Estranged or Unrequited Friendship: Signs and Advice

Relationships change over time, and certain situations often lead to unrequited friendships. It is important to accept our emotions and take care of ourselves.
Estranged or Unrequited Friendship: Signs and Advice
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 08 February, 2023

Let’s talk about unrequited friendship. “We’ve known each other our whole lives. He’s known me at my worst moments. She’s been there for me when times are tough.  

It often happens that we find ourselves making excuses for the bad behaviors of our friends, even though they hurt us. Everyone will have their own answer, but this question serves as a trigger to rethink the bonds of friendship: Is your friendship really being reciprocated?

About the bonds of friendship

We could start this section by quoting the huge number of phrases that exist about friendship: “a friend is…”. However, we’d prefer to refer to the health benefits of cultivating good friendships, which:

  • Help to reduce and better manage our stress levels.
  • Contribute to developing empathy and improving our interpersonal relationships.
  • Are a source of support.
  • Allow us to have other visions and perspectives and healthy self-criticism.

However, it’s also true that friendship is a bond between people, with all the good and bad that this implies. That is, for a relationship to be sustainable over time, there must be reciprocity and mutual interest.

Perhaps this is the tip of the thread that leads us to understand when we’re in the presence of an unrequited friendship.

Final de una amistad no correspondida.
Friendships are relationships between human beings. This bond can be broken.

What is an unrequited or estranged friendship?

So, how can we become aware of an unrequited friendship? Some of the signs are as follows:

  • The balance feels off: One of the people is very concerned, attentive, and interested, while the other person isn’t.
  • There is no longer a common ground: There are moments in life when we share and spend a lot of time with someone. However, it also happens that sometimes our paths differ. This can cause certain ties to loosen and we no longer feel comfortable.
  • The other person is self-centered: An unrequited friendship also exists in cases where the entire relationship revolves around one person. Even when the other person tries to share what is happening to him or her, the self-centered friend’s response tends to turn the conversation back to them.
  • The other person doesn’t take what you feel seriously: It also happens that, when we tell the other how the way he/she behaves makes us feel, he/she invalidates or minimizes it with phrases like, “You’re overreacting.” Of course, no one is exempt from having their own battles to resolve; a friendship can understand that. However, when this situation is the rule rather than the exception, then the bond becomes uncomfortable and unfair.

Like this article? We think you may also like to read: When A Friendship Ends, When Love Extinguishes

Keys to dealing with an unrequited friendship

The transformation of bonds may be accompanied by some distress. After all, people who were very significant are no longer around. In this sense, it’s important to allow yourself to set boundaries and rethink the relationship so that it’s healthy for all parties involved.

Some of the recommendations about an unrequited friendship to keep in mind are the following.

Make room for mourning when faced with an unrequited friendship

Whatever the reason for distancing, allow the emotions of change to surface. It may not be that we’re no longer friends, but we must accept that we share fewer things than before.

It’s necessary to connect with what we feel and live it. Rejecting it or avoiding it only postpones the situation and, many times, makes it bigger.

Accept the idea that friendship is important, but not at any cost

As we have already mentioned, this type of bond is of enormous richness, but it also requires the condiments of any other relationship: respect, interest, and care.

Even if this is our most faithful friend, we have to work on our thoughts and excuses that lead us to sustain harmful relationships. Perhaps we will get to deeper issues, such as insecurity, self-esteem, lack of boundaries, and certain fears of being abandoned or left alone.

It’s often necessary to break with some very naturalized ideas that may cause us discomfort.

Maintain sincere expectations

In every relationship, it’s necessary to be clear about what we’re looking for and what we can expect. Before ending a relationship or making a blunt judgment about it, we must talk and gauge expectations.

Talking with your friend can lead to consensus and middle ground, without implying an endpoint. In other cases, talking to reach a good conclusion can also be restorative. We therefore choose how it will be and do not leave it to chance.

Conversación entre amigas.
It will always be best to have a sincere conversation and not leave a breakup or the end of a relationship to chance.

Friendships also experience changes

Friendship should be there for us when we want to share both our good and our bad. This is a premise that serves as a compass and orients us as to the quality of our bonds and which ones are worth striving for.

It’s clear that nothing indicates that a relationship will be perfect. On the contrary, it’s also about accepting each other in our similarities and differences. But the truth is that a bond of friendship has to be a safe place and a refuge to which we always want to return.

Each stage of life will have its own demands, and there are some relationships that can adapt and take another form. Perhaps the intensity of a friendship in adolescence will have to transmute to a passing café during the busy adult life. The important thing is that there’s a shared desire for companionship and that it doesn’t become a burden.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bohórquez López, C. & Rodríguez-Cárdenas, D. E. (2014). Percepción de amistad en adolescentes: el papel de las redes sociales. Revista Colombiana de Psicología, 23(2), 325-338. doi: 10.15446/rcp.v23n2.37359.
  • Moreno Encinas, Alba, & Ruz González, Caterina, & Lanza Escobedo, David, & De Diego Pérez, Adriana, & Moreno Martín, Gema (2012). CONCEPCIONES ACERCA DE LA AMISTAD: UN ESTUDIO EXPLORATORIO CON NIÑOS ESPAÑOLES E INMIGRANTES AFINCADOS EN LA COMUNIDAD DE MADRID. International Journal of Developmental and Educational Psychology, 2(1),293-301.[fecha de Consulta 3 de Agosto de 2022]. ISSN: 0214-9877. Disponible en:

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.