“Recently, I’ve been feeling distant from my friends. I still see them sometimes, but it doesn’t feel like we are as close as we used to be. What can I do to make sure we don’t grow apart?”
As life takes you in different directions and as priorities change, it is inevitable that there will be some friendships you outgrow, but there are many instances where you can prevent this. If you are feeling disconnected from friends you used to be really close with, it may be possible to reconnect with them.
In this article, you will learn the specific habits that have been proven to foster closeness and help to maintain friendships.
There are many reasons why you might feel disconnected from your friends, but some of the most common reasons why friends grow apart are discussed below.
There are a number of reasons why you might be feeling socially disconnected, but the most common one is that you just aren’t talking, texting, and seeing each other as much. If you go weeks or months without talking to people, it makes sense that you would feel like you have no close friends. According to research, regular interactions are key to build closeness with friends.
Interactions that occur through social media tend to be more superficial and aren’t as meaningful as talking on the phone or seeing someone in person. Research has found that people who are heavy social media users are more likely to struggle with loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem. If you feel distant from everyone, consider limiting your social media use to 30 minutes or less per day and instead find more meaningful ways to connect with your friends.
Another reason why friends grow apart is because their lives take them in different directions. For example, if all of your old friends are married and starting a family and you are still living the single life, you might find it hard to relate to them. People are more likely to become friends with people with whom they have a lot in common, so changing circumstances, differing beliefs, and priorities can make it harder to feel close to people.
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A friendship doesn’t run on autopilot. It requires two people to invest the time and effort. If you’ve grown apart from a friend, it might be because one or both of you isn’t putting in enough effort. A friendship becomes imbalanced when one person is always the one to reach out and make plans, but if no one makes an effort, it can become non-existent. You want to invest in friendships with people willing to make an effort and not friends who are flaky and unreliable.
If you are still talking to your friends and seeing them regularly but don’t feel close, you might not be spending enough quality time together. If most of your conversations end up being small talk, gossip, or complaints, your times with friends can leave you feeling drained and wishing you’d stayed home. According to research, having positive interactions, fun experiences, and enjoying your time with someone is important to maintaining a close friendship with them.
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Closeness forms when people are open, honest, and vulnerable with each other. If you stick to the surface or pretend you’re doing great when you’re not, you don’t give your friends a chance to know what’s really going on with you, and you’re bound to feel disconnected from them. While social withdrawal might be your go-to when you are going through a difficult time, these are the times when you need your friends the most.
Sometimes friendships dissolve because of a disagreement, misunderstanding, or conflict. Because most people dislike conflict, some people will go to great lengths to avoid difficult conversations with friends. If something feels “off” or you had a falling out with a close friend and never really talked it through, there may be some unfinished business that needs to be resolved.
People have different ways of coping with stress, hardship, and difficult emotions. Some people reach out and lean on friends during hard times, while others withdraw and isolate themselves. If you’ve lost touch with a friend, it could be because one of you is going through a hard time and doesn’t want to be a burden.
As we grow older, our priorities shift and change. In college, hanging out with friends at the bar may have been a weekly routine, but now, “adulting” may demand more of your time and energy. This can mean that there isn’t much left over for your social life. Starting a new job or a serious relationship is a common example of changing priorities that can cause friends to lose touch and grow apart.
There are many ways that you can make an effort to reconnect with old friends. The best approach depends on a number of factors, including how long it’s been since you’ve talked, the kind of friendship you had with them, and whether you are trying to reconnect with a group of friends or just one.
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Friendships take time and effort to build, but they also need to be maintained. According to research, there are four habits that help you maintain your friendships, and each one is equally important if you want to stay close with your friends. The four habits that help you stay close with friends are:
1. Disclosure: Disclosure means being honest, authentic, and open with people and is an important habit to foster closeness and trust between friends.
2. Support: Close friends are there to support and encourage one another, especially during times when it’s needed most.
3. Interaction: Regular interactions are important to maintaining friendships and include texting and calling people, but also making time to see them in person.
4. Positivity: Friends are there for each other during the good times and the bad, but it is important to make sure that the good outweighs the bad. Having fun, celebrating together, and feel-good conversations are all important to maintain close friendships.
If it’s been a long time since you’ve talked, the first step is to reach out. There are many ways to keep in touch with friends, including:
- Text them to say hi, ask how they are, or let them know you miss talking to them
- Give them a call just to check in, and leave a voicemail if they don’t answer
- Email or message them to share updates and ask what’s been going on with them
- Respond to one of their social media posts in a private message
- Ask if they would like to get lunch, and suggest a few days and times
If you haven’t lost touch with your friends, but you aren’t seeing them as much as you like, try one of these methods to reconnect:
- Suggest a standing Zoom call with friends you’d like to see more often
- Send an open invitation for friends to join you for a weekly walk, yoga class, or book club
- Set a reminder on your phone to call one of your close friends each week
- Create a group calendar with friends to nail downtimes to get together
- Ask one of your friends to work remotely with you once a week
Spending quality time together and sharing activities helps maintain relationships. If you feel like you and your friends haven’t done anything fun lately, consider suggesting one of these activities:
- Schedule a weekend getaway with some of your closest friends to reconnect
- Plan a party for a birthday, holiday, or make up a reason to celebrate with friends
- Mix up your social life by starting a book club, a movie night, or other fun activity
- Start a group text message with your friends and text them throughout the week
- Gauge interest in your friend group to see if anyone is interested in taking a class, starting a hobby, or trying a new activity together
If there is one close friend who you’ve grown apart from, you can try one of these more targeted approaches to reconnect with them:
- Send them a small but thoughtful gift in the mail
- Write a handwritten card to let them know you are thinking of them
- Send them pictures or texts about things that reminded you of them
- Post a memory of something fun you did together on social media and tag them
- Call them when you have big news and let them know they were one of the first people you wanted to share it with
- Bond over a common personal improvement goal, like working together to get in shape or to volunteer in your community.
Because friendships are an important part of a fulfilling life, feeling distant from people can lead you to become unhappy. If you have friendships you haven’t maintained, reaching out and making plans more often with your friends is a good first step to reconnect, but it’s also important to make the most of these interactions. By opening up, being supportive, and planning activities that are enjoyable and fun, you can stay connected with your friends and avoid growing apart.
If you feel disconnected from friends, it is probably because you haven’t talked to them, or your interactions haven’t been meaningful. Closeness between friends cannot be maintained without quality time, personal disclosure, and support.
While there are times when one friend makes more of an effort to reach out, stay in touch, and make plans, a friendship can’t be sustained this way. Prioritize friendships with people who show interest and invest equal time and effort into the relationship.
If your friends aren’t making an effort or if you don’t have anything in common with them anymore, you may need to find a new group of friends. The best way to do this is to leave your comfort zone by joining meetups, getting on friend apps, or finding activities or events in your community.
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