Can we be less than friends?

In a previous post I referred to the blog of Shasta Nelson and how she categorized her friendships into 5 circles. The first circle was for acquaintances, while the second circle was for people closer than an acquaintance, more like a casual friend, brought together by some common ground. The fourth circle was for people you were expanding your friendships with from circle 2. You are removing the common circumstance and trying to see if they may become a fifth circle friend. Circle 5 is for your close friends.

Circle 3 is the circle I am talking about here today though. The third circle is the circle for people who made it all the way to circle 5….however for whatever reason, they no longer fit in there. You have been too close to ever be an acquaintance, and yet circumstances or emotions dictate that you can no longer be close either.... Not for now anyway...So what then?

I do have a few circle 3 friends, so I know it is definitely possible for a friendship to transition to this limbo land. I have friends who drift in and out of 3 to 5 on a petty consistent basis. There are even a few who seemed to land there without ever quite reaching the fifth circle. These are the friends who have naturally ended up there in that third circle. I suppose it is fair to say usually there was quiet acceptance and mutual desire for this transition.

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My question is this: Is there a way to place someone in circle 3 against their will? I have been guilty of not peacefully transitioning there myself, when the time has come before I was ready. I have ended friendships and had them ended for me due to the confusion and hurt this transition causes the person being 'downgraded.' In other circumstances I have tried moving people quietly and even directly asking them to move.

Essentially there is no nice way to say to someone “Can we be less than friends.” I can tell you from experience that the short answer is no! Not if you have to ask. It doesn’t matter the reason. It may be because you don’t have as much to give anymore, it may be because someone moved away and is time poor, it may be because someone changed the dynamic between you (even unwittingly) or it may just be because you are no longer feeling comfortable in the friendship for whatever reason. If the other party is not on the same page, the transition will be near impossible. If someone wants to be a 5 and you only want to be a 3, the most likely result is zero.

It can feel like being called a 5 but treated like a 1.... The reason that the likely outcome is zero is because of the sense of rejection the request brings with it. I guess it stands to reason that rejection and friendship are entirely opposite concepts and if one person feels rejected then we don’t get to tell them they aren’t.

At the end of the day, you can’t force a person to transition to circle 3. Under the best circumstances this is mutual and you both transition to a 3 together. Not ackowledging it, at times maybe not even noticing it. Failing that, a person must go, however reluctantly, of their own free will.  It may take time and tantrums and long periods of silence, but essentially, eventually, acceptance must come.

Regardless of who is making the transition, if you have had to have a conversation about the transition it won’t be easy or painless for either of you. It will probably trigger many fears and insecurities in one or both of you and the chances of survival are slim.

Maybe circle 3 is the polite way of not being friends and not falling out either? It is the way of leaving that door open for a future connection if circumstances change, and not acknowledging harsh feelings, but giving them space to dissipate naturally. It is the place you put people who you have shared too much with to let go of, but who don’t fit in your current life comfortably. The limbo land of not wanting to let go nor hold on. Like your friendship waiting room.

The waiting room is their choice.  The most important thing is not to let people stand in your doorway to block the flow of traffic. They can’t get back in without invitation, but they may not still be waiting if you ever decide to send that invitation. It’s likely that when you do catch up from time to time the history between you will play out as it has always done, and things will feel as they have always felt. Yet something HAS changed and you both know it.

I guess it boils down to this: Can you handle the limbo for the gamble on the long term payout or is the emotional cost too high?

There is no right or wrong answer. I am a believer in fate and have a deep trust that whatever is meant to be will be. If you are meant to be friends with someone in the future, then you will be. Regardless of what circle you choose… if any.  If you’re not meant to be friends again in the future then remember this; your reason for coming together has expired. Hopefully this means the lessons have been learnt. It WILL hurt. Growth always does, but you’re both probably growing in good directions, even if they are opposite ones.

Do you have friends in circle 3? Are you in anybody else's third circle?

❤ Love
Your Best Friend ForNever