What to Do When Friends Distance Themselves From You

For most of us, friends come and go. Not many friendships last a lifetime, and even those that last for many years may ebb and flow. Research shows that we tend to lose 50% of our social group every 7 years.[1]

But if a friend has been distancing themselves from you for no apparent reason, it’s normal to wonder why. You might be worried that the friendship is over or that you’ve done something to upset them.

In this article, you’ll learn what to do when it feels like a friend is pulling away or distancing themselves emotionally from you.

Sections

  1. What to do when friends distance themselves
  2. Signs that your friends are distancing themselves
  3. Common questions

What to do when friends distance themselves from you

If your friend hasn’t been in touch lately and you suspect that they’re avoiding or ignoring you, here are a few things you can try:

1. Take the initiative and ask to meet up

Sometimes, the simplest way to rekindle your friendship is to just ask your friend if they’d like to hang out.

There are a few advantages of this approach:

  • If your friend has distanced themselves because they don’t feel you put much effort into the friendship, asking them to meet up might resolve the issue because they will see that you’re willing to take the initiative.
  • If you get an eager response from your friend, it’s a positive sign that they want to continue your friendship.
  • If your friend makes excuses and doesn’t seem keen to make plans that work for both of you, you have some useful information: they would prefer not to see you.
  • Asking to meet up might feel easier than trying to have a conversation about why your friend has become distant.

Asking someone to hang out can feel awkward if you haven’t seen them in a while. Try to keep it simple. For example, you could text, “Hey, [Friend]! Haven’t seen you in a while! Would you like to hang out this weekend? Maybe we could grab lunch on Saturday.”

Our guide on how to ask someone to hang out might help if you aren’t sure what to say.

2. Check that your expectations are realistic

You may not have done anything to drive your friends away. They might have withdrawn because their circumstances have changed. If you want to keep the friendship, you might need to adjust your expectations. It’s natural for friendships to change over time, especially as people transition to a new stage of life.

For example, if your friend has recently started a family, they might be so caught up in the demands that come with being a new parent that texting or calling friends slips down their priority list. When their children get older, they might have more free time to invest in their social life.

3. Check that your friend is OK

Although there’s a possibility that your friend has distanced themselves because you have upset them, they might be dealing with a problem or tough situation that leaves them with no time or energy for socializing.

For example, if your friend has recently lost a close family member and developed depression, they might struggle to maintain their friendships.

Try not to jump to conclusions. Instead, gently ask your friend whether they are OK. For example, you could say, “Sally, I feel like we don’t talk or hang out much anymore. I miss you. Is everything alright?”

4. Ask your friend why they have become distant

If your friend hasn’t been going through a difficult time and you aren’t sure what is behind their behavior change, a frank conversation may help you get answers.

Before you try this approach, bear in mind that your friend may ignore your question, or they might lie if they feel that telling the truth could hurt your feelings.

If you decide to reach out to your friend, do not use accusatory language like “You never…” or “Why don’t you ever…?” because it could make your friend feel defensive. Instead, tell them that you’ve noticed a change in their behavior. Ask them whether you’ve done anything to upset them, and then remind them how much you value them.

For example, you could say, “Raj, I’ve realized that we hardly ever text these days. Have I done anything to upset you? Your friendship means a lot to me.”

If you find out that your friend is upset with something you did or said, you might like these tips for what to do when your friend is mad at you

5. Avoid overwhelming your friend with messages

When someone’s behavior toward you has changed, it’s natural to want an explanation. If you’re desperate for answers, it can be tempting to send your friend several messages in a row, especially if you feel very hurt.

However, if you send your friend lots of messages or call them repeatedly, you may come across as needy or clingy, which could drive them even further away. As a general rule, do not message or call them more than twice in a row. If they aren’t responding, respect their need for space and stop reaching out.

You might also like this article on how to avoid coming off as desperate.

6. Take a close look at your own behavior

Friendships can fade out for many reasons. Sometimes, you may lose a friend for reasons beyond your control. For example, your friend might move away, and you start drifting apart.

Or your friendship group may start leaving you out because they think you’ve moved on or outgrown them in some way. Perhaps they love drinking or partying, whereas you’ve started living a simpler, quieter lifestyle since you settled into your career or got married.

But in some cases, it’s worth taking a careful look at your behavior. For example, you could ask yourself whether you’ve developed any of these common habits that could drive your friends away:

  • Excessive negativity (including complaining, criticizing, being negative about others, and making self-deprecating comments)
  • Poor listening skills
  • Flakiness or a tendency to let people down at the last minute
  • Failing to show genuine interest in the other person’s life and opinions
  • Failing to take the initiative (e.g., never arranging plans, rarely calling or messaging first)
  • Asking for lots of favors or help
  • Giving unsolicited advice
  • Bragging
  • A tendency to bring up inappropriate topics

Making these mistakes doesn’t mean you are a bad person or that you can’t make friends. But it does mean that if you want solid friendships in the future, it may be time to work on your social skills and relationship habits. Our complete guide to improving your social skills has lots of practical tips that could help you.

