Faith Forays Letting Go of Fading Friendships Becca Rose

I don’t know if it’s something about being in the beginning of my twenty-something years, or if it’s just something that accompanies all major life changes, but lately I’ve been noticing a trend in a few of my friendships. Nobody’s hurt anyone, no one has had loud dramatic fights. But things just feel like they’re fading.

Not only am I evolving into this weird, scary thing that I’ve been told is called “adulthood”, I’m also on the brink of graduating from college. I know that graduating high school was a huge deal for all of us, but mostly we knew what we were doing afterward (embarking on a wonderful adventure of avoiding frat parties and staking out the best study carrels in the library of course). One of my professors told me last week that the transition between college and the rest of your adult life is the most difficult transition of your entire life. “Even harder than divorce!” he announced merrily. I, of course, wailed in despair and flung myself dramatically on top of my desk. (I’m a real joy to have in class, I tell ya.)

My views have radically changed in the last four years. My belief system, my personal tenets, my morality and my opinions have all morphed with me. So I suppose I should have anticipated that as I was changing, my friendships would change too. It comes with learning more about yourself, evolving likes and dislikes, differences of opinions. It’s normal and it’s natural and it happens to everybody. I just wasn’t expecting it. It sounds unhealthy, but I am far more familiar with the big blow-up type of friendship ending than I am with the slow fade.

The slow fade is when things just slowly, ever so slowly, fade away. There’s no hurt feelings to be found, and there’s really no moment to look back on and say, “That’s what did us in.” There’s no large neon sign in the sky declaring “It’s time to let this go!” and so it becomes harder to recognize when you are frantically trying to hold on to something that will inevitably slip away.

I began to recognize that I was exerting a huge amount of effort in keeping this friendship alive, but that effort just wasn’t returned. It took a conversation with my good friend, Courtney for me to be able to recognize that it was both normal and okay for me to accept that this friendship had been good, but it had run its course.

Courtney used the analogy of a plant to represent that friendship. “If you’re the only one doing the watering, it’s okay to let it die.” This is a lesson I haven’t had to learn before, this idea that sometimes friends aren’t forever, and that it’s meant to be that way. It doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy occasionally speaking with these friends, and it doesn’t mean we’ll cut off all contact from each other. It’s just the realization that we are no longer as close as we once were, but that it’s okay. I’m letting go of the guilt I felt about not being able to single-handedly keep this friendship thriving, and I’m letting go of my desperation to keep us close. Accepting that I still care about them, they still care about me, but there’s just a lot of distance between us, has been hard.

Have you ever had the slow fade happen in a friendship? How did you deal with it?

Feature image via Shutterstock

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  1. Thank you for writing this article. I can see that many people relate to what you wrote.

    As for me, I was sent to a boarding school when I was 15. I didn’t like it, I hate everyone’s behavior and I was shy. Nonetheless, I managed to have 2 friends (a boy and a girl) for a few years. One was gay (the boy), and the other was straight, but we had fun together.
    As time went by, I realized that I didn’t like the boy’s behavior and the way he treated the other person. He didn’t like that I was defending her, and slowly our friendship drifted away.
    I’ve lost contact with both people, although I ran into the boy in a shop a couple of years ago and we talked for a couple of minutes.

    Later, when I entered university, I got to know 4 female friends and a male one. We’ve become friends and we are still in touch and even if we rarely see one another (because we all have different schedules), when we do, we always have fun.

    I had my 1st real job in September 2012 and a month later, a student joined us and it turns out we get along. She trusts me and I her trust her back, and I’d love us to remain friends when she finishes studying. Let’s see how time goes.

    Some of you said that some friendships aren’t meant to stay forever and that fading is normal. But what if all your friends drift away from you and you end up being alone?
    I’ve recently read that TRUE friendship is rare on Earth, so we need to treasure it, and that’s what I’m trying to do, even if it’s not easy

  2. Wow, I went through this last year and wish I had your post around them to help me realise that it was a natural thing rather than feel guilty for being the last to let them go. I agonised over this and felt really alone (although I too had a friend called Courtney to help me through), and now I see from someone on the other side of the world that it’s a normal human social occurance (I’m in Australia!). Thanks so much for writing and giving me relief :)

  3. I have undergone this a few times since i’ve moved around a fair bit growing up, but being a recent college grad myself and on the brink of finishing my post grad programme, i am at those crossroads yet, again. I think it’s important that we have some friendships that come and go because that means we are changing and growing, hopefully for the better. Also, different people come into different times in our lives, and I like to think there is a rationale for it tied with destiny. I know, no evidence there about destiny playing a role, but looking back the friends I’ve had in the past, and not trying to be mean, some had a certain level of relevance then, that now, just no longer exists. And not just for me, for them too… otherwise, we would still be friends, no matter the distance or location. People come into your lives at different times, because your circumstances and thinking at those times attracts that… look back and you’ll see a trend.

