Moving a Friend Down the Friendship Ladder

By Leah Campbell

Nearly every woman I have ever met has experienced the death of a friendship. For some, the loss of a good girl friend was a tragic and dramatic event. For others, friends simply faded off into oblivion without much cause or explanation. Read on for how to navigate these situations.

Most reflect back on those instances with feelings of sadness and remorse, while some will talk about being better off without the toxic influence of friendships that never should have been.

But all remember well the moment when they realized a specific friendship just wasn’t what they had always believed it to be anymore.

The reality is, not all friendships end in a dramatic fashion. In fact, in life there are just some friendships that serve a greater purpose during certain transitory periods, but that don’t have the staying power to last over the long term. Just as with romantic relationships, not every pairing is meant to endure. And at least some of the time, two adults can recognize when a friendship has run its course; when they are no longer connecting at the same level they once did.

It may sound harsh, but no one actually benefits from continuing to prioritize a friendship that is no longer working. Downgrading friendships that have ceased to be fulfilling, means opening yourself up to focus on friendships that could stand that greater test of time.

Sometimes, friendships need to be moved down the ladder. And that’s okay.

Reasons for the Downgrade
The important thing is to examine your friendships and to understand why they are no longer working. If there is a pattern in your life of hopping from one friend to another, the problem may be with you⎯and that is something worth addressing.

But in a lot of cases, two friends just aren’t on the same page anymore. They may reach different life stages, or start pursuing different passions where they simply no longer connect easily. When get-togethers become strained and conversations seem to go nowhere, it is fair to ask yourself why you are continuing to commit time to a friendship that you wouldn’t pursue if you were to meet today.

Examine your own reasons for wanting the downgrade, and make sure you aren’t setting unfair expectations on your friendships. But then, ask yourself if this is a friendship you truly want to continue giving the same priority level you have up to this point.

Having a Heart-to-Heart
Depending on how close the friendship has been over the years, and what your reasons for pulling back are, it might be beneficial to you both to have a conversation. You need to consider whether this friend is going to be hurt by the redefining of your friendship, or if she is likely ready for a bit of distance as well. If she has been a good friend to you over the years, and is likely going to be confused by your absence in her life now, she may deserve an explanation⎯if only so that she doesn’t spend the next several years wondering what went wrong.

The Drama-Free Downgrade
Sometimes though, it just isn’t worth the conversation. Or a conversation isn’t necessary, because you both realize the friendship has run through its lifespan. If you can’t see any good coming from a chat where you tell your friend things just aren’t the same, then don’t feel the need to put either of you through that. This isn’t a big dramatic affair that needs to be ended with force. You aren’t in a fight and you aren’t ending things off on a bad note. If you see each other in the future, as you likely will if you maintain mutual friends, you will hug and catch up like the old friends you once were. But you both kind of just know that whatever once was, isn’t anymore.

And again, that’s okay.

Losing the Guilt
Even in knowing a friendship has run its course, there can still be guilt over pulling back from a friend to whom you were once attached at the hip. If that guilt becomes overwhelming, or is accentuated by the fact that your friend doesn’t seem to understand what is happening, it’s time to go two steps up and have that little chat. But if the guilt is entirely self-imposed, you feeling like you should still be there for someone who hasn’t really been there for you in quite some time, let it go. The whole point of downgrading a friendship is creating the space in your life to focus on the relationships that actually do matter and have staying power in your world. So don’t feel guilty about pulling back. That’s part of life.


  1. This was a great article. It's even harder to know how and when to downgrade a friendship when you're putting in more effort than you should, when the friendships are fairly new because you've relocated to a new place. Downgrading when you don't have other relationships to fall back on and give your attention to is a scary and often lonely prospect...

  2. Very good information is there in your blog. It is very useful to me. Thanks for sharing this information and keep share good information on your blog.
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