The other day my friend Samantha called me, upset about the state of her relationship with her ex-best friend on her school’s campus, Emily. I know that these two were inseparable freshman year and was surprised to hear that they rarely talk these days, a transition that can’t be traced back to any one reason. They were both hurt by the fact that they were drifting apart, which led to a dramatic,public fight that left them both in tears. Friendships that drift apart can be just as painful, if not more, than a breakup, and we may not even realize it’s happening.
College is the time to establish our own interests. Personal growth and realizations inevitably affects how and with whom we spend our limited time. It can take a while for two people with an initial connection to notice that they have fundamentally different values. Not everyone you are friends with needs to share all your interests, but making too many unreciprocated sacrifices for your friend’s sake can be an early sign of an unhealthy relationship. Samantha went into this semester with the goal to raise her grades and Emily unfairly reproached her for spending more time at the library than in her sorority house. Samantha told me that she tries making time for Emily, who often declines in favor of spending time with her new boyfriend. The circumstances that created their friendship had changed, which wasn’t either of their faults. The longer they went without seeing each other, the less they relied on each other and felt the need to reach out to the other.
When we feel someone becoming distant, it is not uncommon to cling onto the remains of that friendship with a death grip. While you might not like the idea of losing a friend, put yourself in the mindset that friendships don’t always last forever and that most things happen for a reason. Most factors in friendship are out of our control and trying to force a dying friendship feels unnatural. Learning to let go of that control will make it easier to find out if that friendship is worth maintaining. Drifting apart can be a blessing in disguise that allows you to explore your own interests.
While efforts to maintain a friendship can feel one-sided, it is also important to consider the possibility that you might be the toxic person in the relationship. Sometimes our actions have negative consequences that we don’t even realize and it may be best to accept that you don’t bring out the best qualities in someone else. If you realize you might be the toxic friend, you have to be able to recognize your faults and learn from them. The most important thing to respect your friend’s needs and their mental health.
Coming to terms with the end of a friendship can be difficult. We get used to having people in our lives and it is not until we realize that we have grown distant that we begin to miss their company. If you feel a friend drifting away, do what you can to preserve the friendship by being honest and open, but also take a moment to consider that some relationships don’t have to be life-long. Sam told me that she wishes she and Emily were still close, but now sees how much easier her life is without having to constantly worry about her. She has been spending more time getting to know the other girls in her sorority and doing what makes her happy. Sometimes we simply outgrow friendships. Life is all about changes, and what defines us is how we react to these changes and if we allow them to help us grow.