynamic that you left in the past.
“Sometimes, growing and healing together as friends might take boundaries.”
Once you’ve made it through to the other side, there’s a period where you empty out. Leaving a friendship can be disorienting. You need to find your balance again. And sometimes you have to rediscover who you are without this person or these people.
The period after breaking off a friendship is a cleansing process, where you clear out the ideas, thoughts, energy, and vibrations you were carrying but that weren’t yours. It’s like when you’re sitting and talking with a friend and you’re agreeing with what they’re saying, but you don’t really agree. That stuff becomes a part of you. Over time, it builds up, and you become this person who thinks this way and talks this way. On a soul level, you know that’s not who you are—but you settle for it because it’s part of a relationship that’s important to you.
“Look at solitude as a place of refuge.”
Affirmations are a great way to make the transition easier. The mind will attach to these messages that it takes in. Feeding it words and ideas that support what you want, rather than what you don’t want, is key: Instead of saying “I don’t want to attract any more negative relationships,” you say, “All my relationships serve me. They are supportive, powerful, meaningful, and fulfilling.” I do these right before I go to sleep and right after I wake up—in that hazy phase when the brain is in a natural meditative high.
When we let go of a relationship, we’re stepping into the unknown. We don’t know what’s next, and that can be scary. But when we look to our future as something dim, we’re affirming that idea and cementing that mind-set. Instead, we can practice visualizing that things eventually come to pass. You’re releasing what doesn’t serve you because you’re making room for something else. What comes into your life next will reflect your growth. All of this becomes like a mission, a calling, and a higher purpose. When you visualize it and feel it and believe it, you draw these things into your life. That’s how manifestation works.
I would encourage anyone going through that lonely period to look at solitude as a place of refuge. It can be as simple as recognizing what solitude feels like and acknowledging that something important is forming. That you’re here for it. If you can adopt that mind-set, solitude becomes this beautiful, significant place of growth moving forward—a place you can go back to whenever you need it.
There are some relationships that you can simply entertain without asking anything in return. Sometimes, we do have a duty as compassionate citizens of the world to hold space for certain people in our lives even if the relationship doesn’t benefit us. When people are at their worst, we have to remember that maybe they’re acting that way out of some kind of pain. It’s like when someone cuts you off in traffic, and you’re trying to remember: Okay, maybe they’re in a rush, maybe there’s a family emergency, or maybe they’re upset because someone just cut them off. You don’t act rude back, if you can. It’s the same way with friends. If we say no to everything that looks toxic to us, then we’re not really practicing compassion.
“Sometimes, we do have a duty as compassionate citizens of the world to hold space for certain people in our lives even if the relationship doesn’t benefit us.”
In these relationships, I’m looking at this person knowing that they’re doing the best they can with whatever they have going on, and I’m holding that space for them. If I can offer something that would be of help to them, I will. But we do have to watch the fine line: If I see that my help is rejected, or my help is causing the both of us more harm, then I can go back and say, “That’s enough for me,” for the day or week or however long. It’s just a matter of using discernment and wisdom in knowing how much you have the capacity for.
Lalah Delia is the founder of Vibrate Higher Daily, an online spiritual mentorship program, as well as the author of Vibrate Higher Daily: Live Your Power.