You guys, I’ve been blessed in my life with some really amazing friendships. Some I’ve had since I was a small child and some I’ve only recently started but all of them have their own special significance and for all of them I am truly grateful. Lately friendship has been the topic of a lot of my conversations. It’s been explored with a client who is considering letting one fizzle, with my son who is on the cusp of a major life change at the tender age of (almost) 10, and with some of my personal friends who are experiencing life in motion. First thing’s first…and I’m not telling you something that you don’t already know, friendship, like any relationship takes work. If you’re not willing to put in the time, then don’t expect it to flourish.
When I was talking with my client the other day she was saying that by the time you get to our age (early 40’s), you’ve probably had (or cycled through) a good amount of friends. Between childhood and now, I would agree. Please note I am talking about friendships that are not related to Facebook. Having upwards of many hundreds into the thousands of “friends” is fun online, but are most of the people on your friends list ones you would consider a friend if you used your own personal definition of what a friend is for you? Let’s start there. For some, friendships are not a top priority. There are some people out there, (and I know a few) who are perfectly happy to have their families and coworkers to socialize with and they don’t go out of their way to cultivate relationships outside of that. They are perfectly fine being dragged to functions and dinners and kid parties to be social. However, friendship is something that most people need. The need to be included, loved, listened to, respected, complain to, and the list could go on forever so you get my drift, is perfectly natural and quite fabulous. But what happens when you get to the part when one friend is doing all the heavy lifting and the other isn’t? This is where my client is now, and she’s surprised that it’s happening to her. She loves her friend dearly but their constant contact has declined to occasional and when she asks her friend about it her friend says she’s just really busy. The issue here is that yes, my client understands that her friend is busy but guess what, so is everyone, so she’s feeling like it’s an excuse. We’re all busy, we all have stuff and yet somehow we manage to find the time when we want to. She’s at the point where she’s willing to let the friendship fizzle as opposed to trying to repair it. She said it with some sadness in her tone but I also heard relief when she came to her realization. The truth of the matter was that my client thought she deserved better and after she didn’t get the response she was looking for from her friend, it made it easy for her to make the decision to let the friendship fade. I have no idea if there is an underlying issue in that situation, I can only go with the information I’ve been presented, but it seems to me that there might be something else happening and no one wants to admit it.
Trying to know if a friendship will go the distance is hard to predict as well. My son will be making a decision on where to go to school next year and our conversations in the beginning of all the middle school talks always started with him saying “I want to be with my friends”. That’s completely understandable and perfectly acceptable, except as parents it’s our job to make sure we’re looking at the whole picture and not just the social one. After spending the last several weeks investigating schools and having more meaningful conversations with him about education and this being a decision that will impact him on more than just his social life, he seems to have seen the light. We remind him daily that just because there is a possibility he won’t be in school with some of his friends from his elementary school days, it doesn’t mean he can’t still have them in his life. Yes, he will make new friends at his new school. Yes, there is a possibility this will be a moot point because his little posse will all end up at the same school. Yes, he will still be able to see his “old” friends on weekends. These little reassurances have helped him be able to be more open minded about his options for his education. Kids need security and when they’re young, a lot of it comes from being included in their friend circle. If he sees his parents managing friendships that are all over the geographical map successfully, then he can be confident that he’ll be able to as well. We’ve explained to him that we both have friends from when we were his age who are still part of our lives and I think that’s helped too. (Oy, are we seriously up to having these conversations now?? Where did my baby go???).
Friendships are often tested. They’re tested for trustworthiness, honesty, kindness, and strength to name a few. A true friend is someone you can count on, anytime. Do not confuse friendship with sibling-hood like so many do, it can surely bite you in the ass. I have a friend who is going through a friendship test right now and it’s not easy to navigate. When you allow yourself to become close to another person and then have to question the authenticity of it, it becomes stressful and painful. Sometimes you can overcome it, apologize, make it right but if the other person isn’t on board then it’s almost impossible to fix. It sucks to have happen, and thank goodness I don’t know the other person in this scenario because I’m not a very good bystander; especially when the person being hurt is one of the kindest people I know. She will get through it and in the end it will all work out how it’s supposed to, but the getting to the end is the hard part.
We’ve all had experience with losing, testing and mourning friendships. There are a multitude of reasons why relationships can run their course or sometimes they just do without explanation. Sometimes, you can pick it back up after a break and other times you can’t. Here’s what I know…I know that every significant friendship I’ve had has helped make me the person I am today. I know that without them I wouldn’t have experienced some of the best times of my life. At every stage of my life, I’ve had the best groups of friends, from childhood through college up to now. I maintain friendships that go all the way back to when I was a little girl, some of my besties are from my high school, college and pre-kid days and the women I’ve befriended since becoming a mother I will never be able to live without. My only complaint is that we’re busy and that we don’t get to see each other as often as we would like, but at the end of the day I know who my friends are, and I adore each and every one of you.