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How To Cope When Friendships Grow Apart

A sad truth in life is that friendships come and go. It’s a cliché saying my mom would often remind me of over the years.

I can honestly say that the friends I had in middle school and high school were very different from the friends I made in college. My college friends were different from the friends I made at work. My work friends changed as I career hopped a bit.

From moving, to changing schools, to changing jobs, to growing up and getting older, I found that many of my important friendships over the years ended overtime. I don’t talk to many of the people I used to consider very near and dear to me. And you know what? It’s okay.

Because like I said: friendships come and go.

How To Cope When Friendships Grow Apart

If you’re finding this is the case for you as well, try not to let it affect how you feel about yourself or your ability to maintain friendships.

Like any relationship, friendships end for a variety of reasons. It is important to understand why, learn from these relationships, and move forward. There are many ways to cope when friendships grow apart. Here are a few:

1. Understand that some friendships have an expiration date.

I’ve learned over the years that some friends are meant to be in your life during a very specific chapter. Maybe it’s college, or a semester abroad, or your first job, or a friend you had during an internship. It’s true that some friendships work in that moment: surviving college, getting you through the work day, etc.

Acknowledge how your friendship served you during this time in life, and try to accept that maybe it wasn’t meant to last beyond that chapter. It’s okay to grow apart. It doesn’t belittle what you had or what you meant to each other during that time period.

2. Reflect on why things ended, especially unfortunate endings. 

Maybe you had a big fight, lost trust in each other, name-called, or betrayed one another. Assess what went wrong and how. Sometimes different lifestyles, new interests, or  missing common interests can be the cause. And sometimes a friend may join a social circle you’re not a part of and they are pulled away from you.

Try to think back to what happened and how things could have ended differently. Maybe it’s too late to fix it, but you can take your learnings from one friendship and apply them to another. Understanding what went wrong and how it could have been better could end up saving a different friendship in the future.

3. Consider righting your wrongs.

It might be over between you and your friend, but if you’re both mature people it might help you cope by talking things out.

Meet at a public space, like a coffee shop, and try to hash out your differences. It might not salvage anything, but it probably will make you feel better having said your piece. When you get right down to it, hearing each other out might be just the thing the two of you need to really put the friendship to rest and move on.

Related: 4 Tips For Having Tough Conversations… Respectfully

4. Keep your memories in the past.

Sometimes people hang onto friendships because of what used to be. Maybe you’re clinging to the past, so caught up in everything you and your friend have been through together, that you just can’t shake the feeling that you need to keep trying.

It’s hard, it really is, but try to remember that the past is in the past. What you and your friend went through together was glorious in its prime, but is ultimately behind you.

Knowing this, believing this, might really help put things in perspective to help you move forward. It happened, it meant something, but it ended. It’s okay to say that someone that was important to you isn’t anymore. Harsh as it sounds, it really is powerful to remind yourself that you’ve evolved and your friendships have to.

5. Accept the universal truth that things do change.

When it comes down to it: people change. What brings two people together early on might end up driving them apart later in life. It isn’t fair, it doesn’t always make sense, and it isn’t right, but sometimes it’s the plain truth of it all. Just because you and your friend have years (maybe decades) of memories, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to have a future. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is accept that you changed, they changed, and things aren’t the same anymore. In some situations, this is the harsh reality. 

Friendships come and go for many different reasons. A childhood friendship might shift when you move in different directions. Maybe someone you thought you were true friends with let you down. Sometimes new friendships don’t result into a close friendship as you get to know one another. You may find an adult friendship that is healthy and supportive sheds light on old friendships that aren’t quite right for you or your mental health.

Sometimes growing apart is just the thing you need, sometimes it’s unexpected and painful. Whichever scenario you find yourself, try to cope as best you can. Remember to put yourself first. You are amazing and worthy of healthy friendships moving forward. Goodbyes are painful, but sometimes they’re the best things for you. You can let some change be a good thing.

And the good news is that as you meet new people you will find you share a common reason to connect and that your different interests are supported in a new or better way. A good friend doesn’t have to be a lifelong friend, but a new friend can also become someone  you have a strong friendship with that will stand the test of time moving forward, even as you change jobs, move cities, make different choices or as time passes. You can share good times for a long time, or maybe you fall into different things and they aren’t able to stay along to support you when you make a life change.

Remember, it doesn’t matter the number of friends you have or if your former best friend has found someone new. What matters is that you find a friend or friend group that loves and supports you unconditionally. Change is a natural part of life, but when you have a close relationship with a friend it makes it easier to ride the waves. And if that friendship isn’t a healthy relationship? Well, then it’s time to let it go. Friendship is a beautiful thing, but it has to be a good friendship, that is mutually beneficial and supportive; one that helps you be your best self and still grow.

[Tweet “You are amazing and worthy of healthy friendships.”]

Be kind to yourself during this transition and remember to indulge in some self care. Try to cope by:

  • Talking it out
  • Watching your favorite movie
  • Making yourself a nice cup of tea
  • Scheduling a massage or acupuncture appointment
  • Speaking with a therapist
  • Confiding in another friend
  • Journaling
  • Getting outside for some fresh air
  • Listening to music
  • Reading a book
  • Reflecting on all of your relationships and habits
  • Working on your communication methods
  • Staying off of social media

Even though a friendship might have ended, things are going to be okay. Make sure to take time for yourself and be honest about what you truly need during this time.

About the Author

Rachael Warren (Tulipano)

Rachael is a University of Southern Maine graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in Sociology. She remotely works full-time as a Senior Content Marketing Specialist for Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. In her leisure time, Rachael enjoys traveling with her husband, finding the next Netflix series to binge, and taking too many photos of her dogs Jax and Kai. Rachael is obsessed with chapstick, favors the Oxford comma, and is a proud Mainer. You'll likely find her exploring New England + beyond.