Why Friendships “Fade”

They don’t fade but become clearer when we realise how our values and beliefs affect relationships

Have you ever had a friend you’ve known for eons suddenly drop off the face of the earth? She just stopped texting, face booking or calling and you don’t get it. Wasn’t it just last week that she was singing at your birthday celebration? And the week before you were both sharing a hotpot? So you text her but one-word answers are all you get. You even check your Facebook to see whether she has unfriended you.

Then a few months later you run into her. You wonder whether to be elated or anxious but she looks visibly disinterested and manages a weak “hi.” For the first time you feel the disconnect then the awkwardness, and it becomes too much to bear. You walk away flabbergasted with only more questions in your head—Is it something you did or did not do?  Or was it something you said? You give up and tell yourself that the friendship just “faded,” and you know there’s more but she’s not telling.

“Values and beliefs can change the dynamics of friendships & even end it.”

Values & Beliefs

It’s likely to be none of the above and your friendship certainly didn’t fade, but it’s more about how our values and beliefs can change the dynamics of the friendship or even end it. According to Schhwatz’s theory of basic human values, values are our beliefs which drives our decisions to achieve our goals. They are important to us because they make up a big part of our belief system. We subconsciously learn or inherit our values from family, culture, work, social and religious settings. Respecting the elderly, seeking status and approval or plain honesty are just some examples.  Values also evolve over time and change when we reach different life cycles, but they can also become more pronounced and emotionally charged when met with a significant incident.

A Tale of Two Friends & Two Values

The following is a true incident which exposed the conflicting values of two friends and ended their friendship.

Tom, 44,  and Hady, 46 belong to the IT industry. Tom is a service provider and Hadi the client. Tom is introspective in nature and Hady enjoys being popular and liked. They worked well together and common friends and interests made them fast friends. Tom was grateful for the work and Hady was just happy to add another friend to join his circle. This went on for another three years as holidays, dinners, and attending concerts filled their time.


“Friendships don’t fade. They just become clearer.”

Tom started questioning the friendship after a client referred by Hady ran away with $16,000 in owed fees. Hady didn’t seem to care and Tom felt betrayed. To Tom’s horror, Hady even invited that same client to his birthday party. Tom accepted the invite only because the client could not come but he knew that that get-together would be their last. As angry and hurt Tom felt, the incident made him identify his own values to help him cope with his feelings.

Tom believes strongly in honesty and authenticity and cares little about what others think of him. Hadi, on the other hand, is driven by the need to feel approved by the right crowd. Referring clients to Tom, unfortunately at his expense, was Hadi’s way of feeling connected and staying popular. With the benefit of hindsight Tom does not blame Hady for the $16,000 loss, but it did take him $16,000 to make him see how their values are vastly different. It’s not what he did but who he is. Tom knew it would not be possible stay friends with Hady.

Life Stages

The process of identifying our values and beliefs doesn’t need to be dramatic or end friendships.  Values and beliefs naturally change when we reach different life cycles and stages in our lives. For instance, don’t we have friends we hardly see anymore after they marry and start families? Their conversations now revolve around their children and it’s just not the same anymore. Or how about that friend you travelled the world with but didn’t invite you to his gay wedding when it matters because of your religious beliefs? Then there’s that friend you shared tears over a broken heart 10 years ago but he’s now happily married in China and wants little to do with anything and anyone in Singapore. It’s not what we did or said but how our values have made us who we are or into what we have become.

Friendships don’t fade. They just become clearer.