Have you got girlfriend issues? Think about it. The pandemic has really put our friendships to the test. It’s been hard to keep those close connections while we’ve been locked down and bubbled up. I know I’ve felt it. We’ve all been grappling with individual problems we may not have been able to share as we normally would – and the distances between us somehow seem even greater. A recent survey by University College London found that 22 per cent of us felt our relationships with friends had deteriorated since the onset of Covid-19.
Losing that thread with a close friend can feel more heartbreaking than the end of any romantic relationship. So what do you do about it? A lot of us might believe, in the words of the Spice Girls, that we have to “make it last forever, friendship never ends”. It has to work at all costs. But relationships can sometimes be irreparable. If you’ve drifted apart, isn’t it healthier sometimes to cut them loose, particularly if you can do it without hurting your friend – or yourself – in the process?
First, though, you need to work out whether or not your friendship is worth saving. So what are the signs that you’re growing apart?
You’re both “too busy” – always
Think of that friend who never texts back; who doesn’t return your calls; who is always too busy to plan a date. Friendship is about making time for each other. But is this gap just about mismatched schedules or a complete lack of interest? Cut them some slack if they’re going through a tough time, but if you keep reaching out and get nothing in return, stop investing in someone who doesn’t ever prioritise you.
You crave new friends
Midlife is a tricky time for friendships. We’re growing and changing; our situations morph; and as our self-confidence increases, we become more certain of who we are and what we’ll put up with. It’s not that your old friends no longer matter, but new circumstances might require new friends who understand your day-to-day realities. Look for friendships that add to your life rather than subtract from it.
You have nothing in common but the past
It’s not necessarily a bad thing – we all love reminiscing – but you need new memories to bolster the old ones. Dwelling on the past can be fun, but it eventually becomes boring. Focus on friendships that can change with you, bringing new experiences to the table, instead of ones that hold you back in a certain place and time.
You constantly criticise them
We’re all guilty of judging or criticising good friends – you’re close, so you’re going to find fault with them once in a while. But if you’re constantly complaining, it’s probably a sign that your friendship isn’t working. Here’s the thing, though: you don’t have to be friends with people you don’t like or respect. Move away from toxic relationships that bring out the worst in you.
You don’t feel supported
Friends are there for you in good times – and bad. That last part is crucial. We can’t only be in it for the laughs. It’s a reciprocal process, too. Communication is key: tell your friends what you need in order to feel supported and be there for them in return.
If it’s clear that you’re growing apart and your friendship is no longer a happy one, what do you do? Have it out? Send them a text? Or take the coward’s way out and just ghost them? A 2016 study revealed that 25 per cent of people had ghosted a friend – cutting off all communication without any explanation – and 20 per cent had been ghosted in their turn.
There are kinder ways to do it than that. If a friend knows you well, telling them you feel your relationship is over can be really hard. How do we turn the page in the least painful way – a “conscious uncoupling” for BFFs?
Don’t use a lame excuse to justify cutting them loose. That’s no way to treat someone who has meant a lot to you. Be honest. They deserve it. And it might provide some closure.
Don’t get into the blame game. Just tell your friend what you perceive has happened and how you feel about it. Consider their perspective, too – they may not have intended to hurt you.
Be true to yourself
Own how you’re feeling. If you get into a discussion with them, you might lose your nerve or try to diminish the impact of their behaviour in order to make them feel better. But people-pleasing doesn’t help anyone.
Saying goodbye to a friend is tough – but holding onto a relationship you’ve outgrown can be more painful than mourning its loss and letting your friend go with grace.