“Why am I losing friends? Is it normal to lose friends as you get older, or is something actually wrong with me? Why do all my friendships end? I feel so frustrated over this! Also, how do I get over losing a friend when it happens?”
Throughout my life, I’ve both made friends and lost friends, and sometimes I’ve been obsessing about if it was something I did.
This article will explore some of the common reasons friendships end. We will go over how to work through this problem and also show how to be okay with losing friends.
Let’s start by covering common reasons for losing friends:
Sometimes we do things that are off-putting to friends without even thinking about it. It could be things like…
- Not being considerate enough about your friends’ emotions
- Being too self-centered
- Being too negative
- Using friends as therapists
- Getting stuck in small talk and not forming close friendships
It can be hard to know if you are doing something wrong. If it’s a pattern in your life that people aren’t interested in keeping in touch, it can help to try to identify if you make any of these mistakes.
You can read more in our guide “Why can’t I keep friends”.
If you know most of your friends through school or work, you risk losing touch with them when you change jobs or graduate, since the natural venue to meet up is gone. Now, you suddenly need to make an effort if you want to keep in touch.
You can try reaching out to a small group that you know went along well and ask if they want to meet up together. Even better is to create a new venue to meet up:
- Doing a team sport together every weekend
- Making it a habit to meet up a specific day every week for after-work
- Developing a hobby together with people who share your interests
Sometimes we’re so worried about coming off as being needy or try-hard that we don’t reach out to old friends. A good rule of thumb is to reach out to old friends at least twice over the course of a year to see if they want to meet up.
Don’t just write “We should meet up one day”. Be specific. “I’d love to catch up. Do you want to go for drinks next week?”
People are busy and declining an invitation doesn’t automatically mean that they don’t want to hang out. But if you ask them twice and they decline both times, think about if there’s something you do that might put them off.
Every decade, we go through major life changes. For example, in your 20s, you may start living on your own and establishing your career. In your 30s, you might be having or raising a family. It can be even more of a challenge to keep or make new friends in your 40s, as you may be plugging away at your career, raising kids, and even taking care of your parents. In your 50s, you might be sending kids off to college and thinking about retirement.
Of course, everyone is different, and nothing follows a prescribed plan. But if you intend to keep and retain friends throughout your entire life, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment.
- Try to accept your fear of losing friends: Acceptance is an important part of working through any fear. It’s okay to accept that some friendships might not last forever. Instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself this, what did I learn from this friendship? How did I grow? How can I look back on this relationship fondly?
- Never stop trying to make new friends: No matter how much you love your current friends, don’t shut down the opportunity to make more meaningful connections. Say yes to social invitations. Engage in small talk with strangers. Ask new people if they want to have coffee or lunch.
Our guide on how to make friends can help.
Unfortunately, losing touch with friends is easy when life gets busy. In fact, you may not even recognize the change until several weeks or months.
Good friendships require maintenance and effort. If you’re always too busy to spend time with others, you might not be putting in the full work.
Be proactive when it comes to your friends:
- Set reminders on your phone to text or call certain friends. This may seem inauthentic, but if you’re really busy, you may need this reminder.
- Plan a monthly lunch or dinner and put it on the calendar. Try to arrange this meeting well in advance. That way, everyone can rearrange their schedules accordingly.
Losing friends to relationships is extremely common. When people enter relationships, all sorts of changes happen. They may become infatuated with their new partner and want to spend every moment with them. They might also want to spend more time getting to know their friends. Finally, they may no longer have any interest in “single-person activities” like going to bars.
- Give them some space: New relationships are exciting. Don’t confront your friend about their changes right away- they’re likely to get defensive or upset with you.
- Get to know their partner: This can be one of the best ways to show effort in your friendship. People love it when their friends get along with their partners. It makes planning events so much easier.
- Share your feelings: After some time has passed (at least a few months), it’s okay to tell your friend that you miss them! Don’t accuse or blame them for drifting away. Instead, consider reaching out with a friendly text like, hey, it’s been a while! I miss you. Can we plan a night to have dinner together and catch up?
If you think money is complicated, you’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, money is the top cause of stress for Americans.
