All About Circumstantial Friendships – What They Are And Hot To Spot Them!

All of us have circumstantial friendships, but sometimes it is hard to realize who is a friend, who is a colleague, a coworker, an acquaintance, or a friend of circumstances. 

All those terms are used interchangeably, but they are not really the same thing. However, it’s easy to describe someone you know from a team building as a friend to someone that doesn’t know them instead of explaining the whole situation, and the words friend of circumstances are not the first ones that come to mind.

What are circumstantial friendships?

Circumstantial friendships are those with people you know and spend time with them only because of specific circumstances like school, church, work, hobbies, and so on. Even having mutual friends with them might make a circumstantial friendship if you hang out with each other only when the mutual friend invites you both.

Sometimes is hard to see the difference between real friendships and circumstantial friendships, especially because the last ones can become real friendships in time.

If you only interact with a person in the circle you meet and don’t want to hang out with them outside of this circle, that means you have circumstantial friendships.

Check out the article about keeping in touch with college friends to see when a college friend is a circumstantial friend or a real friend or the article about keeping in touch with ex-coworkers.

In both articles, I talked about how to identify if someone is a real friend or it was just a circumstantial friend and what you can do to make them real friends if this is what you want.

The tricky part that makes us think circumstantial friendships are real friendships is the fact that we share the same interest in something in most situations, except the mutual friend case. It’s easy to get along with someone on the same page regarding interests, but that doesn’t make you friends. 

Friends usually have something in common that’s true but what keeps friends together is that they have similar principles, like spending time with each other, caring about each other, and being willing to help each other. It is not only the fact that you have what to talk about, of course, that helps a friendship, but it is only one part.

Read Also: Surface-Level Friendship

Acquaintances vs. circumstantial friendship

The difference between an acquaintance and a circumstantial friend is not as obvious, but one thing that clearly separates them is the fact that with the circumstantial friend, you meet regularly in a specific circle, while an acquaintance can be someone that you meet once.

In my opinion, circumstantial friends are closer to becoming real friends than acquaintances. The guy I played football(yes, I’m European) with once and changed a few words after the game is not as close as the football teammate I play with once a week. And this is the difference between an acquaintance and a circumstantial friendship. 

soccer teammate

If I would spend time with my teammate outside of the field, hang out at a bar, invite him to my personal events(birthday party), and introduce him to other friends or family members; that could make him a real friend, not only a circumstantial friend. So it’s much easier to make a real friendship with a circumstantial friend than with an acquaintance.

Is it good or bad to have circumstantial friendships that don’t become real friendships?

It’s ok if you have circumstantial friends that you don’t want to grow the relationship with and keep them only as circumstantial friends even if you get along pretty well.

There are situations when pushing a circumstantial friendship toward a real friendship can end up in an awkward situation since, many times, the only thing that keeps you friends, is what you have in common(work, college, hobbies, and so on).

So it’s fine if you keep them as that, and you won’t end up knowing them better. But if you think they would make good friends, by all means, go for it.

The truth is that most adults have their real friends from circumstantial friends, so it is not an uncommon thing. But also the downside is that if you discover that you don’t really like them as a person outside of the circle you meet them, the situation will be a bit awkward.

Also, be careful of mixing friend groups that don’t know each other, here I have an entire article about keeping friend groups separated.

Read Also: How Often Do You Hang Out With Friends?


Circumstantial friendships are a part of everyone’s life, some circumstantial friendships will turn out to be real friendships over time and stay with you for a long time, and some of them might end up as soon as you are not in that specific circle anymore. That’s fine, you will most likely end up with other circumstantial friendships.

When you are in school, you have friends from there, then you have coworkers, then when you have kids you will be friends with other parents from your kid’s school, and so on. The circumstantial friendships will be with you in most stages of life, so you should not be afraid of losing those types of friends if you go to the next stage in life.