Today’s question comes from a college student who feels that all of her friendships are falling apart at once and she’d like to go into the next school year feeling better about herself and her social life.
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I just finished my second year of college and I’ve been noticing that a lot of my friendships are falling apart–a number that seems way larger than normal. Some of these friends are people that I saw regularly in class or on campus because we had the same schedule. And some are people I know as part of a group.
The group of friends still spends time together, but they seem to avoid me. This has occurred with at least six friends from the group who I was very close with. It’s been making me think that I’m a bad friend or a bad person. I have always tended to be someone who is worried about taking time from people or disturbing them. I understand that people change and that at points in life friends are busy and don’t have time for everyone. But after a while, even though I make time for them, they just seem to be ignoring me.
Time to Make New Friends? (Or am I over-thinking it?)
Dear Time to Make New Friends,
If you’ve read a few of my answers to friendship questions, then you might expect me to say that you’re reading into your friends’ distance. While I stand behind my tendency to err towards encouraging the benefit of the doubt, not assuming everything is about “us,” and taking more time to assess a situation before jumping to relationship-changing decisions, I find your case requires a different take. My sense is that yes, it is time to make new friends. I’m referring more to the group of friends, but I’ll get back to them in a moment.
As far as the friends from class go, I would not read too much into that situation. It’s common in college (and forever after those years) to have friends that start out of convenience and end soon after the circumstances of convenience change. If you meet a friend from class and the two of you truly click on a deep level, then it’s more likely that the friendship will exist beyond that semester’s study sessions and walks to and from class. I think it’s great when that happens, but there’s also no shame in enjoying friendships that stay in a boundary. It’s wonderful to have a buddy in a class (or at work) who makes those hours more enjoyable with no expectations from either party about what that friendship will look like outside of the circumstance that brought you together. My advice for next semester’s classes is to make a real effort with one or two people that seem like good outside-of-class friend potential, but do not assume that every friendly face and study partner will remain in your life after the semester.
Now back to the friends from the group. As I said, yes, you need to make new friends. Why such a rash answer? My feeling is that even if your friends have a good reason in their minds for giving you the cold shoulder, I would hope at least one of them would have mustered the courage and decency to tell you why. Also, I believe that our gut feelings about relationships are important and I find it hard to imagine that your sense of being left out of the group activities is completely off base. I don’t have to know you to say with certitude that you do not need that kind of drama in your life. The ganging-up-on-one-friend behavior is best left behind in junior high. Steer clear of this crew.
I know it’s painful that a group of women is not accepting you for reasons you’re not clear about, but that does not make you a bad friend or a bad person. You have not found the friends that are right for you, and the search for them next semester may not (and perhaps should not) involve a whole group. Take it one friend at a time. And remember, one or two close friends might be more than enough.
One final bit of advice, I do not want you to waste your time worrying about why this particular group wants their distance. I see too many people overanalyzing why certain friendships do not work. You still have more years of college ahead of you and this time in your life is rich with potential for new friends. You’ve asked yourself if you’re a good friend and just asking yourself that question means you’re thinking about what matters in friendship. Beyond the basics of making sure you’re doing as much (if not more) listening as talking, being trustworthy, and acting with kindness at the core of each interaction, I think it’s safe to assume you’re not doing anything wrong. The rest may be up to chemistry, which takes trial and error.
Good luck and go out there next semester with an open mind and some excitement about a fresh start.