A TV producer called me last week because her afternoon TV show is hoping to interview some women who are currently going through BFF break-ups. She said that when the show idea was discussed, nearly every woman around the table had a story. As do we all. Changing friends is normal.
If you're a faithful reader of my blog, you'll recall that I often remind women that research suggests that we replace about half our friends every seven years.
To see if it's true in your life, list the five to seven women that you'd invite to stand up with you at your wedding if getting married today. Now think back to where you were seven years ago and see how many of those same women would be standing up there with you? Most likely, with perhaps the exception of family members, two or three of the women might have been different if chosen back then. And chances are that two or three of them might be different if chosen seven years from now. Our lives do change. And with that change comes some movement in our inner circles.
The word replace speaks of two directions-- new friends coming in and old friends going out.
Many of my posts have to do with how to start new friendships since there are few platonic pick-up lines, winking seems inappropriate, and there aren't bars for female friends.
So in honor of the fact that we aren't just making new friends, but also having to let go of them, I'm going to write a series (number of posts still TBD) about friendship break-ups.
The Drift vs. The Rift
Friendship Break-Ups typically fall into two camps: The Drift and The Rift.
The Drift is when two people have less in common due to life changes or personal preferences. There's typically no big break-up or blow-up, it's just two people moving apart. That's not to say it doesn't hurt or that you're not aware of it though! On the contrary, we often carry guilt, anger, or fear as these relationships drift. We sometimes feel betrayed that they are leaving the job, moving away, having a baby, or going through a divorce that we feel threatens or changes our friendship. We know that our relationship is shifting.... even if we don't know yet whether it will survive or what it will look like.
The Rift is when an event or behavior causes damage to our relationship leaving us hurt, angry, or confused for what we'd consider a grievance or mistake. I differentiate a Rift from a Drift when we feel that there is a behavior or action that would need to be discussed, forgiven, or changed in order to continue to be friends. Our pain can come from unmet expectations (i.e. she didn't ask us to be her bridesmaid and we thought we were close friends), blatant mistakes (i.e. she gossiped about our failing marriage to other friends, betraying our trust), or what we might call character flaws (i.e. she never calls us and we're tired of being the ones who always have to initiate). A Rift is when we feel justified at being mad at her.
I'll talk about the Rift in an upcoming post. This post is about the Drift.
The Common Causes of a Drift
One of the reasons we replace, or need to replenish, our friendships is because our lives all happen in different ways and in different times. Often, we drift apart. While there can be a hundred variations of why we no longer lean toward the same people, most of those reasons fall under these six common categories:
With so many of us switching jobs or starting companies comes the obvious fact that we are losing the friends that were associated with those specific workplaces.
If there was an era where we all followed a similar path: get married out of college, have kids two years later, live in the suburbs, etc. We're definitely not there now. Now you're just as likely to be new mom at twenty-one as you are at forty-one. We're not doing life in the same order or at the same pace as our friends which leaves us often wishing for new friends in our new stage of life.
On location alone, with Americans picking up and moving every five years it's no surprise that not all our friendships can survive the distance. Even if you stay planted, chances are high that a friend will move away in the next couple of years, forcing you to either drift apart or be incredibly proactive and intentional about staying connected.
And in that last sentence is where you'll find what I think is the most important choice in a Drift: decide whether this friendship is important enough to you to go through the transition.
Responding to the Drift
- Relationship Changes Are Normal. Every change-- in her life or yours-- will likely require the friendship to shift.
- Awareness is a Strength. The worst thing is to lose friendship unknowingly! Or to have to deal with anger down the road because you didn't take the time to see it coming or to do the work of readjusting your expectations. Don't live in denial! Seeing it coming gives you time, wisdom, and increased generosity.
- Feel Your Choice. There are two kinds of Drifts-- the ones where we simply let it happen to us and the ones where we chose to let it happen. I don't believe we need to hang on to every relationship; nor do I believe we should simply let-go of relationships with people we love simply because life changes. While the actions of both choices may end up looking similar (i.e. call less, hang out less, slowly lose touch), one happens out of negligence, whereas the other happens with our blessing. There's a big difference.
We are called to learn how to hang on to some relationships, even when awkward; while also letting go of others, hopefully with intention and eventual peace. The trick is to know how to make that choice.
Leave your comments: How do you know when a friendship is over? What helps you decide? How have you handled friendships drifts before? Do you tend to "hang on too long" or "let go too soon"?