When a Group of Friends Falls Apart

When a Group of Friends Falls Apart

In this month’s HerTake question, Nina is tackling the sticky issue of maintaining individual friendships when a group of friends falls apart. Have you been in this situation as an adult or even in younger years, perhaps? We love that our community helps each other in the comments section. Don’t be afraid to add your two cents.

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Dear Nina:

I’ve shared a close friendship with a group of women for several years. However, the dynamic of the group is evolving and the group of friends is falling apart because of external and internal reasons. I’ve maintained individual relationships with each woman; however, now I feel like I am in the middle, because although I get along with each person individually that isn’t the case across the board.

Should I address this with the group or let it go? And if I choose to let go of the group, how do I continue to maintain individual friendships without stepping on anyone’s toes?

Any advice is appreciated.

Signed,

Confused

 

Dear Confused,

Without knowing the details of why your group is falling apart or any of the other micro issues, I know others will relate to the problem of being connected to a group of friends that is long past its expiration date.

Before I go on, I want to address the people reading this question (and answer) who are silently asking themselves, “Why is an adult part of a group of friends anyway?”

Reasons Why Adults End Up in a Group of Friends

  • The group is a carryover from high school or college with some new configurations, but it started “way back when.”
  • The members of the group all met in a common setting like a class or in a work environment that no longer meets regularly so the group formed to keep the individuals together.
  • There can be a bit of mystery to how and why a group forms. Frankly, sometimes the group can feel manufactured, which is usually the first kind to fall apart.

I’m not going to say all groups disintegrate because I couldn’t possibly know that, but every group I’ve been a part of has gone through significant permutations over time. Some of those permutations have led to an ultimate disintegration, but in each case, the new reality has been more of a relief than a problem.

In other words, I’ve never been part of a group that was worth keeping together under all circumstances. The group’s history should never become more important that its current health. (By “health” I mean, the members of the group are kind to each other and as free from drama as possible.)

Ultimately, the individual relationships are what matter most, especially when the group dynamics feel forced at best and unpleasant at worst. Sounds like you’re in at least one of those positions right now so let’s get practical.

How to keep your relationships strong with the individuals you like:

#1. Based on your question, this needs to be said: It is not your problem whether other members of the group continue to stay friends or whether they form a new group. At this point, you need to focus on who brings out the best in you and vice versa. I wouldn’t make any formal announcements about your desire to step away from the group. This will be a case of actions speaking louder than words, or you simply slipping under the radar, which is probably for the best.

#2. Make consistent plans with the women you enjoy. Lunch, walks, coffee, tickets to a show—anything that means time spent with one other person. Personally, I find walks the best way to catch up with one friend at a time. Also, there’s a natural end time, which is a nice plus (in my opinion).

#3. Be careful to avoid allowing the growing bonds with certain individuals to revolve around a common frustration with the former group. It’s tempting to get others to feel the way you do about the group or to commiserate with individuals who already share your aggravation, but too much of this chitchat will create a false sense of closeness. Don’t fall for it!

By the way, these group permutations happen in families, too. Sometimes different groupings of siblings and siblings-in-law are closer and sometimes they’re in a moment (or years) of drifting apart. Same goes for cousins and other relatives. David Sedaris had a great essay recently in the New Yorker that is seemingly about shopping in Tokyo, but is really about these shifting group dynamics. Other than enjoying the standard cleverness of Sedaris, I also liked the matter-of-fact attitude in which he talks about how relationships morph again and again.

Thanks so much for your question, Confused. I hoped at the very least I helped you see how normal the shifting dynamics are.

Good luck!

Nina

 

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14 comments

  1. Allie says:

    Nina, you are so wise. I have been in multiple friendship groups and you are right, they never seem to last. But I agree, you can still maintain individual friendships. (The worst is when two women have a falling out and lines are drawn!)
    Allie recently posted…A Currently Post for AprilMy Profile

  2. Point #3 is especially important. I’m glad you mentioned that it’s critical not to use individual friendships to gripe about past group dynamics. Then the new one-on-one friendships don’t have a chance to blossom on their own merit.

  3. Nina,

    Great advice, as always. I think it’s integral to understand why a set of friends bonded in the first place and whether it falls into a “manufactured”group. If certain individuals opt to form separate friendships, I think it’s also wise not to bring up the previous dynamic. You want to offer new friendships an opportunity to grow. Thanks for pointing out the essay by Sedaris. Will check it out!
    rudri bhatt patel @ being rudri recently posted…Beverly Cleary, My Love of Books and the Writing ProcessMy Profile

  4. Caryn says:

    I couldn’t agree with your advice more, Nina. I feel for the letter writer because I have been in these situations (as most people have) and there is a lot of tension and awkwardness that can develop. And who has time for all that?! I agree that she should focus on the individual friendships that are truly valuable and enriching for her and try not to get caught up in any nastiness or drama. Good luck Confused!
    Caryn recently posted…Remembering How To Travel Without KidsMy Profile

  5. Tamara says:

    I totally agree. Groups do fall apart. I’m in groups all the time – preschool mom groups, running groups, breakfast groups. They just form – when the timing and rhythm are right. As quickly, they change.
    Keeping those individual friendships you want to keep is a strong focus.

  6. Excellent advice (as always) and I’m particularly proud of your inclusion of #3 and not at all surprised. You’re a class act, Nina, and always encourage your readers to do what’s morally/ethically best.

    I’m about ready to make t-shirts for us that say
    A GOOD WALK CURES ALMOST ANYTHING.

    🙂
    julie gardner recently posted…Published Novelist: The First Three DaysMy Profile

  7. Dana says:

    I’ve been a part of groups that have splintered or fallen apart, and one from which I was the one excluded. Group dynamics are tough; it’s often simpler to handle friendships one on one.

  8. This is really interesting. It sounds like I’ve had much more positive experiences with groups of friends than you have, Nina. I agree though that they don’t tend to “stay.” I think that’s the key: you can’t keep a group static. It has to shift and grow and shrink with the needs of the core friends. If you let it form and morph naturally, and maintain individual friendships at the same time, it can be a beautiful way to vary and expand your social life.
    Annie Neugebauer recently posted…The OutsidersMy Profile

  9. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a group of friends that started as a moms and tots group 30+ years ago. This group has become like family to me. I think that it is the transition from friends to “family” that keeps us together. We have a long shared history even if we are much different people today. You are absolutely right about not creating a new group based upon chatter about all the things wrong with the old, larger group. Not good!
    Mo at Mocadeaux recently posted…Air Travel EtiquetteMy Profile

  10. paula says:

    I’ve been friends with the same group of girls for almost 20 years now. We were all part of our churches youth group. A few girls are no longer around, but there are still seven of us that get together regularly. But in that group of seven there are pairs of us that are closer than others. These individual friendships have never hurt the group dynamic. It just seems natural as some of us have more common interests. So, I definitely think that Confused can maintain her individual friendships easily if she wants to without having to participate in group get togethers. 🙂
    paula recently posted…Saturday Sharing – blogging essentials and moreMy Profile

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