When Friendships Change: Here's How To Deal
Navigate the complexities of friend breakups and evolving connections as you mature and undergo personal growth. Discover practical strategies for coping with the challenges of changing friendships, and gain insights on building resilience, fostering new connections, and embracing the positive transformations that come with navigating the evolving landscape of relationships in adulthood.
By Anna Myers / Dec 23 2023
I went through my first friendship breakup this summer, and let me tell you: it was far from a walk in the park. When it comes to romantic relationships, popular culture abounds with insights, resources, and advice ––but what about friendships? What happens when they change into something we don’t recognise? Where can you learn more about how to cope and deal with a friendship that no longer looks like it once did? Here at Dandy Wellness, of course!
Here’s a complete overview of how to deal with changing friendships, no matter their nature, complete with practical advice and different steps to try out. Let’s get into it.
why friendships change
Of course, it’s only natural for friendships --like any relationship-- to change over time: as we change, as people, so do our affinities, hobbies, interests, and sometimes even our beliefs.
This means our “new personalities” might no longer match that of our long-time friends, our interests might no longer align. Sometimes, we simply stop having much in common with the people in our close friendship groups, and while that is only a natural part of life, it still hurts all the same.
So, how do you actually deal with the evolution of a changing friendship? Here’s five steps:
wait it out
Don’t rush! Balancing how you might be feeling with the reality of the friendship is not easy, and takes a little time and patience. The most important thing is that you give yourself some time, and space, to process how you’re feeling and interrogate yourself as to why that might be.
When did things start feeling off? What impact does this friendship have on me, and do I still feel in alignment with them? Did something in particular happen, or cause a rift?
Questions like these might be super helpful when it comes to zeroing in on the problem, and not catastrophising the situation straight away.
review the basics
The concept of “friendship triangle” comes from expert Shasta Nelson, author of books like Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girl-Friends and Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.
Her TED Talk on the topic explains that we're reporting feeling lonelier and more disconnected than ever, not because we don’t have enough friends but because we don’t feel seen by them.
In it, she outlines three actions that lead to connection and belonging: consistency, positivity, and vulnerability. Together, they form a “friendship triangle,” which is to say, they create the foundations for a healthy and supported friendship. Look at the three triangle points, and ask yourself: where are my friendships off-balance?
talk it out
Just like no one can figure out the destiny of a romantic relationship by themselves, the same is true for friendships.
Communication is key, and while it’s easy for emotions to run high when bringing up issues, concerns, or simply differences between friends, no friendship can survive without these kinds of supportive and understanding conversations. You need to be able to trust your friends, and trust that you can be honest with each other.
So, talk it out! Ask genuine questions, express your honest feelings, try to meet in the middle. Ghosting is never a healthy option, and it’s no better in friendship than in romantic relationships: yes, talking about the realities of a changing friendship is complicated and delicate, but crucial to the longevity of all our relationships.
Ok, you’ve tried everything. You’ve waited, you’ve re-assessed, you’ve tried a new balance, you’ve been honest about your feelings. Perhaps then, there’s just nothing else you can do to save this friendship… and that’s okay!
It hurts, of course, but once you get to this stage there’s very little left for you to do except accept that the friendship is irreparably changed. You can accept the fact that you’ll see each other less, or do different activities when you do hang out, or love each other from afar. It’s often nobody’s fault, and just another harsh truth of life.
You could remind yourself that some friends only stay in our lives for a season, or hope to reconnect in the future, but you may need to accept that this friendship might be over for now.
hurray for new friends!
A positive thing to come out of the evolution of a stagnant, lifeless, or hurtful friendship is that you are freeing up space and time in your life for new friends, and that is always something to celebrate.
Nothing new can come into your life if there’s no room for it, and making space for new connections and interactions will allow you to discover whether there really are better friends for you out there ––more aligned, more supportive, more present, less judgemental or less demanding, take your pick!
Take a moment to take stock of why your past friendships have ended, what you would like to see in your future ones, and be upfront about topics like boundaries, interests, and emotional maturity. Know that you deserve friends you can truly be proud to have in your life, and that for every changing friendship you are not able to salvage, there might be someone better for you just around the corner!