6 Signs You're Losing a Friend, Therapists Say
You need to consider their behavior and changing needs, as well as your own.
Even though they may not be related to us by blood, friends are often our most trusted confidantes, go-to travel buddies, and longstanding "partners in crime." Some friendships span decades, from elementary school or earlier, while others are newer friends met through work or church. But no matter how long you've known a friend, people come and go in life, even when we don't want them to. If you sense a friend pulling away or that you're losing touch, experts say there are a few telltale signs you can keep an eye out for.
"Maintaining relationships with friends is an essential part of life," Courtney Hubscher, MS, LMHC, NCC, of GroundWork Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, tells Best Life. "While there will always be times when it's hard to keep in touch, recognizing the subtle signs that you are gradually losing touch with a friend can help prevent an unhealthy disconnect."
Abbey Sangmeister, LPC, approved clinical supervisor (ACS), entrepreneur, psychotherapist, and burnout coach, notes that there are situations where it's OK to lose touch with a friend sometimes—and it doesn't always require an uncomfortable conversation to "break up." However, if you feel like you're not as close with a friend and wondering why, therapists say you need to consider their recent behavior, as well as your own. Read on for six signs a friendship is fizzling out.
You say you'll get together—but you never follow through
We've all been there: You run into an acquaintance, and while you're briefly catching up, you say you should grab coffee sometime. Then, of course, it never happens. But while this is typical for people we don't know as well, it can be problematic if it's a friend you see regularly.
"You may be losing touch with a friend if you frequently talk about getting together, but never do," Carrie Rose, life coach at Fresh Starts Registry, says. "People will make time if they want to be together (not just with romantic partners). Friendships change and come in seasons, and that's OK. But if you want to stay connected with someone and they are not making time to see you, the friendships may be changing."
Rose adds a caveat, noting that you need to be cognizant of what's going on in each other's lives.
"Be respectful—maybe they truly do want to, but are experiencing something (divorce, job change, move, etc.) that makes it especially difficult," she says.
Hubscher also lists difficulty making plans as a sign that something's amiss—and you should recognize your own feelings about getting together.
"When friends start losing touch with each other, it often becomes harder and harder to make plans together," she explains. "If you find yourself not wanting to go out of your way to see them, or if they seem reluctant to make plans with you, this can be a sign that the connection is fading."
You don't share life events.
Close friends are some of our biggest supporters in life, meaning we want to share big news when it comes our way. So, if you're not inclined to reach out about your new promotion, or you didn't get a text about their recent engagement—when you usually would—it's a sign something is amiss.
"When you or your friend no longer share important life events with each other, it shows that the friendship isn't a priority for either of you," Matthew Schubert, mental health counselor and operator of Gem State Wellness, tells Best Life. "These can be events like your birthday, a child's birthday, losses of loved ones, new jobs, changes in housing, and other events that you would normally look for support or encouragement from a close friend."
As Olivia Dreizen Howell, certified life coach, clinical hypnotherapist, and founder of Fresh Starts Registry, points out, if you do share these moments with them—especially ones that should be celebrated—and they aren't there for you, that's another red flag.
"If they are having trouble supporting you through these moments, it may be a sign that your friends are losing touch with you and your friendship," she explains. "Though this may sting a lot, remember it's often not about you, and sometimes they need space to figure out why they are having issues celebrating with you."
According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Joy from Fear, you should take stock of your feelings as they pertain to a friendship—and if you're feeling lonely or isolated, it could mean you're lacking connection.
"Loneliness is often a signal that you're losing touch with a friend. If you're feeling lonely, pause to non-judgmentally notice if you've not been investing in your important friendships," Manly says.
This feeling of loneliness might also be perpetuated by a belief that you're being "left out."
"Notice if you're feeling left out of a friend's life or a social circle," Manly says. "In some cases, we tend to lose touch with friends because we consciously or unconsciously feel left out. Rather than reaching out to connect, we sometimes pull back and create even more disconnection."
Communication is difficult.
Another great part about having a friend is the ability to reach out and chat. But if you two are losing touch, talking to them (whether it be on the phone, via text, or in person) may feel like it isn't as easy as it once was.
"If you sense that your conversations lack the natural flow and connection that once characterized your friendship, it's a sign that something might be amiss," Schubert says.
These conversations might also be difficult because they're no longer genuine.
"If your conversations revolve around trivial topics and need more depth, you might be more emotionally connected than before," Daniel Rinaldi, therapist and life coach with Fresh Starts Registry, says. "Meaningful conversations are a hallmark of solid friendships."
There's no communication at all.
While you might be able to get through to a friend who's switched up how and when they talk to you, it can be more difficult if you're not getting a response. And according to experts, your friend may be sending your a clear sign if they're ignoring you.
"The main sign [you're losing touch] is probably when you or your friend are unresponsive to text messages," Sangmeister says. "Yes, life gets busy, but when those texts and responses take longer than a few days, it might be time to reassess and prioritize those texts to those meaningful friends."
David Tzall, PsyD, licensed psychologist, tells Best Life that you should take stock of how drastic the shift was—and who's putting in the effort.
"If your communication frequency has significantly decreased, such as going from daily interactions to occasional, it might indicate a growing distance," Tzall says. "If the level of contact is not equal and you find yourself consistently being the one to reach out, it could be a sign that the other person is becoming less engaged."
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You notice a shift in values.
It might take a little more time to notice, but changing interests and values could also cause a friend to reach out less.
"If you find that your opinions on important topics are beginning to diverge, this can cause a rift in the relationship and sometimes be a catalyst for losing touch or drifting apart," Hubscher says. "When friends enter a different stage in life that is no longer relatable to one another, that can also be a sign that the two of you are losing touch. It's important to remember that relationships require effort and understanding from both sides in order for them to remain strong and healthy."
Manly also cites changing life circumstances—like the birth of a child or a big move—as a potential reason for decreased communication.
"Take the time to notice if a valued friendship has shifted because of external factors," she says. "Although you might feel like your friend needs space during life changes, those are often the times when our friends need us the most."