Why Friendships Go Cold and What to Do About It

All relationships come with an expiry date.

Heard in a TV serial

Do you feel sad about old friendships that have lost their warmth?

Ever wonder about how and why these relationships lost their closeness?

If you do, you are not alone. So do I and so do millions of others.

We feel sad that many of our old friendships have over the years got atrophied into mere acquaintances. Not that there were differences of opinions and we parted ways. Not that we quarreled over some issues and vowed never to see each other’s faces. No. Nothing of the sort. They just, gradually lost their steam and one day we realized that the spark has gone out of our friendship. And we feel sad. Leaves a sort of vacuum in our lives.

This happens to all of us. Every one of us can make a long list of friends who once were very close to us, but not so anymore. We fondly remember them, cherish the memories and sigh.

This has happened to me over and over again and I have agonized over it a lot, like you.

In trying to understand why this happens, here’s what I realized.

In the world of business, there is a concept called the product life-cycle. Briefly stated, it means that every product (or service) goes through the stages of concept, development, launch, refinement, maturity, decline and obsolescence. The corresponding terms in the Indian philosophy are utpatti, sthiti and laya.

I think this model is also applicable to friendships. They also go through these stages. They sprout, grow, blossom and, alas, fade.

Whatever is created has ultimately to perish.

Then again, every relationship has a context on the foundation of which it stands. This context may be your school or college, the organization you work in, the town or the city you live in or the club you’re a member of. So long as that context exists or so long as the parties to the relationship meet within the ambit of the context, the relationship can potentially continue to proceed along the trajectory mentioned above. Otherwise there is a disruption and the relationship is in danger. Recall how many friends you have lost because you (or your friend) shifted to other town or changed schools.

The context can be interests too. Common interest is a very potent bonding factor. But as we grow, or as time passes, our interests change. With change in interests, friendships change.

Another strong context is other relationships. As entering into other relationships entails investing time and energy, every new relationship carves out time and energy from existing ones. Remember how drastically your time-with-friends was cut after you married or got a job?

It is like a kaleidoscope. A certain arrangement of pieces takes place and delights the viewers. In relationships, it also delights the pieces as they are live. Then something happens and the arrangement gets disturbed, never can it be restored.

What can we do about it?

Once again we can look to the product-cycle concept to salvage our relationships. To beat obsolescence, the business world keeps modifying the product some way or the other and keeps coming up with a ‘new and improved’ version. Or it deliberately changes the context. For example, it may start targeting another market. It thus breaks the life cycle of the product and gives it a new lease of life. This, for them, is a continuous process.

Can we do something to convert relationships into their ‘new and improved’ version? Can we add something to them? Can we remove something from them? Can we bundle them with some new elements? Some new direction?

Secondly, can we find another context acceptable to both or all the parties to the relationship so that we can free ourselves from the old — and hence now non-existent – context and found our relationship on that new context? In both the cases, the life cycle of our relationship will get broken with a new and improved one.

If we can do this, we will not be left wondering what caused the spring of relationship dry up. We’d be too busy enjoying its current version and thinking of its constant improvement.

And then what was heard in the TV serial would not be true.

Do you think this is a workable plan? Let me know.

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