7. Avoid gossiping or complaining about your friend

It’s fine to open up to your friends about your feelings but try not to criticize or complain about your distant friend to any mutual friends or acquaintances. There is always a chance that your friend will hear what you’ve said about them, and if they think you’ve been speaking badly of them behind their back, your friendship may be less likely to survive.

8. Try new ways of communicating with your friend

If you or your friend have recently changed your lifestyle or routine, you may need to find a new way of keeping in touch that suits both of you.

For example, if your friend has just started a demanding new job, they may not have time for the long video calls you used to enjoy, but they might be happy to catch up over text a couple of times per week.

Clipboard with a list of tips to get in touch with friends in two columns.

9. Avoid checking up on your friends via social media

Try to resist the temptation to look at your friend’s social media because it will probably make you feel worse, especially if they post about their outings with other people. It might help to adjust your account settings so that you don’t see your friend’s updates every time you log in.

10. Try to make new friends

It’s normal to hold onto hope that your friend will try getting back in touch one day, but in the meantime, try to invest in new relationships. You won’t be able to find an exact replacement for your old friend, but building new friendships can help you to move on.

Here are a few ways to expand your social circle:

    • Look on meetup.com for local clubs or groups you can join
    • Join an online community centered around your interests
    • Try getting to know the people around you a little better. For example, perhaps you could try making friends at work.

We have a guide on how to meet like-minded people that you might find useful.

11. Give yourself time to process your feelings

If your friendship seems to be fading out, don’t be surprised if you feel sad, abandoned, lonely, or rejected. It’s normal to feel upset when a friendship changes or ends,[2] especially if the other person was a close friend.

You may also need to accept that you’ll never know for sure why your friend has distanced themselves from you, which can be difficult.

Here are some ways you can process your feelings:

  • Write a “goodbye letter” to your friend. Don’t send it; the point of this exercise is to give you an outlet for your feelings.
  • Take time for extra self-care. For example, you could spend more time on your favorite hobbies or commit to some new healthy habits, like exercising regularly.
  • Use creative activities, such as drawing or making music, to express your feelings.

Our guide to getting over a friendship breakup as an adult has lots of tips that will help you get closure and move on.

12. Check that you aren’t a victim of gossip

If you have a group of friends who have suddenly stopped all communication with you for unexplained reasons, they might have heard a false or malicious rumor about you. You could try reaching out to a member of the group to find out whether this is a possibility.

For example, you could send a text that says, “Hey Jess, I’ve noticed that it’s been a week since I heard anything from anyone. I have no idea what’s changed. I’m starting to wonder whether there’s been some kind of misunderstanding? Have you heard anything strange about me lately?”

Signs that your friends are distancing themselves from you

It’s not always easy to tell for sure whether someone is pulling away from you. The signs could be subtle. For example, a friend may gradually reduce the number of texts they send over a few weeks or months, leaving you to wonder whether they are slowly cutting you off.

When it comes to spotting signs that a friend is distancing themselves, look for patterns over a few weeks rather than one-off incidents. Remember, don’t be too quick to assume that your friend doesn’t like you anymore or that they are deliberately ghosting you.

With these points in mind, here are some signs that a friend is distancing themselves from you:

  • You often or always have to initiate conversations
  • They make excuses to avoid meeting up or frequently cancel on you
  • They show little or no interest in your life
  • They don’t contribute much to your conversations
  • They don’t confide in you
  • They seem uncomfortable or standoffish around you; their body language may be stiff, or they might avoid making eye contact
  • They have started to pick fights or start arguments about trivial things
  • Your friendship feels one-sided; you feel as though you are much more invested in your friend than they are in you
  • They spend lots of time with new friends and never or rarely invite you along, making you feel left out or replaced
  • They might suggest that you only meet up as part of a group so that they don’t have to talk to you one-on-one when you’re together

Common questions

How do you know when it’s time to end a friendship?

When a friendship causes you more anxiety than joy, or you no longer feel at ease in a friend’s company, it may be a sign that you could benefit from spending less time with them. If your friend is often abusive, toxic, or takes advantage of you, it’s probably best to walk away.

In this case, you might like to read this article on how to end a friendship.

How do you know when a friendship is really over?

If your friend does not initiate conversations, invite you to hang out, or reply to your messages, your friendship may have come to an end. However, you cannot know for sure whether your friend considers the friendship to be truly over unless they tell you directly.

How do you know if a friend doesn’t respect you?

Disrespectful friends often disregard your feelings, overstep your boundaries, and show little interest in your life and opinions. A disrespectful friend may also gossip about you, try to put you down, or repeatedly take advantage of you.

Why do my friends leave me out?

There are many reasons why your friends may leave you out. It may be impossible to know unless they tell you directly. They may feel you have grown apart and have little in common. Alternatively, you may have some habits, such as gossiping, that make them less inclined to spend time with you.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages SocialSelf’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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