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Why it's OK to let friendships fade out.

We've fallen out of touch with friends and acquaintances. It may feel awkward, but you don't actually have to rekindle every relationship you once had.

You may realize something: there are a lot of people you haven’t spoken to in years.

Then you realise something else: you may want to keep it that way. 

More of us are starting to pick back up the strands of our pre-pandemic social lives. As we figure out who the first people we want to meet up with are, we’re recognizing there are friendships from the ‘before times’ we didn’t keep up during lockdown – and aren’t particularly excited to re-ignite now that we can.  

Should we feel bad about not caring for these relationships?

While people have known for years that friendships are unquestionably good for your health, experts say it’s only natural for acquaintances and even friends to fall by the wayside as time goes on – and it’s nothing to feel guilty about. If you really do miss someone, you can always reach back out. But if you feel obliged, or like doing so is emotional labor, take that as a sign you can cut that person loose.

Gut check

“When there’s a friend that you haven’t kept up with – if you didn’t feel the need to check up on this person, and they weren’t checking in on you – then kind of believe what your gut is telling you,” says Suzanne Degges-White, professor of counselling at Northern Illinois University, US. “Not every friendship is meant to last forever. It goes both ways.”

Shasta Nelson, a San Francisco-based author and speaker who specializes in friendship, agrees “it’s absolutely normal that relationships ebb and flow all throughout life”. It’s impossible to keep up with every single friend you’ve ever had, she says, especially as you add new relationships when your life circumstances change, such as moving cities or changing jobs. These kinds of life experiences change your friendship networks, as you re-prioritize the people you want to spend your time with.

Curating ‘friendscapes’

Although you may feel guilty picking and choosing your circle if it means fading out on friends, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s value in curating that network of friends and acquaintances of your own volition. You’re making what Degges-White calls a “friendscape”: “who’s close by, who do we want to be around and who do we want to surround us?” Your friendscape can change during certain, specific situations during life – going away to university or a summer camp, or being in a certain job – and you often begin curating new friends to fit that current life situation. Not everyone can fit into your current friendscape. That was quite literally the case in the age of lockdowns and social distancing. “In life, as we go through certain stages and ages, our attention shifts and we want to be around people who are like us,” says Degges-White, whether those people are fellow married parents or people away at school with you.

Friendship Life Cycle

Luckily, most friendships have a natural life cycle. Often we're drawn together by circumstance—work, the single life, kids—and as our situations change, we gradually drift apart. On a deeper level, our friendships mirror our internal life. "As we gain a stronger sense of self, what used to matter no longer does, and we're bound to outgrow certain friendships," says Florence Falk, PhD, a New York City psychotherapist. "Once you're aware of that, without being cruel or feeling guilt-ridden, you can begin to let go of relationships that no longer nourish your most authentic self."

It's okay to grow

Friendships tend to end when you go off to new places, not always, but it does happen. Just because you're friends with someone does not mean you're friends. Think about it... how many people are you friends with on Facebook that you don't really know. Sure, you might've gone to school with them, but do you know them?

It's okay to no longer be friends with someone. It's okay to no longer talk to someone. People get into a relationship, and for some reason, they tend to drop their friends. It's an unknown reason, but it happens.

You don't always stay friends with people. That could be a good thing. Your friends may not have been "good" for you. You drifted away. There is nothing wrong with that. Do not confuse yourself with "not trying hard enough" and doing what's right. A friendship should not be decided on "trying hard enough" or not. A friendship should not be based on whether a person calls every day or not.

Acceptance and moving on

From time to time, your friendship will again surface in your mind. A Facebook memory will pop up. An old photo is dug out when cleaning out the closet. Maybe their name comes up in conversation. Instead of the stab of hurt and loss, you smile. You remember the good times that you shared and the person you loved, at that time, and for a time.

This is a beautiful place to be in: acknowledging the friendship for what it was, accepting that it’s now over and realizing you are in a new chapter of life.

And always remember, that the end of a long friendship is not wasted year's at all. NOT AT ALL! You had all the seasons the friendship was meant to have, and now it's time to let go, wish them well, and continue to move onward with life.


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