How to tell if you’re nothing more than the ‘Obligatory Friend’.

In her latest book, my boss and Mamamia Out Loud co-host, Mia Freedman, writes that friendships aren’t always mutual.

Sometimes you’ve drifted apart, or no longer have anything in common. Perhaps you’re not as compatible as you once thought. The end doesn’t need to be dramatic or confrontational, she says. We just need to understand that it would be completely unsustainable to remain friends with everyone we’ve ever met in our entire lives.

Many of us subscribe to the belief that friendships should be for a lifetime. That we should make the effort. But where on earth is that coming from?

I often feel great anxiety about the friendships I’ve let go. The people I used to work with, or the friends from school I no longer see. I grieve them. But life is busy and messy, and friendships inevitably end.

Mia Freedman, Monique Bowley and I discuss the phenomenon of the obligatory friend. Post continues below. 

Vanessa Van Edwards wrote a column published on Medium last month titled, “The Obligatory Friend.”


“What happens when you realise an old friend has become an obligatory friend?” she asks.

An obligatory friend is someone who, “you don’t enjoy spending time with, but end up  spending time with because you feel guilty, it’s a habit or you do not know how to stop,” Van Edwards explains.

Sound familiar?

Warning signs include:

  • You’ve grown apart
  • You’re interests no longer align
  • You no longer work together/play sport together etc
  • You’ve both become different people
  • You struggle to find anything in common

Van Edwards’ big idea is this: “We absolutely can grow out of friends, just like we grow out of clothes. Sometimes our taste changes, sometimes our size changes.”

Everyone has an obligatory friend. Image via HBO.

But, I have a question.

How do you know if you're the obligatory friend?

Well, according to Freedman, it's simple. Stop texting them.

"You stop putting in effort. See what happens," she said.

"Are you always putting in effort? Are you always the first person to reach out?" Freedman adds.

So if you think you might be the token obligatory friend, let them put in the effort for a while. Don't latch on for dear life.

If the friendships meant to be, you'll hear from them. If not? Then maybe the friendship has just run it's course.

You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here. 


More articles