Making new friends is such an enjoyable part of life, and we often pick them up as we go through our adult years. You might have gotten to know friends through work. You can bond with others while raising young children. Still other friends, you might have met on the bike path or while playing poker.
But even your once closest friendships may not stand the test of time, says Sarah Epstein, marriage and family therapist in Philadelphia. “Because we change and other people change,” she says. “Our interests, our circumstances can change over time. This can have a very big impact on who we want to spend time with and what kind of effort we’re willing to put into it. “
Still, moving away can be a difficult change to navigate, says Irene S. Levine, PhD, psychologist in Westchester, NY, and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.
“When friendships end, it’s not like a divorce, where there’s a piece of paper, it’s all written down,” she says. “But because friendships are so important, it’s really safe to think about why you want to end them, how you’re going to do it, and to do it in a way that makes you feel good and hopefully. the, is as good as it gets for the other person. “
Signs of a change
Sometimes friendships are rooted in a season of life, says Gina Handley Schmitt, marriage and family therapist near Seattle and author of Friendship: creating meaningful and lasting friendships with adults. “Obviously over time we get bigger and sometimes we change big or small,” she says.
Or your life circumstances may change, she says. “So we could see that over time, we have less and less in common. We can spend less and less time together. “
Or you might realize, says Epstein, that a childhood friendship never really reached adulthood. When you catch up, it’s always about your past experiences and nothing else.
“Maybe you are becoming an outdated version of yourself,” she said. “You find yourself slipping into the genre of your old skin. The friendship may have run its course or it may no longer develop.
Wondering if you’ve gone beyond a friendship? Some other situations where this can happen:
Friendship that is running out: You don’t look forward to spending time with a friend anymore, says Epstein. “You don’t want to go. You feel that sinking sensation in your stomach. Maybe it’s because you’re doing all the emotional work, she points out, listening to your friend constantly complaining about her job or just talking about herself. “It’s not a mutual relationship,” she says. “So over time it can be really exhausting.”
Friendship unbalanced: Epstein sees this a lot in his practice, working with clients. “It’s not uncommon to hear someone describe a friendship and say, ‘I’m taking all the initiative’. “Or maybe you are the one who stays behind and you don’t want to meet up for dinner every week.” “Both sides are difficult,” she said.
The least interesting friendship: Too few hours in the day can squeeze out some friendships, Schmitt says. As you get older, your time is often more and more used. “It’s just about taking a really honest look at how we invest our time,” she says. “And asking the question, ‘OK, if I have that many emotional dollars to spend, where do I want to invest them?’ “
Make the transition
Sometimes a friendship fades, at least for the time being, and that leaves the door open for reconnection at a later stage in life, says Levine, who is also the author of the Friendship Blog. Or if you’re the one who wants to pull out, you can try seeing that friend less often or only in groups, she says.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying you’re distracted, that you have other things to do,” Levine says. “It may very well be that you have less time for socializing right now, than you are busy with work. I think a white lie is also okay, especially if it’s not a close pal.
But if your friend persists and asks to reunite, you may need to be more direct, says Levine. “And tell them you need to withdraw from the friendship right now.”
There are ways to call for change in your friendship, but with kindness, Epstein says. For example, she suggests, “This has been such a meaningful friendship to me for so long. And I feel like we could be in different places. ” “
With options like texting or emailing, it’s all too easy to hide behind the technology, Schmitt says. Or worse yet, entirely ghost of a friend. “Just sort of disappear without ever really explaining why.”
“But if you had a meaningful connection with someone at some point, I just think they deserve better than that,” Schmitt says. “And we deserve better than that.”
When her therapy clients have spoken more directly with a friend, they often say it went better than expected, Schmitt says. Until you had this difficult conversation, she points out, you might have carried two burdens.
You realize that a friendship has gone bad and needs to end. But you’re scared, Schmitt said. Once you talk to your friend, you can get rid of both of these emotional burdens.
Give yourself space
Even if you were the one to end the friendship, you could still cry, says Epstein. Besides mourning the loss of friendship, you can also mourn the missing future with that friend, she said.
Give yourself time, she advises. Maybe create rituals, like collecting photos or keepsakes in a special place. Or write yourself a letter about friendship and its role in your life.
Tell the others what happened, says Epstein. You might learn that they’ve had their own loss of friendship.
“Maybe part of this is giving yourself permission to feel as bad about it as you would a breakup,” she says. “Sometimes it can be even worse. Some of those very close, tight-knit relationships that cannot stand the test of time and life – it can be a huge loss.
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