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Fade to Black: When Friendships Fizzle Out

By Andrew Burgon /
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October 28, 2013


when friends become distant and cold
Image credit: foottoo/ 123RF Stock Photo

It Can Be a Troubling Matter When Friendships Fizzle Out

Sometimes even close friends can become distant and cold. I remember a friend of mine who seemed to be getting along really well with a friend of his. Then one day that friend deliberately bailed out of the friendship. A short while later my friend got married and it was sad to see that his other friend never showed up at the wedding.

There are all kinds of reasons why friendships fade to black. A friend of mine who had expanded his circle of friends had simply found other people he preferred to be with. Another friend’s friendship was dependent on a game of squash. So when I stopped playing that was that. I am able to deal with this a lot better than before.

Experience has taught me that even good friendships can be for a season or that there will come a point where the best part of the friendship is behind you.That most friendships do not chug along consistently. That has certainly helped to lower my expectations and change my perspective. I now see friendships like a fine wine to be savored and enjoyed till the last drop. When the bottle is truly empty, it’s empty. Time to get another bottle (friend).

Three Friends That Faded From My Life

I can think of three friendships over the last two years that made me feel differently about this situation. It’s as though they hit my internal red button and I’m now okay with such incidents. The first was a good friend of mine who obviously at one point valued my friendship a lot. One day he moved a little further out of the city. He got a nice new place and simply mellowed out. He was still working in the city though and it would have been easy for us to meet up.

After a time of silence I took initiative with him a few times to kick start the friendship and I had some success though the friendship never did reach the same heights as before. A short while later he ended up leaving the country. We had dinner together before he left. During the conversation I unintentionally let it slip that his silence had bothered me to which he more or less replied that we hadn’t met up much partly because we have little in common. He also tried to make light of my feelings and said we’d laugh about this sometime in the future. Wow, he should have known better than to say that.

At that moment, I felt regret. Not only had I tried to keep the friendship afloat but I had persevered with this friend in another way. I was aware of how different we were but we were enjoying each others company for a while regardless. Sometimes my friends make me thing, “Why did I even bother.”

Another good friend of mine fell into a quiet rut and let his girlfriend dictate what they did on the weekends. Months would pass and I was the one who often broke the silence and arranged to meet up. I scaled down my initiative with him repeatedly till one day I felt I had hit rock bottom. Though I told myself to leave the ball in his court and walk away I did make a number of exceptions.

My friend did some things that ended up exasperating the friendship. The last case was a friend I got along well with, enjoyed good times together but come 2011 he couldn’t even be bothered to stay in contact.

What to Do About Friendships That Go AWOL?

When a friend whose friendship you truly value becomes distant try to understand why. You may be surprised. Your friend might be going through some sort of crisis. Divorce, a business that is crumbling around him, a lawsuit filed against her, unable to find work or the death of a loved one. A friend may need time to process what he or she is going through and may be sorely distracted.

Next time you see him you might try to gently inquire what’s up. “Hey, bud. Haven’t seen you in a while. How have you been?” Another option is to talk to mutual friends. “Have you seen Bob of late? I haven’t seen him in a while. What’s he up to?” You might find your friend has found romance after a long dry spell in his life and he’s spending a lot of time with that special someone. Understandable.

You could also check out his facebook page and albums to see if he is still socially active and what he has been up to. In some cases, it might be prudent to consider if there is something about yourself that is bugging your friend. Do you say or do things that appear to annoy or irritate your friend? What are they and what can you do about it? Don’t be unfair to yourself though. There are so many things that can get in the way of a friendship.

I usually end up doing one of three things. The first is trying to kick start the friendship. I might call to say hi and catch up on the news or treat him to a nice dinner somewhere. I might invite him over to my place for a dinner party with a few other friends and subtly impress upon him that I value his friendship. I will probably scale down my initiative though if a friend’s interest in me seems to be waning. I want to be sensitive towards my friends. I’m careful not to annoy or bombard people with invites or with constant efforts to befriend them if they don’t seem interested.

