For many of us, coming home from Thanksgiving means experiencing a plethora of different emotions: relief, caution, or even discomfort. And while some of us are gearing up to meet our hometown ex or prepping to bite our tongue at the Thanksgiving table, some of us are anxious about another important relationship in our lives.
Friendships. Or should I say, friends drifting apart.
We all know the age-old tale of childhood and high school friendships after you leave for college: the promises to FaceTime every week and visit every weekend, and the hope that nothing will change and you’ll be friends forever. But as college begins to take the wheel, we often find ourselves evolving into the next phase of our lives.
Much like seeing an ex, seeing your high school and childhood friends can be an extremely awkward, uncomfortable, and confusing situation — especially when it’s the first time since going to college.
How do you go from spending everyday together to going weeks without speaking? Can your friendships be salvaged? Or were they meant to fade away at the right time?
According to Ashley Hudson, a therapist specializing in teenage and young adult psychology, fading friendships are a natural part of growing up, especially when it comes to college.
“When young adults transition to college, they are practically forced to adapt to their new surroundings, establish a new friend group, build a new routine, and figure out who they are outside of their family unit,” Hudson tells Her Campus. “Assimilating to new surroundings could mean you have adopted some new views and values that you might not have had in childhood. In addition, childhood friendships might not grow and mature as fast as you do when you go off to college. Thus, it’s hard to relate and connect with your childhood friendships.”
College is often the beginning of your growth into your full, authentic self, and sometimes that means shedding the parts of yourself that are holding you back. Maybe it’s the beliefs rooted in the way you grew up, your high school fashion sense, a hometown boyfriend, or even the friends you’ve known your whole life.
But sometimes, it’s not easy to let go of your friends, especially if it’s something you weren’t even planning on doing. As friendships fade, you may find yourself feeling extremely confused: Why aren’t we connecting anymore? Did I do something wrong?
The case is, with a lot of high school friendships, nothing went wrong at all. And that’s the hard part. Blame it on the distance, the new phase in life, and on just plain growing up.
Luckily, Hudson was able to provide a few pointers on how to navigate fading friendships.
- FADING FRIENDSHIPS ARE NORMAL
It’s hard to lose friends, but drifting away from friends becomes more common the more you grow up. “Understand that it is a normal process for people to grow and mature and drift away from childhood friendships,” Hudson says.
This happens all the time without us consciously noticing it. Think about it — are you still friends with every kid you played with on the playground? Or every kid in your summer camp troupe? Who knows, you may even lose touch with college friends over the years.
This isn’t to say you should ignore those people in your life that you feel are fading away. In fact, it might be best to meet up with them, and spend time with the person they’ve grown into. Perhaps the distance in your friendship was simply caused by, well, distance itself, and things will feel normal once you meet up again. And if you’ve changed, maybe you’ll still love the new, grown-up versions of yourselves just as much! But if that isn’t the case, it’s not the end of the world.
- IDENTIFY YOUR FRIENDSHIP NEEDS
As you grow up, it’s absolutely essential to identify your personal needs in relationships, whether those are romantic or platonic. In some cases, your hometown friends might not be meeting the needs essential for your personal growth. This could be anything from not getting the quality time you need from a friend, or feeling like you’re not emotionally supported enough in your friendship.
“Take an inventory of your current friendships to see what specific friendship qualities you are looking for and needing in your life,” Hudson advises. That doesn’t mean that a friendship that doesn’t have these qualities should just shrivel up and die, though. Sometimes, identifying your needs can mean taking a step back from a close friendship, or even just talking things out. And that’s hard. But always remember that you come first.
- DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP
“Give yourself and that old friendship some grace,” Hudson says. You don’t need to feel guilty for drifting apart; whether the friendship is ending on a good or bad note, remember that people come and go out of your life for a reason. And while we may not know the reason why, remember to treat yourself (and your old friend) with kindness — especially when your friendship is in the thick of fading away.
“It’s okay to allow yourself to go along your own journey right now to see what life is offering you at the moment,” Hudson says. “You never know, your paths might cross again someday in the future, or you could look back understanding why they didn’t.”
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches and you’re getting ready to go home to the land of family, exes, and hometown friends, remember that it’s common for relationships to change over time, especially your friendships.
Ashley Hudson, Therapist & Relationship Expert