When it comes to friendships, money can be even more complicated. For example, maybe a friend asks to borrow cash, but they don’t pay you back. Maybe they always expect you to pay when you two go out together. Maybe you’re on an extremely tight budget, but your friends don’t seem to understand this struggle.
It’s painful to think about losing a friend over money. Here are some suggestions to try:
- Don’t assume you know your friend’s financial situation: You never really know the full picture. Just because they make a lot of money doesn’t mean they have a lot of money and vice versa. If they say they can’t afford something, don’t challenge it.
- Suggest cheap or free alternatives: If money is tight, ask your friends if they’re willing to be flexible. For example, instead of going out to dinner, see if you can have a potluck.
- Stop loaning money: This one may be difficult, but it’s an important rule. Try to avoid loaning friends money, even if they promise to pay you back. This can cause a few problems. First, they might not pay you back, and you may resent seeing them spend money on other things. Or, they may pay you back, but then ask you again. If you want to give a friend money, it should be a gift.
High schools can be cliquey. Once people find their group, they may only want to spend time with others in that group. If you don’t belong to a clique, you may even feel like an outcast.
- Join a club or hobby: It’s easier to connect with like-minded people who share a mutual interest. Even if it feels scary, try to attend 1-2 meetings to see if it’s a good fit. When you talk to other members, try to focus on asking them questions about themselves. The specific questions don’t matter as much- you just want to get people talking, as it increases the chance of having a conversation. What got you into playing the guitar? Who’s your math teacher? What kinds of events do you guys do?
- Focus on becoming more outgoing with others: Shy people can have a hard time making friends in high school. We cover how to be more outgoing in our extensive guide.
Unfortunately, you might lose friends after graduating from college. This shift may seem so unexpected. College friendships can feel so tight-knit that you don’t anticipate ever drifting apart. But after college, people may move away, settle into demanding careers, and enter serious relationships.
- Keep a group chat going: It’s one of the easiest ways to stay in touch with people, no matter how busy everyone gets.
- Send birthday cards: Most people send a birthday wish or Facebook message. But a personalized card feels so much more personal.
Getting married is exciting, but it can also affect your friendships. You will probably want to spend most of your free time with your spouse. Your friends may be resentful of your shift in priorities. If they don’t like your spouse (or your spouse doesn’t like them), it can add more problems.
- Hang out with other couples: This can be good for your marriage and for your friendships. If your friends are in relationships, try to schedule couples dates. This gives your spouse a chance to get to know other people and vice versa.
- Set time to spend time with friends alone: You shouldn’t spend all your free time with your spouse. If you do, your friends will probably stop inviting you out. Only you can find this balance, but make sure that you’re seeing friends regularly.
Unfortunately, approximately 40-50% of all marriages end in divorce. Going through a divorce can be incredibly painful, and you may lose friends during the process. That’s because friends may feel like they have to choose between the spouses.
This is especially true if you both had mutual friends or if the divorce was extremely messy. Some friends may side with your ex. Others may also feel threatened by your divorce- it might worry them that their marriage is headed in the wrong direction.
- Remember that your friends might feel awkward, confused, or even upset: There isn’t a specific etiquette for how friends should cope when other friends get divorced. They may have their own personal feelings about the situation. For example, they might feel equally close to both you and your ex, and they’re not sure how to handle the change.
- Try to accept when friends cut you off for your ex: Yes, it’s painful. But, whether you like it or not, they picked your ex for a reason. In some cases, an ex-partner may use a mutual friend to solicit information about your whereabouts. If you don’t want to deal with this drama, it’s best to cut your losses.
- Take friends up on their offers to support you: People like when you give them specific directions. If someone says, let me know if you need anything, let them know if and when you need something! It can be as simple as saying something like, I could really use having a night out. What are you doing this Friday?
Having a baby changes every part of your life. It’s one of the most exciting and stressful times you’ll ever experience. While some friends might be excited about your news, many friendships dramatically shift once the baby arrives.
This can happen for a few reasons. First, your priorities fundamentally change. For example, you may no longer have time for happy hours or spontaneous weekend trips. If a friend calls and needs support, you may have to hang up once the baby starts crying.
