How to End a Relationship

Sometimes a personal or professional relationship has to end, but that closure can be awkward. Have no fear, Modern manners Guy has 3 quick and dirty tips for calling it quits.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #239

How to End a Relationship

I received an email from a Modern Manners Guy reader named Rachel who had a question about whether or not she should invite a friend to her wedding who has burned her time and time again. After letting her know that I’ve actually covered this topic in How to Decide Who to Invite to Your Wedding, I asked her one simple question: “Are you still friends with this person?”

Turns out, they used to be best friends but hardly ever talk or see each other now.  This made me think about how some of us tend to hold onto friends because we feel like we owe them something. Or perhaps we have a long history with this person and it’s hard to let go.

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At some point in your personal or professional life there will come a time when you just can’t deal with someone anymore and feel no need to continue the relationship. That’s when you have to admit to yourself, “It’s not me, it’s you” and figure out a way to end things. But how? Here are my 3 Quick and Dirty Tips to cut the ties that bind.

Tip #1: Cutting Business Ties

I too was burned by someone recently. I’m not going to give their name, but in short, I donated a lot of time and energy to an organization I did a reading and signing with for my children’s book, Terple – Always Dream Bigger, for which I was promised compensation. However, when it came time to pay the piper, I was left in the dust. Apparently, even though both parties speak English perfectly, we read the confirmation email quite differently. And even though I was completely correct and they were obviously short changing me, they fought back like I was the one robbing them blind. We went back and forth and I remained calm throughout their obvious rage, until I reached the point of no return.

This is a miserable story all around. Not only was I not paid what I was promised, but this situation also caused a break in my friendship these people. I really liked working with them. We had become friends over time and I thought it would last. Sadly, it did not go this way. So rather than push the issue further, I sent an email in which I dropped my sword and told them it’s better if we parted ways.

Did they win? I guess so. But I had no choice. If I had lost my temper (as they did), they could have used that against me in the future. Instead, I took the high road and told them that it was nice working with them, I wished them all the best, and made it clear that this would be the end of our relationship.

In business, people will try to rob you more than reward you and in the end it’s your reputation that matters most. Remember this before you send an email or make a phone call you’ll regret. But when you do end it, make sure they know where you stand and make it final. Leave no unanswered questions and simply move on.

Tip #2: Get Out of My Friend Zone

Let’s get back to Rachel, the young woman who emailed asking me whether or not she should invite an old friend to her wedding, even though this friend had burned her time and time again. At one time, this person was Rachel’s best friend and a very important person in her life. That “one time” was back when Vanilla Ice was considered “cool.” Things change and this relationship had run its course. But Rachel felt terrible about it and felt obligated to extend the invitation. Maybe she should give this friend another chance? Maybe things have changed?

Here is a perfect example of a kind, optimistic person being way too nice to someone who doesn’t deserve it. It happens all the time. True, I advocate giving people more than one chance…but I don’t recommend getting walked over. And if this so-called “friend” can’t handle that, well, sadly, this isn’t Rachel’s problem any longer.

We all grow up, grow apart, and change. This is unfortunate and we often have a tough time letting go of the past, but it’s a normal part of life. You should never feel like you owe someone anything if they are not on the same page as you in the friendship. I advised Rachel not to invite her ex-friend to her wedding because her big day she should be as stress-free as possible. 

So how do you part ways with a friendship? You have two options:

#1: Let it run its course. If neither party makes an effort to connect, you’ll be casual friends, seeing each other from time to time or not at all.

#2: If they do confront you about why you aren’t making an effort anymore, then you have to be honest and straight to the point (but without being cruel). For example, something like this: “To be honest, every time we talk, you belittle me and make me feel bad about myself. It’s not healthy and not the friendship I need. I think it’s best if we take some time apart.”

Is this too soft? Too bold? Depends on the people and the situation. But however you do it, I highly recommend taking a stand and making your point very clear. This may not be easy, but it is necessary.

Tip #3: Unfamiliar Family

My friend Josh complained to me the other day that his Great Uncle Walter was annoyed that he wasn’t invited to Josh’s son’s 4th birthday party. Josh was stunned. He only sees this uncle maybe twice a year at family functions where he cleans up his plate and then leaves right away. So when hungry Uncle Wally found out that Josh was having his son’s a birthday party at a popular pizza place, he figured, “Free pizza and cake? How can I resist!” My friend was onto him, but didn’t know how to go about it uninviting him. To me, this was a no brainer.

For starters, this is a birthday party for a 4-year-old who this uncle never sees of his own choosing. If the uncle wanted to be a part of his great-great nephew’s life, then he would make an effort, and not just around the times of parties.

But like bad weather and taxes, dealing with family members who decide to float into your life when it’s convenient to them, is just a part of life. And as much as I’m a firm believer in “family first,” I am also a firm believer in choosing certain family members over others. So when it comes to deciding on the invitation list for family events, you have to ask yourself this question: “If this person wasn’t at the party, would I miss them?” And if the answer is no, well, there’s your answer. This isn’t harsh – this is a reality. You can’t please everyone all the time and here is an example when cutting someone out – who doesn’t treat you well and doesn’t care – is a necessity.

Do you have a story about ending a relationship? Post all the details in the comment section or on the Modern Manners Guy Facebook page.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

Two Women image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Richie Frieman