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Not every friendship ends with drama and arguments. Some friends simply move further and further apart emotionally until their relationship doesn’t resemble the early days of their friendship at all. Just like in romantic partnerships, friends can grow apart suddenly, without explanation or recourse. In some cases, two friends can come back together in time, but in others, the friends drifting apart pull so far away from each other that the friendship is over.
Though a friendship ending can often be met with confusion, sadness, and frustration, it's important to remember that friendships ending are normal, and that we can all learn from past relationships.
Why Friends Grow Apart
Not every friendship is meant to stay in our lives forever. In fact, most friendships end at some point for a variety of reasons. Friends may drift apart because their lives suddenly change (as in the case of a new job, marriage, or baby) or when they no longer share the same things in common. "Friendships may dwindle due to a difference in investment of time and energy," says mental health clinician, Shainna Ali.
Another reason friends grow apart is a lack of trust. When one friend behaves poorly, shows a lack of respect (talking over the other one, not listening, or being snarky), or gossips about the friend, trust diminishes to the point where the other friend feels guarded around them. You can’t have a true friendship when one person is too afraid to express themselves or talk about their life for fear that the information will be misused (or worse). Trust eventually breaks down, and one friend will pull away from the other.
In other cases, however, two friends will simply just grow apart. This is typical of friends who are close during pivotal times in life, like during school years or when you start a new job. "The things that previously magnetized us to our friends may no longer exist, or at least our connection to them may have dissipated," Ali says. As our lives change, so can our friendships.
When You Don’t Want the Friendship to Change
You might be the one wondering what happened in your friendship when you see a friend drifting away. You can try to see if you did anything wrong, but if a friend is already pulling away, they may have already decided or believe that the friendship is over.
More than likely, you will have to accept that things are changing if your friend is in a different emotional place than you are. There’s no need to formally end a friendship that has drifted apart. In fact, it’s better to let it drift away, because if you care about the person and want to be friends again, there is a chance that the friendship can drift back together again years down the road. It all depends on the people and life circumstances involved.
If you decide to formally end the friendship by telling a friend you don’t want to see them again, your friend probably won’t argue or try to end things on a kinder note. You’ll just be done with the friendship and it probably won’t come back together again.
Accepting a Friendship Drift
It’s hard to let go of any friendship, especially one that just sort of fizzles out at the end. But every friendship adds something to your life, so appreciate your friend for however long they were in your life and for whatever they taught you. Every friend teaches us a little bit about ourselves.
To accept that your friendship that has drifted apart, know that you can get closure by yourself. You don’t need to “hash it out” with a friend in order to mentally say goodbye. Allow yourself time to grieve, because there will be sad feelings that you’ll need to feel and work through, but don’t beat yourself up about the fact that the friendship is over. Instead, be glad that it happened.