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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

How to cope when friendships shift and splinter

Our modern society allows us the opportunity for so much more diversity, transition and change in our life choices than ever before.  Careers, education, finances, fertility, parenting, relationships.  As a result, it’s become more common for our life paths and choices to diverge from those of our friends as we grow older. But this can be difficult to cope with.

With romantic relationships, we understand the dynamics of dating and breakups. But somehow with friendships we don't always know what to do if we notice that things are shifting or splintering. I have spoken to the press about this a couple of times. I spoke to Stylist Magazine all about how to cope when friendships shift and splinter. Click here to read the full article. I also spoke to The Independent all about how a friendship breakdown can hit us harder than a relationship breakdown. Click here to read the full article.

So how can we stop these shifts or splinters from becoming fractures, or irreversible breaks?

Be proactive with your time and energy.  When we study or live or work alongside our friends, we don’t necessarily have to put in extra effort to spend time with them.  Once our paths diverge, it’s important to remember to invest our time and energy if we want to maintain a friendship.  

Notice any creeping frustration or resentment.  It’s normal to compare us to those around us.  But if we used to have a shared vision of the future, and we now find ourselves in different places, it’s easy to start comparing our differences, successes and failures.  This can give us an exciting opportunity to share a journey that’s different from our own.  But if we struggle with our self-esteem, then it can add weight to any internal self-criticism.  

Find milestones to celebrate.  When it comes to weddings and having children, we can’t move for milestones.  Hen parties, engagement dos, buddymoons, baby showers, and so on.  So if you, or your friend, are doing different things with your life, then explore other ways to share and enjoy life’s milestones.  

Continue to create shared memories.  When we’ve been friends for a long time, it’s easy to spend our time reminiscing or gossiping.  But sometimes we need to create new memories together, in order to remind us of our sense of shared connection.  

Accepting that friendships ebb and flow.  We generally accept that relationships can come to end.  But we don’t always allow ourselves to acknowledge that sometimes friendships have run their course too.  This can leave us feeling guilty or embarrassed or anxious.  Or it can trigger a sense of grief or loss. So it’s useful to consider whether we really need or want a friend in our life, or if we are simply hanging on because we don’t want to be the person who steps away.  

The parent gap. Becoming a parent can cause some of the greatest fissures in our existing friendships.  It can mean that we have less time, different priorities, and we are suddenly swept up into a new world of feeding and sleeping that might feel out of place with our old friends.  This can last a few years while our children are young and we adjust to our new world.  But there is an opportunity a little later in life, when we have more time and energy to ourselves to reevaluate or rekindle our friendships too.  

Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at how you feel about yourself. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call.

How to cope when friendships shift and splinter

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