Not all friendships last forever, even very good ones. That’s because over time, people tend to grow in different directions. When a friendship ends, it could be the case that you changed, she's changed or you’ve both changed.
Or, perhaps, your friendship has gradually fallen out of sync because “life” intervened. She’s engaged and you’re single; she’s married and you’re divorced; or you’ve lost your job while her career success has been nothing short of meteoric. Perhaps her income is so much greater than yours that you can no longer do the same things, whether it’s planning a shopping jaunt or weekend getaway.
Or you may be a stay-at-home mom with two precious kids while your friend is preoccupied with infertility problems. Or you used to share an office but no longer work for the same company; or you used to live in the same neighborhood but one of you has moved on to another city, state or country.
The bottom line: Changed life circumstances have altered your friendship.
Whenever we get close to someone, whether it is a friend or lover, we tend to suspend the possibility that the relationship will someday end. But statistics prove otherwise—both for romantic and platonic friendships. In fact, most friendships wind up having expiration dates. One study by Dutch researchers found that people tend to shed at least half of their close friends every seven years.
Here are some of the warning signs that a friendship may be fraying:
1) Scheduling get-togethers has become a nightmare.
Your calendars never seem to mesh and you can’t find a convenient time to get together. While you are both lamenting, “We have to get together, you are still too busy. Could it be that you and/or your friend have relegated each other so far down on the social pecking order that other relationships always seem to take precedence?
2) A sense of boredom and disconnection has set in.
Communication used to be effortless but now it feels forced. There are more silences. When you talk about things that are meaningful to you, her eyes seem to glaze over or she’s glancing down at her cell phone. You lose patience when she banters about things that hold little interest for you.
3) Misunderstandings are growing more frequent.
One of the hallmarks of a close friendship is that two people seem to “get each other.” But recently your relationship has been characterized by frequent miscommunications and misunderstandings. She claims she told you that she couldn’t accompany you to your mammography appointment but you were under the impression that she was coming. She thought you had agreed to meet for dinner on Friday night but you knew you already had plans to go to a movie with someone else.
4) The relationship has started to feel unbalanced.
Healthy friendships are based on reciprocity. Friendships aren’t precisely equal at every point in time: One person may be the giver when the other is the taker. But over time, one friend isn’t always on the giving end. Now, the relationship feels draining because one of you has begun to perceive the other as a needy person, someone who is always a taker, complainer, or Debbie Downer.
5) You don’t feel like she has your back.
Close friendships are mutually supportive, built on trust between friends. Now you feel like she’s more of a frenemy than a friend. She says things that undermine you, and you suspect she isn’t keeping your confidences.
Once you recognize the signs that a friendship may be failing, you need to assess whether it’s reparable. If a friendship has a strong foundation, beginning an open dialogue can set it back on track or help you realize when it’s simply run its course.