Irene S. Levine, Ph.D.

Irene S Levine Ph.D.

The Friendship Doctor

Friendship: Missing The Way Things Were

A young woman laments missing old friends from whom she’s drifted apart.

Posted Dec 06, 2014

QUESTION

Dear Friendship Doctor,

I am a 24-year-old woman living in Sweden (I'm a native Swede). My friendship story is filled with ups and downs. As a kid, I could easily make friends and I consider myself a very social creature, although I do enjoy some time for myself too. In school I had trouble accepting the sometimes harsh social rules within the girl cliques - I always felt they were judgmental and more about surviving the teen years than about having real friends. I never had any problem making friends though, so when I started playing football in a girls’ team at twelve years old, I was accepted into the popular girls clique right away.

We were friends until I was 19, and those years were (naturally) a bit difficult considering the challenges a teenager has to face, but also because the peer pressure in my friend group was tough. I always felt there was this shallowness and insecurity within the group. All in all we were seven girls and someone was always talking behind the other’s back, fighting for status within the group. One day after a major fight, I got sick of it and I did what I had promised myself to do for several years - leave. I left all of them.

Afterwards, I tried to have contact with some of those old friends but since I was an outcast then it never really worked out. At this point in time I was still too mad at them to miss them. I made some new friends at school; we had a lose gang but I wasn't completely comfortable with them either. But when problems arose we tried to deal with them, even though I did not feel we had a lot of common interests.

After finishing school I lived abroad for a year with my boyfriend, and I made some new friends over there but the relationships have been difficult to maintain since I moved back home again a year ago and I had lost contact with the friends at home (I really tried to keep in contact but we were in different stages of life and drifted apart to the point that I felt I had to remind them I existed).

Right now I have three pretty close friends (and some I've met recently but haven't been able to develop the relationships) but we live in different countries (one of them moved) or live in different parts of the city and it's difficult to get to the level of intimacy – like simply calling your friend when you need to take a walk or just pour your heart out - like I was able to with the friends I had as a teenager.

The friends I left behind all still hang together, make trips and yeah...They've been friends now for ten years at least and I think I might have made a mistake leaving them. They still seem like the old gang, with the hang-ups on beauty and all, but since I have lost all contact with them and highly doubt they would be happy to hear from me, I'm stuck with not knowing what to do.

I've tried getting closer to friends after them but somehow it's so much more difficult as an adult. These are the people I shared my biggest concerns with growing up and somehow I feel I've lost a part of my identity when not having them around. I can never share these experiences with my new friends, since we don't go back that long. Do you have any advice as to what I should do?

Part of me is still afraid of the clique mentality and the possible backstabbing. Should I try to contact them again? I also feel that these thoughts have caused insecurities within myself when it comes to trying to get close to new friends.

Thank you for reading, and for a truly inspiring blog.

Signed, Stella

ANSWER

Hi Stella,

Yes, it’s extraordinarily difficult to find replacements for the old friends you had when you were younger. These are the people who “knew you when,” people with whom you shared many experiences and who helped shape the person you are today.

However, your situation is a common one. After graduation from high school or college, people’s lives and interests often drift apart and go in different directions. In some ways, the teen years are one of the easiest times to make friends: Everyone lives near one another, and is doing the same thing at the same time. After that, geography and lifestyle differences create additional obstacles to making close friends.

Yet, as you point out, one of the major downsides of teen friendships is that they can be mean, catty and cliquish. On the positive side, you seem to have no problem making new friends and your strong sense of self has protected you from making the wrong friends or succumbing to peer pressure.

I don’t think you can go back to the way things were with this group because you are a different person than you were then. I’m sure your experiences at finishing school, living abroad, and becoming involved with your boyfriend have changed you. You might selectively try to rekindle one or two of those friendships, perhaps with the individuals to whom you feel closest. Even if they turn out not to be “best friends,” they can be familiar people whom you see occasionally, whose company you enjoy, and who remind you of your past.

You are still quite young and will have many more opportunities to become close to other women. Even though your current friends are pretty far-flung right now, you will build new histories with them as you meet other people who perhaps are more “convenient” or close to home.

You talk about the absence of “spontaneous friends” with whom you can get together at a moment’s notice. One suggestion would be to try to mine your own neighborhood for friends like that. I’ve added some links below of prior posts that might be helpful.

Warm regards,

Irene

Prior posts to read on The Friendship Blog: