Not every friendship is meant to last a lifetime, but what are the signs a relationship is starting to fizzle?
I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’ve lost touch with a lot of friends over the years. From the people I grew up with to the individuals I met at university and genuinely thought would attend my wedding, I’ve enjoyed many, albeit fleeting, friendships.
Am I a bad judge of character? Too hasty with declaring my affection? Perhaps, but I’m also just a human being.
Something I’ve come to understand is that because we collect relationships at different stages of our lives, it’s only natural that as those stages pass, so do the people that were a part of them.
I have a handful of friends who have remained in my life for longer periods, and I hope they will continue to be there, but there are also a good few that have fallen by the wayside. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, even though the experience of a fizzling friendship can be painful for all involved.
It’s something we can often sense coming, though. The communication starts to lull, the plans get indefinitely postponed and what was once a thriving friendship is reduced to sporadic Instagram communication or full-on ghosting.
It’s an odd limbo, and when there’s no big dramatic fallout or obvious end to the relationship, it can feel like there’s a lack of closure.
In a recent Instagram post, clinical psychologist Amy Tran identified six signs that your friendship could be fizzling out.
Every relationship, and especially every friendship, has ebbs and flows – moments of close and distant proximity. Strong friendships can survive, but if you’re starting to feel as if a bond is waning, you may be wondering what action to take.
However, as she highlights, having fewer close relationships isn’t something we should stress about. “It can be hard to maintain existing friendships in adulthood,” she writes, “so if you’ve noticed a decline in your friendships, it’s not just you and it’s not because there’s something wrong with you.”
“You feel worse, not better after interacting with them”
When you’ve had a bad day or need to talk things through, nothing acts as more of a tonic than a night with friends. So if you’re feeling drained, disappointed or even despondent after a catch up, it could be a sign that the relationship isn’t quite what it used to be.
“You feel like interacting with them is a chore and dread spending time with them”
Not every long-lasting relationship is a positive one. Historic friendships can be sources of great support, but they can also drain us if we haven’t acknowledged how the passing of time may have impacted them.
There may be fewer similarities to bond over, which leads to awkwardness or lulls in conversation. When this happens, you have a choice: to inject some TLC into the relationship or let it run its course. As the saying goes: “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.”
“You’ve stopped reaching out to them for support”
Once upon a time, they may have been your go-to pal for career advice or to share your latest dating woes. But recently, when you try and broach the subjects, they don’t engage.
“When our situations change (eg work, school, the places we live), friends have less opportunities to see each other and bond,” Tran explains. This inevitably leads to distance and feeling out of loop with one another’s lives, no matter how much you promise to stay in touch.
While this may be a sign that your friendship has fizzled, it’s also important to remember that friends can play a variety of roles in our life. We can have confidantes, cheerleaders and those we just meet for the occasional drink – and all have their own value to add.
“The balance feels off – you’re investing more time in the friendship than they are”
Being on the other end of a one-sided relationship is never a nice experience. We want to feel as though the people in our lives have time for us and that we can rely on them just as much as they can on us.
That being said, it’s important to set boundaries, even when it comes to our closest pals, so we have to be reasonable about what we expect. But if they’re de-prioritising quality time with you, it could be a sign that the friendship needs work.
“The idea of the friendship is better than the reality”
Blair and Serena. Monica and Rachel. Kat, Sutton and Jane. Pop culture has fed us a very appealing narrative of ride-or-die female friendship that many of us have grown up wishing to emulate in our own lives, and it’s set our standards pretty high.
But the thing is, in real life, friendship isn’t always smooth. It can be deep and meaningful, but also messy and complex. Part of the joy is learning to embrace it for all its highs and lows, but when one starts to outweigh the other, it may be time to reconsider your proximity.
“You’re hesitant to show your authentic self or share your true values with them”
As we mature, our values and priorities change, and it isn’t always reflected in our personal relationships. Everyone is on their own journey, so don’t feel pressured to stay connected to people who no longer align with the person you are and the life you lead. As Tran writes: “As we heal, we learn what serves us and what we want to let go of – which includes certain people.”
It may sound harsh, but it’s much more important to feel fulfilled by the people around you.