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How to Cope When a Friendship Drifts Apart

People grow and change and life moves forward at an alarmingly fast rate. Many times, life moves along in sync with our friends,’ but sometimes it doesn’t. As someone who has relocated several times as a child, teen, and young adult, I know what it feels like to have people come into your life and […]

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People grow and change and life moves forward at an alarmingly fast rate. Many times, life moves along in sync with our friends,’ but sometimes it doesn’t. As someone who has relocated several times as a child, teen, and young adult, I know what it feels like to have people come into your life and then fade away as the distance slowly chips away at a friendship. Even with social media, texting, FaceTime, and every other tool we have to stay in touch, sometimes it’s just not meant to be.

One thing I’ve learned is that friendships rarely last a lifetime, but good, healthy relationships serve a great purpose for the time they exist. If you’re struggling to deal with a friendship that is fading, it’s important to remember that you’re not the only one facing that loss. All of us go through it, but you can learn so much from the experience. Here are a few helpful ways I have learned to cope.

Why Friendships Sometimes Drift Apart 

Although it can be difficult to accept, friendships come and go. People change and grow and sometimes relationships become stagnant and fade off. While it can be depressing to think about, this is actually a normal part of life and everyone experiences it at one time or another. So, why do the strongest bonds of friendship sometimes just fizzle out into nothing?

  • Sudden life changes. Extreme and sudden life changes such as having a baby, getting married, or choosing to get sober can sometimes end a friendship. “Often, major life changes can make it difficult for people to maintain a close relationship because they no longer share similar life experiences, interests, or things in common. This is especially true in addiction recovery,” says Mathew Gorman, CEO of Nova Recovery Center, an Austin drug rehab.
  • Lack of effort on one side of the relationship. Friendship is a two-way street. If one person only talks about themselves and never asks about you or you’re constantly reaching out but your efforts are not reciprocated, the friendship is unlikely to last. If someone is not willing to extend the same energy and time as you do, you may come to find that your efforts are better spent elsewhere.
  • Someone finds a new close friend. Sometimes your best friend may connect with someone else on a deeper level, leaving you feeling lonely or excluded. A situation like this doesn’t necessarily mean the new friend is better than you, it could just be a sign that you and/or your best friend are growing apart and changing.
  • Trust issues. A breach of trust can be the death of any relationship. Whether it’s due to a lack of boundaries, respect, or a betrayal, unresolved trust issues are a common culprit of lost friendships.
  • Lost connection. Certain aspects of life like college, a job, or even just being within close proximity to one another sometimes serve as the base of friendship. But when college ends, someone leaves a job, or one person moves across the country, it’s not uncommon for friendships to fade and eventually dissipate completely. 

How to Cope When Friendship Fades

Whether a friendship ends due to a nasty feud or it gradually falls away into nothing, figuring out how to cope and move forward with life can be difficult and painful. Although there are no one-size-fits-all solutions or quick fixes, here are a few ways you can help yourself heal and move on.

Talk about it.

Clear communication is always ideal, especially if you and your friend are unsure about where you each stand. If you want to restore the friendship, schedule a time to talk and be honest about the way you feel. Speak up if you are hurt and work together to find a solution, if possible. In some cases, it might just be time to end the friendship, so it’s important to be aware and open to that possibility too.

Ask yourself what you can learn from the relationship.

Every friendship serves a purpose, whether it was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime type friendship or a nightmare of an experience. Ask yourself what you’ve learned throughout the process? What do you know about yourself now that you previously didn’t? How can you be a better friend in the future? What are you looking for in a friendship?

Forgive yourself or your friend (or both).

When a good friendship fails, it’s rarely entirely the fault of one party or another. Recognizing that you and your friend are both imperfect people is a healthy way to begin forgiving yourself and them. While one of you may have been at fault, holding a grudge is only going to cause more hurt. In forgiveness, you’ll find growth and peace.

Give yourself time to grieve the friendship.

The hurt will fade with time and it’s okay to give yourself permission to feel all the things. Whether you’re angry, sad, lonely, or confused, just know that it’s okay to not be okay. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions and process them is an essential part of healing.

Find outlets for your feelings.

As you work through your emotions, it’s important to have outlets for them. For instance, if writing helps, start a journal or a private blog. Or express yourself with music, art, or yoga. Use whatever outlet you need to express your feelings healthily.

Focus on the other great friendships you have.

Sometimes, a friendship will just fizzle out, and that’s okay. Instead of getting bent out of shape about the loss and letting it overtake your happiness, choose to maintain a mindset of gratitude and focus on the other great friendships you do have. 

The pain you may feel from losing a friendship certainly does have the potential to hold you back from experiencing new, great friendships. However, coping in healthy ways can help you move forward, learn from the experience, and establish new friendships with time.

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