  4. The slow fade also happens with college friends. I’m going through that right now. We all have kids and our own families and our family values differ. It doesn’t make us incompatible but it does lead to the slow decline in time spent together and connecting. I haven’t found anyone to replace the ones I’m losing but it’s good to know it happens and we move on and grow from the experience.

  5. I think another important thing to think of is that (maybe not in the case of this particular friendship) is that some friendships — you don’t need to even talk to that person in weeks, month, even years. But when you do spend time together, it’s like you haven’t lost a minute. I had a strange friend “break-up” about a year or so ago, and it got pretty ugly for no reason. I’m glad that friendship is over, honestly. But something amazing came out of it just by chance. Another friend – my childhood best friend – we kind of had that “fade out” thing happen. It was when I went off to college, and we just kind of stopped hanging out when I was home for breaks, But then last year (not this past winter, the year before that) – there was a huge snowstorm, and we lost power. Her and her mom had to come stay with us because we had a generator and her mom was sick. I was TERRIFIED – because we hadn’t spoken in years. But as we were making dinner, it was just like old times. We started hanging out again, and something special happened – we both had the same feeling “I’ve got my best friend back.” So just for everyone–remember, true friendships stand the test of time, distance, differences, and every thing life can throw at you. Yes, some friendships need to end. Or need to go on hiatus. But just because you haven’t talked to someone in a year or longer – doesn’t mean you’re not still friends. Why NOT pick up where you left off? You’ll have tons to talk about on that first lunch date anyway :)

  6. I am going through this now too. When I got to college last year, I kept my high school friends while making new friends, and now I’ve realized I don’t even care about them anymore and we’re all sort of fading. This sucks.

  7. I felt as if I was reading my own thoughts. I am currently going through the same thing, unfortunately. I was feeling guilty as well and didn’t know what to do. Thank you for letting me know what I suspected…I have to let go.

  8. I loved this posted. I too am about to graduate from college and it was so nice to see someone else not knowing what they are planning to do. I attend school three hours away from my hometown so the fading friendships started when I was within my sophomore year. It is something I also found myself saddened about due to having the thought that friendships were suppose to last forever.

    You just gained yourself a new reader. Your studying writing me too:)

  9. Thank you so much for writing this! It really hit home for me. I’ve been feeling so sad and disappointed that all of my friendships are slowing fading away. The only friends I have are from high school and I’ll be graduating from college soon. I try so hard to hang on to those relationships but it’s of no use. As your friend so rightly said, “If you’re the only one doing the watering, it’s okay to let it die.”

  10. I totally feel your pain! I’m at the same point in my life as you and for one reason or another my group of friends that was once so close seems to be growing apart. Your article really made me feel better to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way! Good luck with the next stage of your life and remember we’re in this together =)

  11. It will happen a lot. Most friendships within your life will fade. There will be a select few that will be your forever friends. It is a logical thing when you think about it. With all the people you meet in your life time; college, work, social groups, different work, yet another different work, yet another social group, it would be impossible to keep seeing every bloody person. Haha. And people have babies, they move away, you realise they’re racist so it’s natural that things fade.

  12. I’ve noticed this too, for me it was post college when I moved 30 miles away– very soon I was out of sight and only a facebook friend to many people I held close through the 4 years of college.
    Congrats on graduating, your world is about to get even more exciting (and then reality sinks in hahaha).

  13. Unfortunately, this is going to happen when you get married and again when you have a child. It’s just how it works. Just make sure you, from time to time, call or get together for a drink (even if it’s yearly). It will make a difference.

    • It’s funny you mention that – one of my very best friends got married & I was determined not to let that force us apart, so I had to be really intentional with talking to her about it. It’s been such a learning experience for me!

