• Handling Breakups

When friends drift apart

Published: January 17, 2014 | By | 17 Replies Continue Reading
Even some long-standing can friendships drift apart


Hi Dr. Levine,

Well I have a “friend.” I place quotation marks because she feels more like a family-friend. I have known her for quite a long time so our relationship is a little tricky. We attend the same church, and we were close about three years ago, then suddenly she began to leave me out on outings she had gone with another one of our mutual friends. I was hurt to find out they had gone out together, however, they did not seem to think leaving me out was hurtful.

Suddenly, the relationship felt one-sided, because I would ask her to go out on several occasions to the movies or to hang out, and she would come up with several “excuses” on why she could not attend. However, if our mutual friend would ask her to go out she would happily join her. I feel sort of in a bind, because I didn’t know how to approach her.

Since I have been avoiding her lately she has been getting the hint that I am distancing myself. Am I a bad person for distancing myself from her? How could I resolve this issue?

I am so glad you have a forum to discuss the topic on friendships.

Signed, Pia


Hi Pia,

Your situation is more common than you might think. Over time, people change and their interests change so they find new friends. Not all friendships, even good ones, last forever.

From your note, however, it sounds like this was an imperfect friendship all along, one that you have described as “tricky.” Perhaps, you were both growing apart and the friendship was going sour.

Adding a third person to the mix may have been the precipitant that added one more challenge to the bad chemistry between you and your friend, but it might have happened even without this change.

Since you feel like your friend isn’t interested in spending time with you and you have been distancing yourself from her, too, the issue seems to have taken a natural course. You have both drifted apart, which isn’t a bad way to end a friendship.

It isn’t necessary to actively avoid your “friend” if you find yourself together in mixed company. But consider her an acquaintance if you bump into one another and spend your energy cultivating other friendships.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: Signs a friendship is going sour

Comments (17)

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  1. Emily Moorhouse says:

    I have this friend she told me that she is leaving her job she wants to other things and I was upset and crying she like big sister to me I never have and her family treat me like grown up and we do respite together when told me I was thinking when my nana died she real friend to me I never had

  2. Julie says:

    Thank you for your input. Much of it makes sense. I don’t think I need therapy..I’m just a caring person that hates to see ppl suffering. I also get the idea of playing a role. I think everyone plays a particular role(s) in relationships..many times changing as life changes. I just need to realize that our friendship is solid just the way it is.

  3. Julie says:

    I don’t know if anyone will read this almost 2 years after the post. I have a dilemma. I am 45 yrs old and have a great tendency to be the “counselor” to my friends. About 3 years ago I befriended my son’s coach (totally just friends…he’s got a serious gf and I’m married). He was going to a great deal of turmoil at work and in his life. He credited me at one point for being the reason he made it through. We became very close and leaned on each other a lot…once again…nothing inappropriate AT ALL. Jump to now and things have thankfully settled for him, but I feel like I depend on his friendship now more than he does and feel like a pain in the butt most of the time. I feel like he’s drifting away and I can’t seem to let this friendship take whatever path it’s meant to. I tend to do my best when I feel needed in any part of my life…but it was also a good feeling to be able to have a friend that not only I was able to help, but he felt like a brother. I just don’t know what to do to be ok and not feel like I’ve done something or desperately try to hold onto a friendship that maybe was at it’s peak when he was going through hell. Any advice would be great.

    • Amy F says:

      I think therapy could help you figure out why you need to have a “role” in your relationships with friends, how that potentially sets up an imbalance between you, and how to feel more comfortable just being yourself. In the case with your coach-friend, it sounds like you fulfilled a much needed role in his life at the time, and now that he doesn’t need you in that role, you’re drifting apart. This is one of the potential downside of friendships when one or both people take on a role, because once that role is no longer needed, the relationship might not transition into something where both people are emotional equals. Perhaps you felt important when he needed you, and now that his life is better, he needs you less and you feel less important to him. Many friendships ebb and flow in intensity, sometimes one person is stronger, other times the other is the one whose shoulders are leaned upon. I hope you can learn to be okay with the positive changes in your friend and your different role in his life. Therapy will help you learn to be comfortable in relationships and trusting that you are important, without having to be the “counselor”.