Your parent friends will probably understand these changes, but your friends without children may have a harder time.
- Continue reaching out to your friends: It’s normal for new parents to spend all their time focused on the baby. But try to make an effort to send the occasional text to your friend. And don’t just send baby photos! Even if your friends are excited about the baby, it shouldn’t be all you talk about- that can get old quickly!
- Invite people over to spend time with you and your baby: It’s no secret that it can be incredibly hard to leave the house with a baby. Instead, ask your friends if they’re willing to come over, order takeout, and spend time with you.
- Make parent friends: Apps like Peanut or MeetUp can help connect with your new parents in the area. These friends will understand the perils of sleep deprivation and questionable baby poop!
In psychology, the ‘proximity effect’ refers to the amount of time people spend together. In other words, the more you hang out with someone, the closer you tend to feel.
This effect may explain why young kids can make friends easily at school. They spend hours with them in the classroom every morning! It also explains why people tend to date other locals or become friends with their coworkers.
Moving disrupts this effect. You’re no longer spending as much time together, and you suddenly might feel like you have less in common.
- Schedule routine video chats: At least once a month, make a plan to Facetime or Skype. The video effect is the closest effect to seeing each other in real life.
- Make plans to see each other: Even though traveling can be time-consuming and expensive, friendships require consistent effort. If you really value spending time together, try to schedule a time to hang out at least every few months.
- Make new friends: Even if you still feel close to people back home, you need local connections. Check out our guide on how to make friends in a new city.
If you struggle with a condition like anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, or Aspergers, maintaining friendships can be difficult. Some symptoms naturally affect your self-esteem and socialization.
- Know your triggers: Certain people, places, or situations may trigger distressing symptoms. Consider keeping a journal to write down when you feel triggered. This insight will help you understand certain patterns better.
- Get professional help: Therapy and medication can help you manage your mental illness. If you’re struggling with your condition, consider reaching out to the professionals.
- Use healthy coping skills: Stress tends to make mental illnesses even worse. Get in the habit of managing your stress regularly. You may want to try an activity like meditation, journaling, or exercise.
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Sobriety is one of the best decisions you can make for your health. But it can impact your friendships, and you may lose friends during the recovery process.
When you quit drinking or using drugs, a few things might happen. You may realize that you only spend time with people who also party. You may also realize that you don’t know how to connect with people when you’re sober. These reactions are normal.
- Find other sober friends: Go to recovery meetings. There are 12-Step Groups in nearly every city in the country. These groups are free, and they are a great way to meet other sober people.
- Check out sober apps: Many apps support sober friendships. For example, Sober Grid offers a free sober community.
- Set boundaries with friends who still drink or use drugs: It’s okay to put some distance between you and your former friends. In fact, it may be necessary to take that step to protect your sobriety. Think about what limits you want to set. You may decide that you no longer wish to be friends with some of those people, and that’s completely reasonable.
To make and keep friends, you need to socialize with other people consistently. Good relationships require consistent effort. It’s not enough to just hang out once or twice.
Think about the reasons why you struggle to socialize. Do you feel like you hate being around people? Do you get anxious that people are judging you negatively? Are you afraid of rejection?
These fears are normal, and almost everyone has them. But you need to actively work through these fears if you want to stop losing friends. It can be helpful to remember that:
- Small changes can amount to big changes. Think about small ways you can socialize throughout the day. For example, can you ask your coworker if they want to have lunch together? Can you text an old friend and ask how they’ve been?
- Socialization and feeling comfortable around others takes practice. It doesn’t come naturally for everyone, but you can learn how to stop feeling uncomfortable around people.
Yes. As you grow and change, your priorities evolve. Sometimes, we outgrow people. Or, you lose touch because you get busy with other things. Losing friends isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s just a natural part of being human.
Remind yourself that friendships don’t need to last forever to be special. Tell yourself that it’s important to feel good about the people you associate yourself with. If you continue feeling bad every time you hang out with someone, it’s a sign that you need change.
You may want to consider writing a letter to your former friend. This exercise is for you. You won’t be sending it to the other person. Write down everything you want to say or do. If you want, share it with someone you trust. You may choose to tear it up or burn it afterward- the decision is yours.