Do you have that one friend that you’ve been meaning to gọi forever? You used to be so close, and somehow now it’s been three months since you last talked to them. And to be honest, the last time you did talk to lớn them, things weren’t all that comfortable.

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Growing apart from friends is never fun, but it does happen. Read on khổng lồ learn some signs that you & a friend have drifted apart và it’s time khổng lồ let the friendship go.

You Don’t Understand Each Other Anymore

One of the biggest signs that you’re drifting away from your friends is that you just don’t understand each other anymore. Think back to the early days of your friendship; you probably had all sorts of inside jokes, secret signal words, & a communication style that was almost your own private language. You were on the same wavelength, and you never fought.

But maybe now you find yourself getting in more & more disagreements with this person. You don’t seem to understand each other the same way that you once did. Misunderstandings can lead khổng lồ fights, which can lead to hurt feelings và long silences that neither of you know how to breach.

You Don’t Talk

And speaking of long silences, those are another sign your friendship might be on the rocks. Humans are connected creatures, and we all have people we talk to every day. Your true friends are the people who you automatically text or call without having lớn think about it or make an effort because they’re such an ingrained part of your life.

But once you start drifting, the talking is the first thing to lớn go. You may go weeks or months without speaking to each other, and what’s more, it doesn’t even bother you. This person isn’t a part of your life anymore, và there’s nothing strange lớn you about never telling them about your day or the annoying thing your quái dị said at work.

Your Friendship Isn’t a Priority

Although friendship should be automatic to lớn a degree, it also has to be a priority in your life. Simply put, your priorities are where you choose lớn spend your time. When you and your friend were closer, you probably took much more time out khổng lồ spend with them, go lớn their birthday parties, take trips together, & hang out together.

Think about the last time you made time to spend with your friend & the last time they took to spend time with you. Vày you find yourself canceling plans with them in favor of other activities? If so, the friendship isn’t a priority for one or both of you, và that means you’re drifting apart.

You Have Nothing in Common

The early days of discovering a friend are wonderful in part because you’re discovering so much you have in common. You read the same books, watch the same movies, follow the same TV shows, lượt thích the same hobbies, & listen lớn the same music. You seem lớn be in lock-step in every part of your lives, and it’s so wonderful to cốt truyện the things you love with someone else.

But these days, do you find that you have less và less in common with your friend? Your music tastes have changed, & you’ve realized the movies you watched in high school aren’t as funny anymore. You have different hobbies than they do, you don’t watch the same TV shows, và maybe the reason you haven’t talked in so long is that you have nothing to lớn talk about.

You Don’t gọi Them First

When something exciting happens – you get a promotion at work, your partner proposes lớn you, you find out you’re having a baby – what’s the first thing you do? We’re betting the answer is you pick up the phone và call someone. It’s a natural instinct to want to giới thiệu good news, & the person you gọi first is usually your best friend.

But in the last few months or years, vị you find yourself calling someone else to nội dung the good news? You may have realized two weeks after you started at your new position at work or when you started making wedding buổi tiệc nhỏ lists that you’d forgotten to tell your friend the big news at all. If you don’t want to chia sẻ your good news with this person, they’re not that big a part of your life anymore.

You Aren’t Comfortable Around Them

One of the hallmarks of great friends is that you could spend forever hanging out with them. You don’t watch what you say or how you act, you laugh lượt thích a crazy person, và you don’t mind hanging out doing nothing at all, as long as you’re together. Being around them is as natural as breathing.

But these days you may find that you watch your words around them a little more carefully. You sit up straighter, và when you laugh, you never snort. Và if we’re being honest, what sort of a friendship is it if you can’t snort-laugh around them?

You Miss the Old Days Most

Reading this list, you may be thinking about calling your friend up and trying to rekindle that friendship again. You’ve been thinking back to the early days of your friendship và how much fun the two of you had together. You want khổng lồ get back khổng lồ how things used to lớn be between you when you spoke your own language and told each other everything.

But chances are, you don’t miss that person at all – you miss how your friendship used khổng lồ be. And if that’s the case, it’s time khổng lồ let that friend go. We all have wonderful things in our life that were great while they lasted and then have to lớn pass, và this friendship may be one of them.

Are You Growing Apart from Friends?

