It’s time to cut your losses and end a toxic friendship when the relationship brings you more stress than joy, and she (or he) makes you feel worse about yourself, not better. These are the best ways to break things off:

  • Tell Her to Go Away

It’s the simplest, most direct route. Be as firm and dignified as possible. If you feel the need to offer an explanation, there are two ways to go: Nice and Not Nice. Nice sounds something like “I don’t hate you or anything. I just feel like we don’t see things the same way anymore.” Or maybe even “We’ve been kind of drifting apart for some time. Don’t you think?” For the Not Nice version, use your imagination, or list all the many times she has wronged you, annoyed you, or stressed you out.

  • The Holly “Go Lightly” Method

This is neither harsh nor direct. It’s the same method that some women use to cut down on coffee or chocolate: weaning. Try gradually cutting your interactions with her until you’re down to an occasinal e-mail. If she asks you what you’re doing Friday night, tell her you’re busy, without giving specifics. Continue to be vague. Eventually, she should get the hint and stop bugging you. But since she’ll be the one ending contact, you won’t feel embarrassed when you see her at the mall.

  • Play Possum

Basically, lie. If she wants to know why you can’t make plans the way you used to, put on your best forlorn, French-film face and say, “I really can’t talk about it right now. I just need some time.” Allude to, but don’t elaborate on, problems with money, your marriage, whatever works. She’ll probably leave you alone, if for no other reason than that you’ve become an enigmatic bore.

  • Fall Off the Face of the Earth

It’s worked for single men for centuries. Why can’t it work for you?