How are things with your best friend? Are you two as close as ever, hanging out constantly, sharing dreams and witty banter, a unified team against the world just like always? Or have things gotten strained or a little distant, like you’re not speaking the same language, or your moods aren’t quite matching up? Or worst of all—are you suddenly finding yourselves running out of things to talk about?
This can happen for one simple reason: Time. You’ve been friends for years! Just like romantic relations evolve from the first flush of flirtatious excitement to something deeper, steadier and more mature, friendships move from the “getting to know you” stage to the “I can finish your sentences” stage and beyond into the great unknown. Both of you are changing, gaining new career paths, interests, habits, even new personality traits as you adapt to the life paths you’ve taken. And as you both grow in slightly different directions, you might wake up one day and find that there’s a little strain in your rapport that wasn’t there before.
For Daisy and Hannah in my novel, The Inside of Out, the bump in the road happens when one of the duo finds a significant other, highlighting all the other ways in which their paths have diverged over the years without either of them really noticing. For me and my close friends, it has often come as a result of geographical changes—one of us moving and life taking us in two different literal directions.
Rough patches like this can be challenging to navigate. It might mean the end of a friendship. But more likely, it could make your bond even stronger—the kind of friendship that lasts until you’re two kooky old ladies throwing popcorn at strangers in the park, just to make the other one laugh the loudest. Here are four tips for how to get through to the other side:
Get to know your friend all over again. Let go of your assumptions of how she’s supposed to behave based on prior experience. Don’t be shocked by new references, jokes you don¹t get or interests you don’t yet share. Treat her as a new friend and every day that you hang out or talk with her as a chance to start fresh.
Share yourself. That whole “getting to know you” thing is a two-way street. Let your friend in on what you’ve been thinking about lately, your plans, your dreams, your fears, your annoyances, as if it’s brand new information to her. Odds are that it is!
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Allow for space. Sometimes your longtime friend isn’t going to be up for the same old Saturday night you used to enjoy in college. She may want to want to hang out with her new friends from work, who share the same gripes and goals and have their own internal lingo. Sometimes you may feel like the Care Bear Cousin to your friend’s new crew. Don’t read too much into what this means for your friendship. Her other friends should not threaten your own existing relationship.
Be there when it’s tough. If you sense that something’s going on with your friend and you can’t quite pinpoint what it is, reach out, ask questions to show that you care, even if you’re not on top of her text list right now. It’ll remind her that you’ve been there for her for years, and that you’ll still be there for her in fifty. That’s a rare and valuable thing, and it’s the foundation of lasting friendships.
Friendships that weather growing pains are only strengthened by them. Keep the lines of communication open, and you two will be back in sync in no time, with a few more stories binding you together and a lot more depth to your shared history. In other words, you and your BFF might even make good on that acronym—forging something that truly lasts forever.