Growing apart from friends is never fun, but it’s a natural part of life. You change, your friends change, and over time you find that you have less and less lớn talk about. Cherish the fond memories, và let those friendships fade away when they need to.

Learning Objectives

Distinguish between personal and social relationships.Describe stages of relational interaction.Discuss social exchange theory.

We can begin lớn classify key relationships we have by distinguishing between our personal and our social relationships (Van
Lear, Koerner, và Allen, 2006). Personal relationships meet emotional, relational, and instrumental needs, as they are intimate, close, & interdependent relationships such as those we have with best friends, partners, or immediate family. Social relationships are relationships that occasionally meet our needs và lack the closeness và interdependence of personal relationships. Examples of social relationships include coworkers, distant relatives, & acquaintances. Another distinction useful for categorizing relationships is whether or not they are voluntary. For example, some personal relationships are voluntary, like those with lãng mạn partners, and some are involuntary, like those with close siblings. Likewise, some social relationships are voluntary, lượt thích those with acquaintances, và some are involuntary, lượt thích those with neighbors or distant relatives. You can see how various relationships fall into each of these dimensions in Figure 7.1 “Types of Relationships”. Now that we have a better understanding of how we define relationships, we’ll examine the stages that most of our relationships go through as they move from formation to termination.

Figure 7.1 Types of Relationships

Source: Adapted from C. Arthur Van
Lear, Ascan Koerner, & Donna M. Allen, “Relationship Typologies,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships, eds. Anita L. Vangelisti và Daniel Perlman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 95.

Stages of Relational Interaction

Communication is at the heart of forming our interpersonal relationships. We reach the achievement of relating through the everyday conversations and otherwise trivial interactions that form the fabric of our relationships. It is through our communication that we adapt to the dynamic nature of our relational worlds, given that relational partners bởi vì not enter each encounter or relationship with compatible expectations. Communication allows us to lớn test và be tested by our potential & current relational partners. It is also through communication that we respond when someone violates or fails khổng lồ meet those expectations (Knapp & Vangelisti, 2009).

There are ten established stages of interaction that can help us understand how relationships come together và come apart (Knapp & Vangelisti, 2009). We will discuss each stage in more detail, but in Table 7.1 “Relationship Stages” you will find a các mục of the communication stages. We should keep the following things in mind about this mã sản phẩm of relationship development: relational partners do not always go through the stages sequentially, some relationships vì not experience all the stages, we vì not always consciously move between stages, & coming together & coming apart are not inherently good or bad. As we have already discussed, relationships are always changing—they are dynamic. Although this mã sản phẩm has been applied most often lớn romantic relationships, most relationships follow a similar pattern that may be adapted khổng lồ a particular context.

Table 7.1 Relationship Stages

Representative Communication
Coming TogetherInitiating“My name’s Rich. It’s nice lớn meet you.”
Experimenting“I like to cook & refinish furniture in my spare time. What about you?”
Intensifying“I feel lượt thích we’ve gotten a lot closer over the past couple months.”
Integrating(To friend) “We just surfriderli.orged a joint bank account.”
Bonding“I can’t wait to tell my parents that we decided lớn get married!”
Coming ApartDifferentiating“I’d really lượt thích to be able khổng lồ hang out with my friends sometimes.”
Circumscribing“Don’t worry about problems I’m having at work. I can giảm giá with it.”
Stagnating(To self) “I don’t know why I even asked him to lớn go out to dinner. He never wants lớn go out và have a good time.”
Avoiding“I have a lot going on right now, so I probably won’t be home as much.”
Terminating“It’s important for us both khổng lồ have some time apart. I know you’ll be fine.”

Source: Adapted from Mark L. Knapp and Anita L. Vangelisti, Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships (Boston, MA: Pearson, 2009), 34.


In the initiating stage, people kích thước each other up and try to lớn present themselves favorably. Whether you run into someone in the hallway at school or in the produce section at the grocery store, you scan the person và consider any previous knowledge you have of them, expectations for the situation, and so on. Initiating is influenced by several factors.

If you encounter a stranger, you may say, “Hi, my name’s Rich.” If you encounter a person you already know, you’ve already gone through this before, so you may just say, “What’s up?” Time constraints also affect initiation. A quick passing calls for a quick hello, while a scheduled meeting may entail a more formal start. If you already know the person, the length of time that’s passed since your last encounter will affect your initiation. For example, if you see a friend from high school while home for winter break, you may set aside a long block of time khổng lồ catch up; however, if you see someone at work that you just spoke to lớn ten minutes earlier, you may skip initiating communication. The setting also affects how we initiate conversations, as we communicate differently at a crowded bar than we vày on an airplane. Even with all this variation, people typically follow typical social scripts for interaction at this stage.


