While we like to think the friends we make will last a lifetime, for most people, this isn’t always the reality. In fact, one study showed that we lose about half of the friendships we have and replace them with new ones after about seven years.
As much as we want to keep the Rachel to our Monica, or the Joey to our Chandler, chances are they won’t be there for us forever. So why do some friendships come and go? Here are five reasons why they do.
You moved or they moved. Whatever the situation for whatever the reason, you’re not living within proximity to each other geographically any longer, and for some people, committing to a long-distance friendship isn’t something they can do very well. Like a long-distance relationship, a long-distance friendship requires effort and communication, and the overall desire to keep in touch. With the demands of real life (relationships, jobs, children) consuming our lives and people’s tendency to remain comfortable and within their routines, it’s not hard to see how your friendship can go from a meaningful one in real life to a Facebook convenience.
2. Different lifestyles.
Typically, we form connections with those we’re closely affiliated with. For example, people at school, work, or a common activity. Once that thing that brought you together changes, then the likelihood of your friendship remaining intact decreases. As life evolves, people naturally grow and change.
For example, you left college a few years ago and though you swore you’d be friends for life with your peers, your paths don’t cross as often. Maybe you’re a new stay-at-home mom while your friends are still working at your previous job, and you just can’t find the time to meet up for after-work drinks like you used to. Maybe you dropped out of the soccer league because of a knee injury and finding the time to hang out your teammates no longer works with your schedule. Things happen. Life happens.
3. Other relationships.
While we like to think we can balance the varying types of relationships in our lives, the truth is, some relationships will naturally take precedence over others. We’ll choose spending time with our partners over our best friends. Our children’s extra-curriculars will win out over movie nights.
While friendships should be flexible and understanding in nature, if time and consistency isn’t given to their nurturing, they’ll inevitably wither. When a friend feels like she or he is always put second, then it’s normal that they’ll seek out a support system that puts them at the top of the queue.
We all have a different set of expectations when it comes to the relationships, including our friendship, in our lives. Some of us will put more energy and value on communication while others might believe spending time together is more vital than answering a text message promptly. When our needs and expectations aren’t being met—or when they are at a crossroads—we might feel undervalued or underappreciated. We might discover that what we thought was a close friendship was actually considered to be an aquaintanceship by the other person. Maybe we don’t feel they respect and care for us as we do for them. Our hope for and reliance on the friendship might then shift to guilt and control, and ultimately unwind.
5. Growing apart.
Sometimes it’s not external circumstances, a zip code, or a new relationship that affects our friendship, but the relationship that we have with ourselves. You might find that you’ve simply outgrown the friend who you met in high school because they’re still emotionally sixteen years old. Maybe life has thrown you a curveball, and through your healing and desire to reorganize your life, you’ve realized that a friend is actually more toxic than you’ve realized. This is natural. Just because someone’s been your friend for decades, or even weeks, doesn’t mean they belong in your life for good, especially if they’re no longer adding positive value to your life. Sometimes it’s fine to walk away.
With time and care, some friendships are meant to last forever. But a lot of our friends will leave our lives. It’s important to realize this is a normal and natural process—there’s nothing wrong with losing a friend. Learn what you can from your time together, and cherish the memories.