How Do You React When Your Friendships Change?

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How Do You React When Your Friendships Change?

Have you ever heard the saying that friends come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime? Some friendships last, while others run their course. Do you have friendships now that you hope will last a lifetime? Are any of your current friends people you have known since you were very young? Have you ever become less close to a good friend over time?

How have you handled these changes in your relationships? Have you ever felt jealous of a friend — or had a friend feel jealous of you?

In “Jealousy Doesn’t Have to Ruin a Friendship,” Juli Fraga and Connie Chang write that everyone feels left out sometimes — but it’s how you handle that feeling that matters. Though the piece is written for adults, its advice can be useful for anyone.

When Bob Bergeson’s friend invited him to a Denver Nuggets basketball game with some new pals, he was excited to join in. Sure, the evening would cost him nearly $400, an amount he wouldn’t normally spend. But Mr. Bergeson’s splurge didn’t reflect a slavish devotion to basketball; he opened his wallet because he felt insecure about his languishing relationship with his friend, who he perceived to be getting closer to a new group of people.

“He started hanging out with the dads on his daughter’s soccer team and talking about them fondly and I thought, ‘Oh, man he’s kind of got some new friends,’” Mr. Bergeson, 42, a business consultant in Denver, said. “I needed to insert myself to make sure I still mattered to him.”

Just like you can lose a romantic partner to another person, “friends can also lose their slot in the best friend hierarchy,” said Jaimie Krems, a friendship researcher and assistant professor of psychology at Oklahoma State University. This fear of being replaced is often borne out of jealousy, Dr. Krems said. And one way to cope with it, she added, is by doing something social scientists refer to as friend guarding — actions like excessively praising a friend or cutting down a new rival, for example — to maintain a threatened relationship.

“Like all behaviors, there are good and bad aspects of friend guarding,” Dr. Krems said. Telling your friend how much they mean to you might bolster your friendship, she said, but badmouthing a newbie might anger your friend and cause them to pull away.

Miriam Kirmayer, a friendship expert and clinical psychologist in Ottawa, said feelings of jealousy and envy in friendships are quite common with her adult clients, but many feel ashamed of those feelings because they mistake them “as a sign of immaturity.” On the contrary, Dr. Kirmayer said. When handled correctly, jealousy can lead to a deeper understanding of yourself, and as a result, more fulfilling friendships. Here’s how.

The authors then give advice, including understanding your own triggers, learning to manage self-critical thoughts and reframing your jealousy into something more positive.