How do you Break up With a Friend?

15/08/2011 13:17 BST | Updated 15/10/2011 10:12 BST

Breaking up with a lover is hard to do. But it has to be done. If only because you need to stop sharing your bed with them. But with a friend, do you break up? And how do you break up?

'It's better to spend time with friends than watch Friends,' said a newspaper columnist recently. But surely it is better to watch television, do anything really, than spend time with a friend whose company you can no longer bear. A friend broke up with me last year. She simply stopped returning my phone calls. I had to check with a mutual friend that she was still alive. I wasn't sure if she'd taken ill or just gone off me. What if, instead ceasing to reply to my calls, she had simply said, "Look - I'm sorry, but I would like to end our friendship." Would I have preferred that? I'm not so sure.

I spent a nightmare day at a friend's home recently. She used to be funny, kind and we were interested in each other. Now, as her big TV screen blared out relentless episodes of 'Come Dine with Me,' at full volume, she spent most of her time cooking furiously and ordering her husband about. "WHAT'S UP WITH YOU?" she shouted at me, every few minutes over the din. I'd open my mouth to respond - and within seconds she was gone, her head back in the oven, checking on dish number seven. At that moment, a friendship already on intensive care was dead.

Another friendship break up happened a few years ago, when my then friend kissed someone he knew I was deeply in lust with. In my presence, at my party. He did not see anything wrong with what he did. For me, as they turned into each other, it was the loneliest I had felt in a long time.

I have urges to tell former friends why I ended our friendship. Although I am not sure it serves any purpose. It is true, that while others can clearly see what is wrong with us, we can never see ourselves clearly enough, even when we are told. Is it really helpful to point by point, list out why someone who once stimulated us, now makes us want to run for the hills?

One wonderful upside about breaking up with a friend - apart from the sheer freedom of not ever having to see them again - is that you understand more about yourself. About what you are looking for in a friend. I used to look for clever, glitzy, emotional people. Now I look for friends with empathy, kindness, the ability to put themselves in other people's shoes. And then, once again, it gets better to spend time with friends than sit at home, watching reruns of Friends.