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Ways to Distance Yourself From a Friend

Erin, a good friend of mine had a question for me the other night. She’s been trying to improve her life. And one of the ways that she’s doing it is by looking at her relationships. And friendships, most importantly. She asked me, “Ryan, what are some ways to distance yourself from a friend?” Well, I thought that was an odd but good question!

Studies have shown that who you surround yourself with will have a very strong influence on the things that you do in life. The quality of those relationships will surely have an impact on you. For example, if you’re around a bunch of entrepreneurs—there’s a good chance they are going to encourage you to do the same.

Likewise, you could also get influenced in a very negative way… Making it very hard to draw healthy boundaries. Here are some ways that you can step away from relationships that might not be serving you in a healthy fashion.

two guy friends saying whats up to each other - ways to distance yourself from a friend

5 Ways to Distance Yourself From a Friend

Subtle but good ways to draw a little space between the two of you!

1: Limit the time that you spend together

The best way to draw distance is… well… to do it! All you have to do is start to think about how much time you’re spending with people who aren’t influencing you in a positive way. And then begin to step back.

What you can do is to start to focus on something that’s positive. Try to replace everything negative with something positive. For example, if you’re spending time on social media—you can easily replace that time with meditation time.

And every time that you want to do something negative—simply replace it with some type of positive or healthy act that you’ve decided for yourself. You can certainly do this when it comes to human relationships, too.

2: Control the space and surroundings of where you spend time together

In some negative relationships, they’re going to get worse when the environment changes. For example, if you’re going to a bar. Or if you’re going to a persons home who has a particularly negative influence… Then you’ll want to say “no” when it comes to potentially going to those places.

This will help to draw a little space between you and a friend who isn’t serving you well.

3: Don’t be afraid to say “no” more often—the best way to distance yourself from a friend

Here’s the thing—the hardest thing you’ll have to engage with is simply saying “no” to your friend more often. Instead of saying “no,” what you can say is “another day.” For example, if they’re asking you hang out on a particular day/date/time, simply suggest another time that you’d like to get together.

By doing that, you can also control where and when you meet up—making it easier to control any negative influences that might be happening inside of the relationship.

4: If it sounds like there’s opportunity for something negative, don’t test the waters

One thing to keep note of is that you don’t want to TEST anything. For example, if you’re aware that particular environments or behaviors often turn bad with a friendship—don’t think that they aren’t going to repeat that pattern again.

When you see the pattern come up, it’s time to say no. Don’t think that “this might be the time that they decide not to do that.”

See also: Fake friends (what are they!?)

5: Maintain the relationship from another perspective

A great way to maintain the relationship from another viewpoint is to control where and when you communicate with that person. For example, draw some physical distance between the two of you—but then be sure to make a few phone calls to that person and talk about their week/day/month.

This will maintain the relationship—so they know that you’re not trying to cancel or delete the friendship entirely… But that you’re simply thinking about putting a little space between the two of you so you can move onto some other goals that you have for yourself.

Related: Fun things to do with your friends

friend sharing wine together on a bed

My Own Experience Drawing Distance From a Friend…

I’ve had some friendships that were influencing me in the wrong way. I would say it had to deal with where I grew up. I didn’t grow up in a major city… Or a bad neighborhood. In fact, I grew up in a very good neighborhood. But even those have their drawbacks.

For me, it was people who were a little bit too comfortable with their surroundings. And that caused them to turn “bad” too. What was terrible is that because many of these people grew up from good families, it was hard to see that they were taking me into a “bad” place in life.

What I decided to do was put myself around people who inspired me… And realized those friends didn’t inspire me. I started with transitioning some of my time away from them with events (like working out or attending farmers markets). Things that I thought were a healthier habit. And that worked well! And that’s my best advice!

Fact checked:
Board reviewed by Marianne Tomlinson, LCSW (Couples and Family Therapy). Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Learn more.

About the author

Ryan Sanderson (LCSW) Ryan is a game and relationship enthusiast who enjoys all things quizzes, games, fun, love, relationships, and family. He's a licensed social worker and helps families, couples, and children in need. He's spoken about love and relationships on Salon.com, Forbes, and Mirror, to name a few.

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