The scholars who developed these relational stages have likened the experimenting stage, where people exchange information and often move from strangers to acquaintances, to lớn the “sniffing ritual” of animals (Knapp & Vangelisti, 2009). A basic exchange of information is typical as the experimenting stage begins. For example, on the first day of class, you may chat with the person sitting beside you and take turns sharing your year in school, hometown, residence hall, và major. Then you may branch out and see if there are any common interests that emerge. Finding out you’re both St. Louis Cardinals fans could then lead lớn more conversation about baseball & other hobbies or interests; however, sometimes the experiment may fail. If your attempts at information exchange with another person during the experimenting stage are met with silence or hesitation, you may interpret their lack of communication as a sign that you shouldn’t pursue future interaction.

Experimenting continues in established relationships. Small talk, a hallmark of the experimenting stage, is common among young adults catching up with their parents when they return trang chủ for a visit or committed couples when they recount their day while preparing dinner. Small talk can be annoying sometimes, especially if you feel like you have to vị it out of politeness. I have found, for example, that strangers sometimes feel the need lớn talk khổng lồ me at the thể hình (even when I have ear buds in). Although I’d rather skip the small talk & just work out, I follow social norms of cheerfulness & politeness and engage in small talk. Small talk serves important functions, such as creating a communicative entry point that can lead people to lớn uncover topics of conversation that go beyond the surface level, helping us audition someone to lớn see if we’d like to talk to lớn them further, và generally creating a sense of ease và community with others. And even though small talk isn’t viewed as very substantive, the authors of this mã sản phẩm of relationships indicate that most of our relationships bởi not progress far beyond this point (Knapp và Vangelisti, 2009).


As we enter the intensifying stage, we indicate that we would lượt thích or are xuất hiện to more intimacy, & then we wait for a signal of acceptance before we attempt more intimacy. This incremental intensification of intimacy can occur over a period of weeks, months, or years và may involve inviting a new friend lớn join you at a party, then to your place for dinner, then lớn go on vacation with you. It would be seen as odd, even if the experimenting stage went well, to invite a person who you’re still getting lớn know on vacation with you without engaging in some less intimate interaction beforehand. In order khổng lồ save face and avoid making ourselves overly vulnerable, steady progression is key in this stage. Aside from sharing more intense personal time, requests for & granting favors may also play into intensification of a relationship. For example, one friend helping the other prepare for a big buổi tiệc ngọt on their birthday can increase closeness. However, if one person asks for too many favors or fails to reciprocate favors granted, then the relationship can become unbalanced, which could result in a transition lớn another stage, such as differentiating.

Other signs of the intensifying stage include creation of nicknames, inside jokes, & personal idioms; increased use of we and our; increased communication about each other’s identities (e.g., “My friends all think you are really laid back & easy lớn get along with”); & a loosening of typical restrictions on possessions & personal space (e.g., you have a key lớn your best friend’s apartment and can hang out there if your roommate is getting on your nerves). Navigating the changing boundaries between individuals in this stage can be tricky, which can lead to lớn conflict or uncertainty about the relationship’s future as new expectations for relationships develop. Successfully managing this increasing closeness can lead to lớn relational integration.


In the integrating stage, two people’s identities & personalities merge, and a sense of interdependence develops. Even though this stage is most evident in thắm thiết relationships, there are elements that appear in other relationship forms. Some verbal và nonverbal signals of the integrating stage are when the social networks of two people merge; those outside the relationship begin khổng lồ refer khổng lồ or treat the relational partners as if they were one person (e.g., always referring khổng lồ them together—“Let’s invite Olaf & Bettina”); or the relational partners present themselves as one unit (e.g., both signing and sending one holiday thẻ or surfriderli.orging a joint ngân hàng account). Even as two people integrate, they likely maintain some sense of self by spending time with friends & family separately, which helps balance their needs for independence và connection.


