UPDATE (2019): FIND NINA AND HER COLUMN AT HER NEW FRIENDSHIP ADVICE SITE
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.
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.
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.
We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.