  14. let’s put this in perspective – think back through your entire life and all the people you’ve ever considered your “friend”, whether it’s someone you gave a valentine to in third grade and played tag with, or the friend you shared a graduation party with after high school – 90% of those friendships will fade away naturally – in fact, many already have! the only difference is that as an older, more mature person, you are capable of much deeper friendships and therefore have a much stronger emotional reaction when they start to fade away. sometimes it feels HELLA lonely, i’m not gonna lie. but the truth of it is you don’t actually lose those friendships. if you pass each other on the street you’re not going to be like strangers to one another! there’s nothing more lovely than reconnecting with a long lost friend, however briefly, and knowing neither of you are leaving the interaction worried about what went wrong before OR feeling pressure to make up for it now.

    And like @LaurenLoftus said, some friendships fill a need during certain parts of your life before fading. but who’s to say in 5, 10, 15 years time (social media! keeping us connected!) you won’t reconnect w/ that same friend and fulfill each other’s needs in completely different ways than before?! things like that can happen at the most unexpected times and make you appreciate the power and longevity of true friendships.

  15. I think I’ve cycled through a few friendships already, one that didn’t end so beautifully. We were friends for more than fifteen years and in my junior year of college a lot of things were said and a lot of things were noticed. I noticed that I was the only one really trying to keep in touch and keep the friendship alive. Then one xmas, after having given each other thoughtful gifts for years, she gave me $50 for a flat iron instead of a flat iron. Then I was in her sisters bridal party and I was never involved in any of the fun planning that goes with being in a bridal party. Nothing. And after I moved in with my now husband, my then boyfriend was subsequently “uninvited” from the wedding because our relationship didn’t match up with their religious beliefs. That was a pretty tough friend breakup for me and on and off I’ll still wish we were friends and that we could have gotten over that hump. She contacted me on the day of my wedding to tell me despite everything that she was happy for me. She would have been my maid of honor had things not gone sour. Some friend breakups are painful and others just drift out of existence. It’s the latter that are easier to come back to and can be forgiven because life gets in the way. All in all, we always make new friends and often people who you never expected would be such important figures in your lives can surprise you.

    • Oh, that sounds so, so painful. I’m glad you have good feelings towards her still, though – rather than being bitter.

  16. I am in the process of losing a close friend right now. It’s that stage where I am trying so hard and nothing is happening in return. I am a few small steps away from throwing in the towel.

    • That is the worst feeling! I think it just comes down to, is this person a good, positive force in your life? It’s a hard decision for sure. My heart’s with you!

    • Catherine, I understand what you’re going through. Don’t throw in the towel just yet, but give the friendship room to breathe. Often when I’ve noticed that I’m doing all the calling, texting, inviting and getting either no reply or too late replies, I’ve just stopped trying to contact for a while. Doing this helped me learn that at least one of my friends is the type that only wants to do things where she’s in control of the stakes. When I can meet her halfway I indulge her, but for the most part we hardly ever see each other. And when we catch up, all of that time we spent living our lives gets revisited and caught up and we leave each other fulfilled in our friendship. We say that we should do this more often, but it’s just words. Sometimes that’s what a best friendship will become and it’s not a terrible thing at all. Real life isn’t like facebook and the thought of having to maintain all 500+ friendships on my fb is daunting. Most of those people I just network with while many others are family and old high school friends. But I still find that I only have a core group of 3 or 4 good friends and everyone else is a great acquaintance I get to hang out with every so often. I wish you the best with your friend.

  17. I lost my best friend for over a year ago. We had a fight and stopped talking to each other. Now, I don’t even know what we were fighting about, but I’ve learned that it was meant to be. We weren’t supposed to be best friends, we weren’t supposed to be each others made of honor and we weren’t supposed to last forever. But just because we weren’t forever, doesn’t mean that I don’t care about her. Like you said, accepting that I still care about her, that she still care about me, but there’s just a lot of distance between us, has been hard. I miss her every day, but I’ve realized that the plant could die. Our friendship just fade away. It’s sad, but life goes on, and I now have awesome friends! Thanks for sharing this, it made me realize a lot of stuff!

  18. I’ve been out of college for 4 years now and I’m still on the wrong side of the learning curve! Your professor is a wise man– navigating the “real world” (for lack of a better word) has been the hardest time of my life. A great deal of surface friendships have faded away for no real reason, they’ve simply run their course. C’est la vie. When you realize that some friendships are meant to fill a certain need at a certain time, and let them go gracefully when that need is filled, you’re on your way to becoming an adult. Just remember your “lifers”– the ones you can count on one hand– will always be around. It makes it all easier.