Letting Go of Fading Friendships

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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