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What to do when a friendship changes

FRIENDS,
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Our relationships with friends change over time, and there are ways to cope with loss and disappointment.

Have you ever struggled with a friendship because it changed? It can happen when you or a friend move away, or one of you makes another major life change — gets married, changes religious beliefs, or has a child. When you have different priorities, it makes it difficult to relate in the way you did before. If a significant other or child is in the picture, you and your friend will likely prioritize your free time differently than before. Any of this can put a strain on friendship.

All of these changes are fairly common in the grand scheme of life, but when it’s happening to someone you care about and who you’ve built a level of trust with, such changes can be devastating. It can feel like you’re losing a friend, and that is a real, painful loss. Making new acquaintances is somewhat easy, but making new friends is hard work. Most of us don’t think to ourselves, “Ah, well … lost another friend, no problem, I’ll just spend some extra intentional time with some acquaintances and get more vulnerable with them over the next few months and find new close friends in no time!” Finding new friends is usually a daunting task, one that most of us are loathe to undertake.

So here are some ways to cope when you begin to notice a distance growing in your friendship.

Grieve the loss

Your friendship is different, and it’s okay to be sad about that. It may not mean that you’ll lose this friendship entirely, but it will probably never look the same as it did before. Feeling sad or frustrated is normal and you should accept those feelings and acknowledge them.   

Create boundaries 

If your friend has new beliefs that you don’t share, or is living a lifestyle you can’t approve of or live with them, you will need boundaries in place for your sanity and well-being. On a smaller scale, if your friend is so wrapped up in a new person in their life, like a child or spouse, and can’t talk about anything else, you still need some boundaries — especially if you’re single or would like to have a child and can’t. Creating boundaries in a friendship might mean limiting how much time you spend texting or getting together in person. Or it might mean coming to the realization that the friendship is now too painful to pursue much at all right now. Either way, stick to the boundaries that will help you cope. 

Pursue differently

If you want to continue a friendship, but have to do so in a limited and different way than before, don’t be afraid to experiment with new ways to communicate. Try snail mail letter writing, long emails, or recording short videos to keep in touch (use apps like Snapchat or Marco Polo). Becoming more intentional in how you communicate may just make your friendship last through the changes, and might take some of the pressure off of disagreements or difficulties that you’re having with the transition. 

Change is hard and friendships take work. It’s hard work to let go of a friendship and it’s hard work to keep it going despite life changes. Either way, don’t be scared of the work it takes. You need good friends; God did not create us to go through life alone. Hang in there and good luck! 

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