Drifting Apart in Adult Friendships

Hey guys,

I've been wanting to talk about adult friendships for a while now. People talk about relationships all the time, and there’s a ton of advice and websites on them. But adult friendships? Not so much.

Making and keeping friends when you were still schooling was a piece of cake as compared to when you are adulting. Without sharing a common space or activity, you may find yourself longing for the past, and maybe even lose a friend or two along the way. It can be a painful process, but it doesn’t have to be. In this post I'll be touching on two parts of drifting away - being the active drifter and being the one who is left behind. 

Transitioning to adulthood

Adulthood isn't easy. You have to juggle a whole bunch of stuff. Sometimes friendship takes a backseat, and this can cause disagreements.


Growing Apart

“We used to be best buddies, but now we’re not.”- Frozen, Do You Want to Build a Snowman (lol)

You guys used to hang out in school all the time. You enjoyed the company, the gossip, the inside jokes, the constant checking in with each other. 

Then both of you were catapulted into different worlds. Both of you entered the workforce in different roles and companies. Either way, life has changed and so have you. You drift apart more and more, due to the differences in lifestyle and outlook on life. You don’t hang out in the same places anymore, nor do you do the same activities. One of you picked up yoga, the other met some drinking buddies at work. One of you is saving up for a house, while the other is not interested in dating at all. 

People change. People drift.The differences increase, and they grate on each other. You find that you do not enjoy each other’s company anymore. You hate that she complains about work all the time. while she hates that you keep talking about BTO and money. You hate that she no longer watches the Korean shows you love. Worse, you gave up the common hobby you guys shared. You find yourself wanting the company of another, or even just the comfort of your bed.

Wouldn’t it better if you just stopped meeting up? The friendship feels more and more toxic and unhealthy with each passing day. Your values simply do not match anymore. 

Soon you don't even bother with the half-hearted "Let's meet up soon!" text messages. The chat conversation remains silent.

"I don't really want to meet, but I'll ask you anyway and act enthusiastic, so when this friendship fails, you can't blame me for not trying."
How can years of shared company fade away so dramatically, you wonder. But you know what? It can be a good thing. It can even be a great thing.

Drifting Away: Why it happens and what to do with the guilt

Change is part and parcel of life. Drifting away may happen as you outgrow each other and go on to pursue different things. It could also be due to changes in outlook, personality or habit. It can aid growth. You get to meet new people, go to new places, learn more about yourself and form your own opinions. Maybe you want to focus more on your career, or your new family. You shouldn't have to feel guilty that you're making choices. Do what you can, and more importantly, do what makes you happy.

Drifting could also be due to the removal of an important factor in the friendship equation, such as location. You were friends of proximity, either by school, work or organisation. Now that you left the place, you no longer have the premise of meeting often. (And maybe you don't want to.) It's a little brutal but it happens.

It's okay to feel the guilt, but move on with life.

Perhaps you guys enjoyed a friendship in the past, but now your life values just do not align. And that's completely okay, you don't need to feel guilty. (It's okay to change who you are, really. Do you really want to be the same person you were ten years ago?)

Was she there for you in a difficult time? Yes. Is it ok to not be as invested in the friendship now? Yes, too.

There must be a reason why you don't hang out as much as before. Maybe times together are no longer as enjoyable as compared to your other friends, or you just have more pressing responsibilities to tend to.

No matter your reason, it's okay to drift away. Nothing is set in stone. Acknowledge the guilt and let it pass. Don't feel obligated to stay in a dead friendship. You are entitled to do what you think is best for you. It's your life.

The tricky thing is when one person wants to drift away and the other doesn't want to. 

Sometimes, you're the one who wants to keep the friendship alive, but somehow nothing seems to work. Was it something you did? Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe your friend changed, Maybe you changed. Either way, you start to feel really tired at trying to initiate conversations and meet-ups. 

Perhaps it's time to let go too.

You may feel disgruntled. How can your friend drop you when you have so much history and good times together? Well, no matter how sour you feel, let it go. Don't force a friendship if you find that you are unable rekindle it. You tried, now let it go. Don't flog a dead horse.

In the era of Facebook and Instagram, you may also see your friend hanging out with all these new friends, doing new and fun activities - without you. But that's the thing. You have to go live your life too, with someone who actually wants to be part of your life. Respect the space that grew between you guys. Perhaps your paths may intersect again. It was fun while it lasted. 

