Hmmm... it just doesn't feel right.
Friendships change over time. Just like a well-worn bra that has slowly lost its shape and support, once-close friendships also fray without one or both friends fully realizing what is happening. In my survey of more than 1,500 women for my book, "Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend," respondents repeatedly mentioned the same subtle (or not-too-subtle) signs that suggest a friendship may be in trouble. These include:
1. Misunderstandings become more frequent. Your conversations used to flow seamlessly. But now, you just aren't connecting the way you used to. It's almost like something's misfiring. You say something innocuous and she takes it the wrong way -- or she complains about something you said months ago and you can't understand why she would bring it up now. It's gotten to the point where you seem to be grating on each other's nerves.
2. It's hard to make plans. It used to be so easy to work out your schedules. Now, whenever you try to get together, life seems to get in the way. Last time you were supposed to meet for a girls' night out, she begged off at the last minute saying she couldn't find a babysitter. It was the second time this happened. She's promised to reschedule, but you almost hope it doesn't happen. You feel a sense of dread when you see her phone number come up on your caller ID.
3. There's been a breach of trust. You're not sure why but you're reluctant to share your successes with her. She's been subtly undermining you at work, and you suspect that she may be jealous. You realize you have to be more careful about what you share with her.
4. Silences are getting longer. When you talk on the phone or get together, it's hard to find common ground. There's simply less and less to be said. You begin feeling that she's on some other wavelength. When did your lives diverge in two such different directions? Even her jokes aren't funny; they leave you speechless rather than laughing. Was she always this boring?
5. You feel nervous and edgy when you're together. You used to feel so relaxed -- whether sharing intimacies over the phone, talking over coffee or just being together saying nothing. Now your stomach is in knots each time you meet. You feel tense because you can't be yourself and have to watch your words.
Some misunderstandings can be corrected. Other times, boundaries need to be set or more effort needs to be put into the relationship. But many times, two friends have changed -- in different directions -- and they're simply drifting apart. Sometimes even the best of friendships reach their expiration dates. If you're feeling uncomfortable, it may be time to take stock of what's going on and how you can make the right fix.
Prior posts on The Friendship Blog about friendships drifting apart:
"Legacy Friends: Keeping old friendship alive"
"When close friends become faraway friends"
"Maybe friendships aren't meant to last"
Have you checked out the new Friendship Forums? Chat with others who are figuring out friendships.
Follow Dr. Irene S. Levine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/IreneLevine