  4. Anonymous says:

    so basically me and my best friend who i have been friends with for about a year now, is becoming all weird her and my other best friend who i have been with for 7 years are starting to become BFFS at first i was happy now its annoying and i feel jealous i dont want to feel this way they are hanging out and when i said cool about them kind of planning it the one who i have known for a year said your not invited your a loner she then laughed i laughed too but inside i felt a pain in my heart i dont know what to do they wont take me seriously and they will think its a joke, before the one i have known for 7 years would be the one i would talk to about this, a month ago i could have but like 2 days ago she has changed. please give me some advise. Thanks

  5. Brook says:

    I’m not quite sure where to post this but I had a similar situation with about four of my friends. Junior year in highschool I was in with a close knit group of girls. One being my best friend of seven years another a friend of six years and two friends of about two years. Of course everyone had their favorites and they would split up and the two or three hang out together. Like normal. Then I got a boyfriend. Admittedly I did stop trying to hang out with them once I started dating my boyfriend(of three years now). But once I realized my relationships were suffering I think it was too late. One of the girls I’m still friends with but that’s only because it’s my boyfriends little sister. The other three are all my age and they still talk and hang out. I feel like I was really replaced by the little sister but that doesn’t really matter. So when I tried to go back and hang out with them they all sort of ganged up on me and told me they thought I was judgmental and didn’t care about them because I didn’t spend time with them anymore. But the thing is, it wasn’t a one sided thing where they were all trying to make plans to hang out with me and I ifnored them. Each one of them all together stopped hanging out with me and stopped trying to make plans with me. It got so bad that my best friend of seven years ignored my text messages and she walked up to me not realizing it was me asking for help for a class. When I told her I couldn’t help her, (she needed to raise money for a local food drive). I also have her a nice complement and smile and she looked at me and then just walked away. Since then the girls still get together. Even though they have all gone to different schools and some have gotten into serious relationships. I recently tried fixing things with my friends of seven years, she lived down the street so I went over and knocked on her door and invited her to hang out and go for a walk but she said she had plans for something else, even though she looked like she was still in her pajamas. If I see my friends parents I’m still just as nice and respectful to them as I was in the past, and same with the girls I still treat them nicely and socialize with them. I know it’s probably just mean girls being mean, but I just want them to like me and be my friends again. Please help, I could really use the advice since I can’t get over this, it’s been probably three years. Thanks so much for your time!

  6. Sharron says:

    I too am going through this right now for the first time in my life. I’m 45 so thankful I escaped girl drama for this long. I have wonderful long term friends, but met a gal at work almost 3 years ago. We did everything together and I adored her. It felt as though I was the big sister and we were family. She was 10 years younger. We ended up not working together anymore but honestly that has never ended any friendships I’d had before so I assumed we would still gab every night about the days events, go out, etc… Well after about 2 months into our new jobs at different places she stopped texting or talking to me almost completely and when I would reach out to her, her responses were as though she was talking to a stranger. Ex-coworkers now tell me that there were always red flags and they felt as though she was a bully at work and I put up with her, so in hindsight maybe it wasn’t a healthy relationship after all. Another red flag was that when I met her she herself commented that she had no friends at all in her life. Well I felt sorry for her but now I think it’s because she dumps people when her life or jobs change. So thankful I found this site and its comforting to know other women are going through the same thing. I feel what you’re feeling. I still miss her terribly though, we use to have so much fun.

  7. BJ says:

    I have had this happen to me quite a few times and in hindsight it has always been for the best. At the time you may feel rejected, but usually it was because the two of you aren’t a good match in the long run. I was very close to these people too and I think the friendship initially took off because I was someone “new” to listen to all their drama, etc. I was always the good friend that was always there for them. Sometimes people end up getting “bored” and are looking for someone who wants to gossip about everyone they know, etc. Then when their other friend would hurt them, they would come running back to me to listen to the sob story. Even though each of them would say “you are my best friend” – (I didn’t consider them a best friend) but they would accept my invitation then turn it down when something “better” came up. I am so glad to be relieved of all these people now….even though at the time my feelings were very hurt.

  8. Christen says:

    Me and my fiend Maria are well drifting a part and my other fiend thinks its all her flout be i say no i guess its just time for me to give up on her aka Maria if you have any advice plz reply

    Thank you,Christen

  9. Cat says:

    Hi, first off I want to say how much I love this blog. It is a godsend for those times when you think ‘is it only me?’. I relate to this post and post title as for about 10 years I have drifted apart from certain ‘friends’, I will be actually be writing my personal story at some point on my blog as a form of therapy. Even now thinking of the friends I have drifted apart from I still don’t know why it happened as it seems they drifted from me to other people. The thing that upsets me the most is these ‘friends’ at some point had no other pal but me and I stood by them for years! Now, when I have needed them they are no where..it is really hard but I decided to start a blog to write my feelings to help me.

