Friendship takes two. But it’s not always easy to notice when one of you is dropping out of the connection.
When one friend starts pulling away, you can miss some of the signs if you’re not expecting it.
I wish I could say all friendships last forever, but they don’t. Others wax and wane, going through closer times and more distant phases.
Here’s how to tell if a friend is trying to emotionally distance themselves from you and how to tell whether it’s a longer-term thing or only for a period of their life.
1) They ignore and delay in answering your messages and calls
Friendship has everything to do with communication.
That starts with wanting to communicate. When your friend stops really wanting to communicate, the message couldn’t be clearer:
They want space and they don’t want to be as close to you, at least not right now.
They’re going their own way, at least for the time being, and you’re now adjusting to this new experience:
A person whose calls and messages you used to expect back quickly now delays and ignores you.
It hurts, but it’s important to be honest about it.
2) They stop having much in common with you
Another sign that a friend is pulling away from you is that they drop interests that used to tie you together.
This could be drop-in sports you do, spiritual or religious practices you shared in common or even places and locales that you used to hang out.
They’re now nowhere to be found and rarely in the same spheres as you.
Friends you share in common are no longer shared. Your schedules no longer overlap in those little ways they used to.
It could all just be a coincidence, but more commonly it’s your friend dropping out his or her interest in terms of the friendship.
3) Silences between you become more and more awkward
The silences between two friends are usually no big deal.
We can all respect that people get busy and are focused on other things.
But when the silences become truly awkward, something else is afoot. If your friend used to keep interactions going, joke around and engage more, you might wonder what’s changed.
The simple answer is that if it’s not you who’s changed, it’s them.
They are distancing themselves from you and as a result you feel that lapse in communication and can feel the rapport falling through when you do spend time together.
4) They’re always too busy to spend time together
Friends get busy, and it’s not always anything personal or a sign of them wanting to distance themselves from you.
Sometimes they really are just swamped by work, by family duties or by drama that’s going on.
But if nothing’s really changed in your friend’s life that you can see and they still stop wanting to hang out or talk, something is up.
It could be many things, including depression and other issues they are going through in their own life.
But there’s a limited amount you can do, even with a close friend who’s struggling. If they don’t want to open up to you or spend time together right now, sometimes all you can do is accept that.
It’s painful, but respect is needed for friends even when them pulling away hurts us.
This ties into the next point…
5) They don’t open up to you about their personal life and feelings
But if you have a friend who’s stopped sharing anything out of their personal life for you or shut down about how they feel, they are clearly pulling away.
It can be very difficult to accept this, especially with somebody you used to have a strong trust and sharing bond with.
Now they don’t want to share as much. Now they give generic answers about how they’re doing. Now they pretend to be fine when they’re not.
It’s rough, but it’s their decision.
6) They stop inviting you out or including you in their life
A side effect of a distant friend no longer opening up is that they don’t include you in their life anymore either.
This will usually happen bit by bit, not all at once.
When you can’t even think of any real reason why this distancing is happening this can be downright confusing.
Why are you not getting the invitations you used to? Why is your friend increasingly invisible or not present in your life?
It’s a slow realization that dawns on you but you start second-guessing yourself:
Are they really cutting you out of their life? Anger, confusion and sadness begin to hit…
7) They aren’t there for you when you’re struggling
More sadness creeps in when your friend is nowhere to be found during the tough times.
Having those close to us when we’re struggling is a key part of friendship:
I don’t mean that in a codependent way, but in a way of solidarity.
“I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’m here for you,” that type of way.
But to do that, your friend needs to be there for you. And for you to give support to them during tough times, they also need to open up to you.
It’s sad when this connection begins breaking down because a friend pulls away their heart.
8) You’re the last to find out about changes in their life
As the distance between you grows, you may also experience being the last to find out about changes in their life.
By now you’ve realized your friend is emotionally distancing themselves, but it will still likely come as a shock to be hit by news about them that everyone else seems to know.
Your friend is dating someone new?
They just lost their job?
They’re having a health crisis?
How did they not let you in on this big news?
The awful truth is that it’s because you’re just not that close anymore, and that’s on them, not you.
9) They emphasize how they’ve drifted away from what used to bond you
Near the start of the article I mentioned how your friend stops having the same interests and activities as you.
This is a sign that they are naturally or intentionally moving away from you.
But if you want to be sure it’s intentional, watch for them actually mentioning how much they’ve drifted from you or emphasizing it.
This could be in consciously and publicly becoming somebody very different from who you used to know and making it clear to everyone including you.
It could also be in them making some comments when they don’t invite you or when you do reach out. These comments may emphasize that they’re no longer really in the same “zone” as you.
Hard to misinterpret that. They’ve drifted from you.
10) They unfollow you on social media and stop interacting
It’s hard to misinterpret an unfollow and somebody no longer having any online interaction with you.
If you’ve drifted apart in your daily life, the least you could hope for is at least you’ll still be linked virtually.
But when a friend is really distancing themselves they may also go as far as to unfollow you.
This is a definite sign that they are having major issues or perhaps didn’t value the friendship in the way that you did.
It hurts, but it is what it is.
Your choice whether to unfollow back is up to you, of course.
11) They move far away and don’t stay in touch
This is a crucial sign that your friend no longer wants to stay friends, or at least not good friends.
They may have moved for work or something that wasn’t even their choice.
But staying in touch at least a little is always a choice no matter what somebody says.
That failure to stay in touch really says it all.
This friendship has run its course, and to the extent you do continue to be friends, it’s not going to be a deep or close friendship the way it was before.