The bonding stage includes a public ritual that announces formal commitment. These types of rituals include weddings, commitment ceremonies, and civil unions. Obviously, this stage is almost exclusively applicable khổng lồ romantic couples. In some ways, the bonding ritual is arbitrary, in that it can occur at any stage in a relationship. In fact, bonding rituals are often later annulled or reversed because a relationship doesn’t work out, perhaps because there wasn’t sufficient time spent in the experimenting or integrating phases. However, bonding warrants its own stage because the symbolic act of bonding can have very real effects on how two people communicate about and perceive their relationship. For example, the formality of the bond may lead the couple and those in their social network to lớn more diligently maintain the relationship if conflict or căng thẳng threatens it.


The bonding stage eventually leads khổng lồ the terminating stage for many relationships, as about 50 percent of marriages in the United States kết thúc in divorce (Perman, 2011).


Individual differences can present a challenge at any given stage in the relational interaction model; however, in the differentiating stage, communicating these differences becomes a primary focus. Differentiating is the reverse of integrating, as we and our reverts back to lớn I and my. People may try to reboundary some of their life prior lớn the integrating of the current relationship, including other relationships or possessions. For example, Carrie may reclaim friends who became “shared” as she got closer to lớn her roommate Julie và their social networks merged by saying, “I’m having my friends over to lớn the apartment và would lượt thích to have privacy for the evening.” Differentiating may onset in a relationship that bonded before the individuals knew each other in enough depth & breadth. Even in relationships where the bonding stage is less likely to lớn be experienced, such as a friendship, unpleasant discoveries about the other person’s past, personality, or values during the integrating or experimenting stage could lead a person khổng lồ begin differentiating.


To circumscribe means lớn draw a line around something or put a boundary around it (Oxford English Dictionary Online, 2011). So in the circumscribing stage, communication decreases and certain areas or subjects become restricted as individuals verbally close themselves off from each other. They may say things lượt thích “I don’t want to lớn talk about that anymore” or “You mind your business & I’ll mind mine.” If one person was more interested in differentiating in the previous stage, or the desire to kết thúc the relationship is one-sided, verbal expressions of commitment may go unechoed—for example, when one person’s statement, “I know we’ve had some problems lately, but I still like being with you,” is met with silence. Passive-aggressive behavior và the demand-withdrawal conflict pattern, which we discussed in Chapter 6 “Interpersonal Communication Processes”, may occur more frequently in this stage. Once the increase in boundaries and decrease in communication becomes a pattern, the relationship further deteriorates toward stagnation.


During the stagnating stage, the relationship may come khổng lồ a standstill, as individuals basically wait for the relationship to lớn end. Outward communication may be avoided, but internal communication may be frequent. The relational conflict flaw of mindreading takes place as a person’s internal thoughts lead them to avoid communication. For example, a person may think, “There’s no need to bring this up again, because I know exactly how he’ll react!” This stage can be prolonged in some relationships. Parents và children who are estranged, couples who are separated & awaiting a divorce, or friends who want to kết thúc a relationship but don’t know how to vày it may have extended periods of stagnation. Short periods of stagnation may occur right after a failed exchange in the experimental stage, where you may be in a situation that’s not easy to lớn get out of, but the person is still there. Although most people don’t lượt thích to linger in this unpleasant stage, some may vị so lớn avoid potential pain from termination, some may still hope to rekindle the spark that started the relationship, or some may enjoy leading their relational partner on.


Moving to lớn the avoiding stage may be a way to over the awkwardness that comes with stagnation, as people signal that they want lớn close down the lines of communication. Communication in the avoiding stage can be very direct—“I don’t want khổng lồ talk lớn you anymore”—or more indirect—“I have lớn meet someone in a little while, so I can’t talk long.” While physical avoidance such as leaving a room or requesting a schedule change at work may help clearly communicate the desire lớn terminate the relationship, we don’t always have that option. In a parent-child relationship, where the child is still dependent on the parent, or in a roommate situation, where a lease agreement prevents leaving, people may engage in cognitive dissociation, which means they mentally shut down và ignore the other person even though they are still physically copresent.


