Maybe you used to be close as glue and then one of you moved across the country. Maybe you were best pals through college but then your life just kinda went separate ways. Either way it happened, the person you used to call your friend has just kind of…faded away.
Friendships that fade can be trickier for us to emotionally navigate than friendships that end suddenly because many times, there isn’t a specific reason as to why the friendship is no longer as strong. If Becky backstabs you, then there’s a stronger sense of closure when you end the friendship. But fading friendships don’t have that sense of closure, and maybe it’s time we start talking about them.
Maybe nobody talks about it that much because there’s this weird cultural taboo that people who lose friends have something wrong with them. But often, we naturally grow apart from people as we get older. Nobody likes to talk about how not all friendships are meant to last forever.
But it’s one thing to realize that a friendship is possibly meant to be over, and entirely another to fully come to terms with it. Below are four ways to help yourself recover from friendships that slowly faded away.
Frame your thoughts in terms of the present, not the past.
It’s not healthy to live in the past and ruminate on what was. In thinking about your past friend, you may realize that you were only meant to be friends for a certain amount of time. For example, maybe you were party pals/drinking buddies through college, but now you hardly touch the sauce and they still prefer to spend social time at the local watering hole. That doesn’t necessarily mean the friendship is doomed, but it may indicate that you just don’t share the same values anymore. It may help you come to terms with a faded friendship if you know that that friend fits into your past life, but wouldn’t fit into your present life.
Ask yourself if the friendship faded amicably, or if there was tension in the relationship before it started fading.
It’s easier to see yourself reconciling with a friend that faded away unwillingly, maybe because of them being far away or other life circumstances. But if there was any fighting, manipulative, or even backstabby behavior going on before, then you have to consider the possibility that this friend willingly left your life. No matter who’s ‘fault’ it was, and many times both parties are responsible, you have to decide if you’re able to look past the crap in the past to have a future. This can be excruciatingly hard with old friends who fade because your heart remembers all the times when things were good and wears rose-colored glasses when it comes to the bad. But use your older and wiser crystal clear eyes to look back on the actions of that friend from a distance. Was the fighting or betrayal a one-time incident that you could forgive them for? Or was it a pattern of behavior, a sign that they had become a different person than the one you first became friends with?
Do not let yourself fall into the nasty-ass, depressing pit of ‘Is it my fault that I’ve lost some friends?’
That pit is a crap ton of guilt that you do not need to be swimming in. Firstly, come to terms with the fact that maybe it is partly your fault a friendship ended. But they are a two-way street; they don’t fade away unless both people are truly okay with it happening. You shouldn’t feel all the guilt here, and hammering yourself doesn’t fix a thing. I’ve faded two friendships myself, both because those people changed. I can’t say if they changed for better or for worse, and they might be something completely different today, but it needed to be done. I try to feel confident in my decision because I know that those two people are very likely aware why I’m no longer in their lives (i.e. talking behind my back, not sticking up for me when other people were doing the same). I’m still sad, because I remember the good times, but the bad times have a way of setting you straight.
Reflect on what makes you a good friend and what you could do to become an even better one.
Everybody has their shortcomings, but in order to recover, you have to focus on what makes you valuable as a friend. What qualities do you have that you offer current friends and the ones in the future? Also, consider things that you could improve on. Maybe you do have some idea of what behaviors might have led to the faded friendship and can work on those. (such as reaching out more, etc.) But even just a small check-in with your friendship abilities can help.