I mean, if someone really wants to leave, no amount of effort on your part can persuade them to stay. So just let go, buddy. Maybe you'll feel happier this way.

Unrealistic Expectations

Are you still holding on to an idealised concept of what friendship should be?

Want friendships like those in shows (Friends or Big Bang Theory), where people hang out with their friends all the time, or when they get off work? Well it's cute, but also very unrealistic. People grow up and people grow apart. Everyone follows their own path and sometimes that means that they are not able to come together as often as they could in the past.

For example, if you have stayed in hall and enjoyed the company of your friends almost 24/7, you would have experienced withdrawal symptoms upon leaving the hall. But can you recreate this sense of community again?

No. The time has passed.

You enjoy the most of it while you can, but life goes on. Eventually you will get used to the coming and going of people in your life. The sooner you get used to this fact, the less hurt you will feel.

Friends Forever

Why do you see the need to be friends forever anyway? Nothing in the world is forever. This too shall pass.

Maybe ask yourself, why do you need to cling on to forever? Are you sentimental for what used to be? Is it because you’re too familiar with a person and am afraid of change? Do you feel that you would never find a friend like this again?

Well, it is very likely you would not find a friend like this again. Instead, you’ll find another friend, a different one, perhaps a more suitable one, if you simply give yourself the chance and permission to.

Don’t be afraid of change. Change is everywhere. All we can do is to flow with it. Don’t be afraid to leave the past. Yes, the past is important, but living in the present is even more so.


What you can do if you feel off-kilter about your friendships:

1. Figure out what you need.

Do you need a constant best friend companion to share your day-to-day thoughts and woes?
Are you good with a weekly or monthly hang with your friends? Do you prefer one-to-one, heart-to-heart talks? A friend to exercise with? A friend to drink with? A big group of friends that play games together? A small trio to chat and maybe do some shopping together? Someone to contemplate the deep mysteries of life together?

Personally, I need all these types of friends. (I'm so needy haha.) The trick is not to expect everything from a single person.

Be honest with yourself. Problems are easier to solve when you possess a good amount of self-awareness.

Once you've got your answer, work towards trying to establish how you can fulfil your need.

(Also: you don't need to be everything to everyone.)

2. Put in the effort.

Be the organiser. Be the one who organises the weekly/monthly thing. 

Lazy? Just a little reminder that friendships, like relationships, takes effort too. If you want something, be prepared to give a little to make it work too.

IMPORTANT: Not everyone will view the group or friendship the way you do. If they do not respond well to your monthly/weekly hang, do respect their wishes. Everyone is busy and has their own priorities too. Don't take it personally as everyone is at a different stage of their life and has very different needs. That said, if you tried and failed, the next logical step would be that you try to fulfil your needs elsewhere, with different people.

and BTW, very rarely can you find someone who ticks off everything in your ideal friend list. Learn to live with that. I mean, are YOU the perfect friend? 


As for me, I actually enjoy my friendships (what's left of them) very much. I meet new people sometimes and as much as they’re cool and everything, I don’t need the extra stress to make friends with them. I simply do not have enough time nor energy to invest fully in them. I already have a lot on my plate, thank you. It took me quite some time to come to grips about not feeling guilty about it.

It's actually very dangerous to make zero new friends and live in a bubble because then you'll live in an echo chamber, but I'll figure that out as I go! Right now I acknowledge that I have finite energy and finite time so I will choose how to best to tend to my priorities. 

Just like this article about adult friendships suggests, time is limited. Be ruthless in picking your friends, just as you are picky in choosing your relationship partner. You're going to spend so much time and effort, and life with them, so choose those who bring you joy, those you love and want to grow and experience life with. 

I found these helpful guiding questions (from the article above) if you're looking for friends who offer you growth as a person.

  • Who do I learn from?
  • Who challenges me?
  • Who can I confide in?
  • With whom do I find joy?                                      
If you are considering if you should drift away from a person, here are some questions to help you out:

  • Do you often feel emotionally drained after hanging out?
  • Do you feel like you are not being heard?
  • Do you feel like you would rather do something else or be with someone else?
If yes, yes, and yes, do consider why you're still holding on. (You may actually have a toxic friend!) You deserve better. 

What are your thoughts on adult friendships? Is there even a polite way to end a friendship?  

Thanks for reading my ramblings :)

I hope that if you will have satisfying friendships!

Be happy,