The terminating stage of a relationship can occur shortly after initiation or after a ten- or twenty-year relational history has been established. Termination can result from outside circumstances such as geographic separation or internal factors such as changing values or personalities that lead to a weakening of the bond. Termination exchanges involve some typical communicative elements and may begin with a summary message that recaps the relationship and provides a reason for the termination (e.g., “We’ve had some ups and downs over our three years together, but I’m getting ready to go to lớn college, and I either want to lớn be with someone who is willing to tư vấn me, or I want lớn be không tính tiền to explore who I am.”). The summary message may be followed by a distance message that further communicates the relational drift that has occurred (e.g., “We’ve really grown apart over the past year”), which may be followed by a disassociation message that prepares people to lớn be apart by projecting what happens after the relationship ends (e.g., “I know you’ll vì fine without me. You can use this time to explore your options & figure out if you want to lớn go khổng lồ college too or not.”). Finally, there is often a message regarding the possibility for future communication in the relationship (e.g., “I think it would be best if we don’t see each other for the first few months, but text me if you want to.”) (Knapp và Vangelisti, 2009). These ten stages of relational development provide insight into the complicated processes that affect relational formation và deterioration. We also make decisions about our relationships by weighing costs and rewards.

Social Exchange Theory

Social exchange theory essentially entails a weighing of the costs và rewards in a given relationship (Harvey và Wenzel, 2006). Rewards are outcomes that we get from a relationship that benefit us in some way, while costs range from granting favors to providing emotional support. When we bởi vì not receive the outcomes or rewards that we think we deserve, then we may negatively evaluate the relationship, or at least a given exchange or moment in the relationship, & view ourselves as being underbenefited. In an equitable relationship, costs & rewards are balanced, which usually leads lớn a positive evaluation of the relationship & satisfaction.

Commitment & interdependence are important interpersonal & psychological dimensions of a relationship that relate khổng lồ social exchange theory. Interdependence refers to the relationship between a person’s well-being và involvement in a particular relationship. A person will feel interdependence in a relationship when (1) satisfaction is high or the relationship meets important needs; (2) the alternatives are not good, meaning the person’s needs couldn’t be met without the relationship; or (3) investment in the relationship is high, meaning that resources might decrease or be lost without the relationship (Harvey và Wenzel, 2006).

We can be cautioned, though, to not view social exchange theory as a tit-for-tat accounting of costs & rewards (Noller, 2006). We wouldn’t be very good relational partners if we carried around a little notepad, notating each favor or good deed we completed so we can expect its repayment. As noted earlier, we all become aware of the balance of costs and rewards at some point in our relationships, but that awareness isn’t persistent. We also have communal relationships, in which members engage in a relationship for mutual benefit and do not expect returns on investments such as favors or good deeds (Harvey và Wenzel, 2006). As the dynamics in a relationship change, we may engage communally without even being aware of it, just by simply enjoying the relationship. It has been suggested that we become more aware of the costs & rewards balance when a relationship is going through conflict (Noller, 2006). Overall, relationships are more likely to lớn succeed when there is satisfaction & commitment, meaning that we are pleased in a relationship intrinsically or by the rewards we receive.

Key Takeaways

Relationships can be easily distinguished into personal or social and voluntary or involuntary.

Personal relationships are close, intimate, và interdependent, meeting many of our interpersonal needs.Social relationships meet some interpersonal needs but lack the closeness of personal relationships.There are stages of relational interaction in which relationships come together (initiating, experimenting, intensifying, integrating, và bonding) and come apart (differentiating, circumscribing, stagnating, avoiding, and terminating).The weighing of costs và rewards in a relationship affects commitment & overall relational satisfaction.


Pick a relationship important lớn you & determine what stage of relational interaction you are currently in with that person. What communicative signals support your determination? What other stages from the ten listed have you experienced with this person?
How do you weigh the costs và rewards in your relationships? What are some rewards you are currently receiving from your closest relationships? What are some costs?


Harvey, J. H. And Amy Wenzel, “Theoretical Perspectives in the Study of Close Relationships,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships, eds. Anita L. Vangelisti và Daniel Perlman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 38–39.

Knapp, M. L. & Anita L. Vangelisti, Interpersonal Communication và Human Relationships (Boston, MA: Pearson, 2009), 32–51.

Noller, P., “Bringing It All Together: A Theoretical Approach,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships, eds. Anita L. Vangelisti & Daniel Perlman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 770.

Oxford English Dictionary Online, accessed September 13, 2011,

Lear, C. A., Ascan Koerner, and Donna M. Allen, “Relationship Typologies,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships, eds. Anita L. Vangelisti và Daniel Perlman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 95.

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