When distancing yourself, hurt feelings may not be avoidable.

How to Distance Yourself Without Hurting Feelings

by Karen Kleinschmidt

There are subtle and straight-forward ways to distance yourself in a relationship, but since you are unable to control how another person reacts and feels, there is no guarantee you won't hurt her feelings. If you are pulling away and trying to create distance between an acquaintance or former co-worker, this can prove to be easier than trying to put distance between you and a friend you once felt close to.


Before making any decisions, explore what you need or want from the relationship. Do you need more from the friendship or does your friend seem to ask for more than you can possibly give at this time in your life? As people grow and change, sometimes it becomes impossible to nurture the relationship as you had in the past, especially if it centered around a particular activity or work. Understanding your reasoning for wanting distance will help you to communicate your needs in a respectful way. When you need to distance yourself in a relationship, and you do so in a positive manner, people can learn from it, according to Henry Cloud, Ph.D., leadership coach, clinical psychologist and author of "Necessary Endings."


If this person is someone close to you, explain in a calm, considerate and honest manner how you feel about your relationship, before distancing yourself or ending the relationship. By discussing issues openly, you give your friend the chance to hear what you are saying, absorb it and make changes. If you feel neglected in your relationship or overwhelmed by her constant complaining or negativity, let her know. She may surprise you by responding in a positive manner to your feedback. If the relationship does end, know that growing apart is often a natural part of friendship, according to Jan Yager, author of "When Friendship Hurts."

Fade Away

The best option may be to let the relationship fade away by reducing it to that of acquaintances. Don't completely shut this person out of your life, but speak to her on a surface rather than personal level. Take longer to answer texts, emails and phone calls. This may not signal the end of the relationship, as it can bounce back if given the appropriate space and time, according to psychologist and author of "The Comfort Trap" Judith Sills, Ph.D. As people grow and change, the relationship could heal itself if given the chance. Although you may feel guilty, follow your gut, according to Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., author of "The Friendship Fix" and a professor of psychology. If you have outgrown the relationship, give yourself permission to put your needs first and distance yourself from the person who is no longer a positive influence in your life.

New Interests

People you grow apart from fail to nurture you while continuing to take your time and energy, notes Yager. Rather than continuing to try to get your needs met with them, put your energy into finding people with whom you have common interests or similarities. Reach out to the positive people currently in your life and engage in productive activities with others or on your own. The more hobbies, activities and interests you immerse yourself in, the less likely you will be to have to interact with the people you are trying to distance yourself from.


  • Chatelaine: How to End a Friendship: Six Tips to Doing it Gracefully
  • Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up; Henry Cloud
  • The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing and Keeping Up with Your Friends; Andrea Bonior
  • The Comfort Trap (or, What if You're Riding a Dead Horse?); Judith Sills

About the Author

Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.

Photo Credits

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