The final few episodes of Girls didn’t indulge us like a typical friendship sitcom would, with the gang of friends making it through their relationship trials and vowing they’d be besties forever. Sure, criticize the reality of the girls’ apartments all you like, but the evolution and dissolution of friendships in the series hit pretty close to home. Although lots of TV shows imply that your college besties will always be there for you, realizing that isn’t always the case is a tough lesson in adulting. We talked to psychotherapist Katherine Schafler, who gave us some real talk about changing friendships, whether to put in the work to avoid losing a close friend, and how to deal if you do.
IT’S NOT WEIRD TO GROW APART FROM YOUR BFFS
If you’ve lost a best friend and you’re still dealing with the fallout, repeat after us: It’s normal, and it’s going to be okay. Think about the music you listened to in high school (or don’t if it’s too embarrassing) versus now. They’re probably pretty different. “Just like music and clothing tastes naturally grow and change as we do, our social circle expands and contracts in similar ways,” Schafler says. An evolving social circle is also likely a sign that you’re growing as a person, discovering new interests, making different choices about your life priorities, or are just influenced by the zeitgeist of the day. “As you grow, move cities, change jobs, have kids, and connect with new people, it’s of course only natural that who you feel you can best relate to also changes,” she explains, noting that for your well-being and likely your friendship, “It’s also very important to allow a friendship to change.” Just because things are different doesn’t mean they still aren’t fun or loving.
DECIDING WHETHER TO PUT IN THE EFFORT TO KEEP YOUR BESTIE
There’s not a cookie-cutter answer to when and if you should let a friendship fade. Whatever age you are, you probably already know life isn’t simple. People are different, relationships are complex, and you’re going to have a different history with each of your friends. So if something changes in your friendship, which is common as you shift away from free-time-filled college days and become an adult, Schafler states, “You have to get really intentional and deliberate about who you want in your circle.” If you want to keep your funny and supportive ride-or-die in your life, there are times you’re going to have to put in the extra effort to make it work. Schafler says, “Even if you see that person only once a year, you could make it a special night, and reconnect to all the things you love and appreciate about one another.” As your relationship evolves over time, so might your willingness to go the extra mile.
“In terms of accepting the changing tides of friendships, you have to go with your gut. Take your emotional temperature when you hang out with people. Are they giving you energy or taking it away?” Schafler asks. Tap into your instincts, and “you’ll know exactly who you want to focus on keeping in your life, even if it’s in a whole new way.”
WHAT ADULTS CAN DO TO COPE WITH AN EVER-CHANGING FRIENDSHIP
You can’t — and shouldn’t — try to prevent your friendship from evolving, and Schafler says that “being aware of the challenges to a friendship is a good thing, because you can work around them.” If it becomes nearly impossible to schedule a happy hour with your recently married friend, who you used to see every day, you might think she’s super rude. “But the truth is, as your schedule changes, so will who you want to invest time in,” Schafler says. “Accept that there will be some friends in your life who, for whatever reason, you won’t feel compelled to make this effort for, and the friendship will sort of just fade away. No need to force those moments to be anything other than what they are.”
That level of acceptance is definitely something to reach for, but we know it can make you angry to feel like your friend wasn’t willing to put in the effort to stay close or just plain hurt your heart. As some time passes, though, it’ll get easier to reminisce about an experience or joke you shared together and appreciate that moment, even if you’re not going to recreate it anytime soon (or ever). If you’re struggling to get over a BFF breakup or trying to decide whether a friend is worth keeping, Schafler notes that therapy is a great way to “gain clarity on what’s happening in your life, why it’s happening, how much control you can take over what, and how to accept the things you don’t have control over.”
How do you stay in touch with long-distance besties? Give us tips @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty and Brit + Co)