    • Chiey says:

      Hi. I can relate to you too. It is really painful having a friendship break up. Sometimes we just end up thinking about the good times with them and can’t help but cry over it.
      In due time, you can stand up again and move forward without them. They will just turn like a history to you. They serves us a lesson in life.
      Right now, even I experienced this stuff I still give them a benefit of the doubt and still love all of them. I still considered them as a blessings. I also have a blog that serves like a journal for me. It can also help that we all have a personal relationship with GOD.
      Just pray when you feel your all alone, God is always there and He will take care of you.

      You can email me and if you need someone to talk to.
      [email protected]

      • lottie says:

        Hi Chiey,
        Only half an hour ago I also talked to God whilst driving home from work asking for help to not be so hurt over a recent lost friend. We have been friends all our lives but about three years ago many not too good things happened in my life. This friend wanted to know every detail and of course I was eager to talk ,it helped. She was always ringing me up and would be on the phone for ages. It was a comfortable friendship and we both have husbands and are happy. We would go out for lunch and natter all day. We were at ease or so I thought. Then about 10 months ago she started to distance herself when things picked up for me.It was a two way friendship. It came to my husbands birthday and she sent a very offensive card to him about wives. They were having a go at me. They liked to come to our home but I think they felt as if they were one up on us. It didnt go down well when I bought things. I usually do my clothes shopping on my own and without sounding mean she would never pay what I do. My husband and I think that they thought we couldnt afford things.Where they got that from I dont know. Well earlier this year my ex employer asked me to go back to work for her. I was shocked but absolutely thrilled and accepted and have a good package. She wasnt pleased even though she smiled and said how nice for you. She is retired and thinks I should go to knitting class or whatever which I dont want to. The last I heard from her was when we met up and she cut the day very short saying she was busy.She mentioned that I was worth more money for what I do but the thing is she hasnt a clue what I earn.My reply was that I am happy with what I get. She wants to know what I earn ,well I am not telling.
        It does hurt when you find yourself dumped and the friend has a better song to sing, but I also realised that I feel she was discussing me with others from things she has said.
        When it comes to giving advice I am up front and direct unfortunately I am not too good at taking my own advice. I know to move on but it is her birthday soon,but whatever funny card I pick up to send I feel as if it is no longer appropriate. I do feel I should send one but then I think my feeling were not considered when they sent a not funny but rude card to my husband,who threw it in the bin.
        Doctor Irene last sentence was very good , treat them like acquaintances. Thank you for reading. This is a very helpful site. Lottie

        • BJ says:

          And the great part of all of it is thanking God for letting you see the light now. When I was younger, I was always hurt that people weren’t as good of friends to me, etc. Hurt that they would back stab.

          Now I know the real lesson is about God showing me there are better people out there for me. One by one, all of my “old” friends have conveniently left my life. I love it! It leaves room for people who won’t use and abuse.

          • lottie says:

            So true BJ. I do talk to God. HE does listen but I just pray for more true friends and to help me not to be so hurt. It is that back stabbing that gets to me if only I could see quicker. Do you think like me that when you get a gut feeling about a friends loyalty you should back off. Sometimes I am too kind for my own good. Lottie

    • Liz says:

      Cat, you sound exactly like me. In the past year or so, I feel like I have lost a lot of friends. One or two of them, I’ve helped thru some tough times. Now I feel like their lives have improved and they no longer want me.

      I’ve had friends that constantly try to change me (the way I dress) even though I’ve never wanted to change them.

      It all makes me feel like I must be boring or odd. Sometimes, when I look around, I see people who are rude, arrogant and bossy, yet they seem to have loads of friends. I’m none of those things so what am I doing wrong?

      You’re right Cat, this site is good to read. It’s good to know I’m not the only one experiencing these things. Take care. x

  10. Denise says:


    If someone suddenly begins finding excuses to refuse my invitations, accepts invitations from others, and doesn’t explain why, I will take that to mean, “I don’t want to spend time with you and don’t want to explain.” Yes, it hurts, it’s not fair and an explanation doesn’t seem like a lot to ask. But, people don’t have to explain. I wouldn’t like it either. Some people just are like that.

    For me, there have been people who are nice and friendly to me at first and then suddenly change. At first, I probably let it hurt me more than it was worth. Finally, the next time and from then on, I decided to let it go sooner, realizing I didn’t want people like that as friends. The right match for me would come later. You’ll find the right person, too.

  11. Amy says:

    I agree with Irene. Sometimes friendships wax and wane in intensity or grow apart. Friends can become acquaintances organically without drama or hurt feelings. Since you’re in the same church, you’ll likely still see each other so best to stay cordial and move on with friends who have the same level of interest in the relationship.

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