College is a time to discover yourself, learn new things, gain experiences and make friends. This process may involve losing some friends along the way. Whether you went to a school where you knew absolutely no one or you had a couple of besties by your side, you’re most likely a different person than who you were on move-in day freshman year. A longtime but long distance friendship from home may suffer from lack of communication, or a friendship with someone at school may start to fizzle out simply because you’re both different people.
Some of us may be okay with losing a friend or two, as college offers us the chance to grow and discover ourselves; others may not be so okay with that idea. "It's a unique time of life. You'll be thrown together in the same place with others who are just as interested in meeting new friends as you are," says Irene S. Levine, PhD, psychologist, friendship expert and producer of The Friendship Blog. "But even though it's an opportune time to make new friends, you may also lose some friends along the way." Here’s how to know whether a friendship is worth saving and, if so, how you can revive it.
Is the friendship worth saving?
Deciding whether or not a friendship is worth saving is really up to you. Of course there are many things to consider when making this decision. How long have you been friends? What did this friendship contribute to your life? How does this friendship affect your other friendships? And finally, the most obvious question: Do you want to be friends with this person? “Friendships are voluntary relationships and should be mutually rewarding,” says Dr. Levine.
These are all important things to consider when your friendship hits a rough patch. Being friends with someone you’ve known for a long time can be really special; in a way, they know you better than anyone else. “Your shared history can never be replaced," Dr. Levine reminds us. They’ve watched you grow up; and you, them. You experienced a lot of important things together, like middle and high school, dances, first boyfriends, graduation and now college.
And there’s the actual friendship and what it’s contributed to your life to consider. Has this person made you a better person? Have they helped you to grow and improve? Have you learned from them in any way? This is what friendships should be, after all. Friends should be people who inspire you, push you, love you and help you.
Something you may also want to consider is how this friendship affects your other friendships, or how ending the friendship will affect your other friendships. Are you and this friend in friend groups with your other close friends? Will ending things with this friend make things awkward and complicated for your other friends? Not to say that you should stay in a friendship just to make it convenient for other people. We’re not saying that at all. It may just be something you want to consider. “In some cases, you may choose to remain casual acquaintances by seeing each other less often or only socializing as part of a group,” says Dr. Levine.
And finally, do you want to remain friends with this person? You can think about it all you want—you can complain, question, cry about it—but it really comes down to whether or not you want to try to make this friendship work. How important is it to you? Is the friendship worth the fight? "Your answers to these questions need to be carefully considered because once you lose a friendship, it’s hard to repair it at the same level of intimacy,” Dr. Levine says.
How to save it
Let your friend know that the friendship has felt off
"No relationship is perfect so if you value a friendship, it’s important to work out misunderstandings or missed expectations,” says Dr. Levine. It’s important to let your friend know that you’ve felt that something’s been wrong in the relationship. Chances are they’ve probably noticed something has been a little off, too. It’s not fair to them to continue in the friendship if they don’t think anything is wrong while you’ve been worrying about it.
Talking through these issues together can really help you two build the friendship back up. Be careful not to accuse or get hostile. Be honest and open as you talk through the problems you’ve noticed in the friendship, and hopefully your friend will do the same.
Make a conscious effort to improve things
Part of the reason your friendship may have gotten rocky in the first place is that you and your friend have stopped texting, talking and hanging out as often as you used to. To make sure it doesn’t happen again, make a conscious effort to text them and make plans with them.
With busy schedules, it may be hard to find times to hang out with your friend, which is what may have happened in the first place. If this is the case, try to find a regular time that works for both of you, perhaps weekly. Maybe you’re both free Thursday mornings; get coffee! Maybe you’re both free Tuesday nights; watch This Is Us together! Having a scheduled time to hang out every week takes away the effort of carving out a specific time each week.
Communicate openly and honestly
This is just as important to maintaining the relationship as it is to getting it back on track. No matter what the relationship, it’s always important to communicate openly and honestly. If you tend to shy away from confrontation, don’t think of it that way. Think of it as a way of maintaining a healthy relationship.
If your friend does something that bothers you, let her know in a kind and respectful way. If you need to cancel plans to work on homework, just be honest about it. There’s no need to make up excuses. If you’re both truthful, your friendship has less chance of failing again.
Make your friendships a priority
College is all about juggling priorities. Between classes and homework, student organizations, internships and jobs, it can be difficult to balance things. While all of those things are important, personal relationships are important, too.
Just like you make it a priority to call home every week (or every day for some of us), make it a priority to talk and hang out with your friends. The friends you have at college are practically your family away from home at your home away from home. Treat them like it, and make them a priority in your life.
Though college is a time of growth and change, you don’t have to change so much that you grow out of your friendships. Your friends are growing, too, so make an effort to discover what you have in common. Friendships are important, so if you want to save one that’s falling apart, put in the time and effort to do so.