The second is to not take any initiative with the friend at least for a long while anyway. This is especially the case if I have already shown this friend a lot of hospitality, interest, enthusiasm and warmth. If a friend turns his back on me after I have taken the lionshare of the initiative with him it might indeed be time to look elsewhere for friendship. Very much so if we have a lot of mutual friends and he obviously prefers their company to mine.

The third option is to give the chronically passive friend special status in your life meaning you will continue to show him initiative on the odd ocassion despite his lack of it. Keep in mind that it can be difficult for friendships to survive outside of the workplace, a class, a church or club. This is the terra firma (ground) of friendships. It creates a powerful matrix that keeps people together. Once it’s gone many friendships will naturally fizzle out.

You could try joining a group that he regularly attends or get him interested in another group you go to. Sometimes, of course, it’s just not meant to be.

A Large Circle of Friends is Comforting

Having a large circle of friends certainly helps. In my mind’s eye, I sometimes see myself on a jetty talking to my friends. When a friend continues to persistently sail off in the horizon I raise my glass to bid him farewell, sip my white wine remembering the good times we shared and turn my attention back to my friends.

Being surrounded by friends as I am makes it a lot easier to let people go. I find there is a certain amount of satisfaction in replacing people I liked who were disinterested in me. One thing I noticed is that the people that replaced other friends were often just as nice and sometimes nicer.

State Changers

“Capuccino! Christmas lights! Squeel with delight!” Say them with a smile. Say them loudly. These are my silly state changers. I sometimes say this to myself when friends fade from my life. I do find it helpful.

I love cappuccinos. Throffy, enjoyable and of a temporary nature. Just like a lot of friendships. Just because a cappuccino is of a finite amount doesn’t mean I enjoy it any less. As I’m an expat I have a bit of an aversion for short-term friendships but the state changer helps reduce this.

I also love Christmas and everything that’s associated with it including Christmas lights which turn ON and OFF. Also just like some friendships.

Then there’s squeal with delight. I was racing my son to work one day (he was only three years old at the time and had the distinct advantage of being on his mother’s motor scooter!) When he saw me suddenly start running as the motor scooter got closer to me he squealed with delight. Thinking about that race never fails to put a smile on my face. It reminds me to appreciate the little things, the simple things and to not take myself so seriously ! LOL

Deal With the Situation Calmly

A friend of mine who I felt was busy with his other friends and giving me scant attention a long time ago said to me during a spat I had with him about it, “It’s not like we’re married!” True enough. True enough. Though judging by the rate of divorce he could of perhaps chosen a better example!

If you are a sensitive kind of person, feeling lonely or experiencing depression it can make you feel needy, clingy and emotionally hypersensitive. Keep that in mind when dealing with this particular situation. Think twice before you spit the dummy!

Inner Calluses

Don’t let this kind of thing stop you from going out there and making friends. My own experience is that because I persisted in my pursuit of friendships in general I naturally grew inner calluses that have made me much tougher.

Confidence in Forging New Friendships Helps

Finally, something that has definitely made it easier to accept friends fizzling out is having confidence in my ability to forge new friendships.

Vibrant & Fresh Conclusion

I find that the older I get and the more of these experiences I accumulate the less emotional and clingy I am concerning these friends. Hindsight has taught me that trying to revive a friendship completely that has become mostly passive and maybe even half-hearted is a bit like throwing a d20 dice and only succeeding on a role of one. Once the dice has been rolled though and I discern the friend is not that responsive I will leave the ball in his or her court and walk away. I know from experience though that it’s extremely unlikely that the ball will be picked up in a meaningful way and thrown back.

I have adopted a ‘vibrant & fresh’ attitude towards this subject. Friends are like vibrant and fresh roses in a vase. Just like real roses  lose some of their petals and beauty so do many friendships in life. Wouldn’t it look funny if you saw someone continually pacing up and down the room upset that a rose had lost most of it’s petals? Yet I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been continually bothered by a friend’s aloofness or change in attitude towards my friendship. No more. It’s vibrant and fresh from now on meaning I will gravitate towards the best friendships I can and leave overly passive and  insipid one’s behind. I will leave the door open though in the highly unlikely event they return.

If you have had trouble with this problem before and have found a way to deal with it please share it with us.
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