How to Accept That Friends Change Over Time

Relationships change, and they don't always go in the direction you'd like. We reflect on this fact and give you some strategies to manage the frustration and fears that you may feel about the situation.
How to Accept That Friends Change Over Time
Laura Ruiz Mitjana

Written and verified by the psychologist Laura Ruiz Mitjana.

Last update: 14 December, 2022

Sometimes, accepting that your friends change as you get older isn’t easy. Indeed, although it’s a natural occurrence, you might not always accept it. It makes you feel sad and nostalgic. This is completely normal. After all, over time, friends come and go. That said, true friends endure over the years. However, sometimes, even friends that you considered were ‘for life’, also leave, or the friendship takes on a new form – one that’s not so enriching and that you don’t like so much.

Among the causes of this are the vital dynamics of the friendships themselves. For instance, a change of city or job, new obligations, and responsibilities, loss of contact over time and distance, time itself, or other important changes in your life or yourself. Or, maybe you’ve grown and matured in a different way from your friends. So, how should you approach this kind of situation?

“How great a treasure is a friend indeed! He searches through your heart to know your need, spares you the trouble even to tell, what he himself finds out as well.” 

-Jean de La Fontaine-

Worried woman thinking
Changes in friendships are usually progressive over time.

Friendship and change

Your friends and relationships don’t always evolve as you’d like. In fact, you’ll often have to face the challenge of accepting that your friends have changed over time. This can be painful and frustrating. On the other hand, accepting these changes as part of life opens the doors to new friendships, opportunities, and experiences. So, how do you start to accept this situation?

Think about it: is it really new to you?

If you look at the situation with hindsight and in a slightly detached way, you’ll probably realize that the loss of your friendship has been gradually happening over the years. It hasn’t suddenly occurred. It’s been a progressive process. Maybe you didn’t see each other so much anymore and talked to each other less. Or, perhaps you no longer live in the same area.

These are the little things that often start to cool a relationship. While you may have only just realized that everything has changed, it’s something that’s been developing over time. When you understand the causes, you’ll realize it’s a natural process of life.

No one is to blame: don’t feel angry or guilty

Remember that in this situation there’s no culprit and no one is either good or bad. It’s just life. If you feel guilty, try to understand why. Where does it come from? Can you do something to change the situation? Trade guilt (passive) for responsibility (active).

Likewise, if you feel angry, do the same. Try to find out where it comes from. Is it really guilt or is it sadness? How can you channel it in a healthy way?

Be grateful for your experiences

When experiencing any loss, in this case, the loss of a friendship, you might feel as if the change also alters your friendship.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. Remembering the past with joy and gratitude will help you. Rescue the things that served you and what you’ve learned. Of course, you shouldn’t force yourself to feel anything; wait until you’re ready. You need to work on your acceptance and feeling grateful for what you’ve experienced is key.

Park your pride and get back in touch

On the other hand, remember that you must take care of your friendships. Sometimes, ‘all is not lost’. By this, we mean that, if you feel like it, you can get back in touch with those friends with whom you’ve distanced yourself.

Make that call, send that WhatsApp message. Be honest. You may have been hurt by the estrangement or certain situations. You may be disappointed in your friend. But, if you open your heart and move away from your feelings of pride, what do you feel? Pride, or love for your friendship?

Two persons cannot long be friends if they cannot forgive each other’s little failings.”

-Jean de la Bruyère-

Go through the grieving process

When your friendships change or are ‘lost’, and can’t be recovered, you’re facing a grieving process. It’s a loss, a radical (or not so radical) change in your reality. Therefore, you must be aware that you’re grieving. Don’t resist it.

Learning to live with your new reality and say goodbye to friends who’ve been really important to you isn’t easy. However, it’s necessary to heal and reconnect with your present life, the only one that exists now.

sad young girl
The end of a friendship marks a grieving process.

Accept that friends change

Accepting this situation can be a real challenge. But remember that it’s not necessarily about resigning yourself, but about seeing what you can do to change the situation. Some of your friendships have changed and some have been lost. It’s all part of life.

On the other hand, there are some you’ll be able to recover if you give yourself the opportunity to open your heart and contact them again. It’s important that you’re honest with yourself and that you differentiate one situation from another. Let go of the past and learn to receive, and accept the now. Continue caring for your friendships that may have suffered over the years but that you want to continue to maintain in your life.

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson-

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The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.