Day 6 – “F” Friendship
As my ten year reunion this summer draws closer and closer, I have found myself reflecting on the friendships I have held over the course of my lifetime, where those relationships stand now, patterns I have discovered within those friendships, and have deeply analyzed what friendship means to me.
One of my closest childhood girlfriends and I have drifted over the years. We stayed in touch for about two years after we graduated high school, but eventually we simply went our separate ways. With this reunion looming, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to reconnect and catch up with her. I didn’t have her current contact information (cell phone, personal email address, etc.), so I contacted the general email for her family’s business.
I found it very encouraging when I discovered that they would have a booth at a local festival I was attending and hoped that I could briefly reconnect and discuss a future get-together. She wasn’t there, but her sister and husband were. Her husband recognized me from some pictures and was very polite and friendly. Her sister on the other hand told me that they had received the email and had forwarded it along, but that she was “terrible at responding to emails.” Her overall demeanor was standoffish, she certainly seemed unwilling to answer any questions, and was clearly uninterested in how I was doing. Nevertheless, I wrote down my contact info which I gave to her husband, one final attempt at reaching out.
And still. Nothing.
As hurt as I initially was over this, I started to further analyze the definition of “friendship” and whether or not this was normal friendship behavior. I’ve discussed this with my sister and a few friends as I wanted to get their input, and it seems that this is not abnormal.
Friends come and go. It has taken me years to realize this, but the development and eventual decline of friendships throughout one’s life is perfectly normal. The ebbs and flows of friendship is a natural part of your personal development and is a reflection of how we mature and change into well-rounded individuals.
Please note that life-long friendships are something to be treasured. Sure, they take work, but having friends who have stuck with you as you have developed over time is something to hang on to! I have friends who I’ve known since kindergarten whom I still am in contact with, even if it is only a few times a year. Dynamics change, that is a part of life. Just because those dynamics change doesn’t necessarily say that you don’t care about the person. They are just not a part of your life like they used to be.
However, when I further examined this situation and strove to figure out how those dynamics had changed so drastically, I found myself further evaluating other close friendships I’ve had throughout my life and I started to notice a pattern. Close friendships typically only lasted 3-5 years before they fizzled out. There are exceptions of course, but this certainly seems to be the recurring behavior. That made me wonder further, why?
I have come to the conclusion that friends come and go in life depending on when you need that particular friendship. Not to say that friendships out of necessity, out of some shared need aren’t real, and if it manifests into something that lasts a lifetime, that is absolutely wonderful. But, if the relationship only lasts through college, only lasts through your tenure with a company, that is just fine as well. You connect with friends because you share something in common. You develop a friendship over some catalyst, over something that affects you both that you can bond over. Once that factor is eliminated, how realistic is it that that friendship continues for years to come?
The answer: not very realistic. The friendships I had in high school were of that maturity level. We had school, sports, and extracurricular activities in common. When I lived in Florida shortly after high school, I had girlfriends I could connect with on a personal level because I needed that level of emotional support. In my later years in college, I had friends who I could relate to academically, friends who had the same educational and knowledge-based goals as I did. I met one of my closest girlfriends in college; we bonded over our education and then our weddings. Had we not had those catalysts to push our friendship along, would we be as close as we are? Probably not. At this current stage in my life, I have developed friendships with women based on similar values and priorities with regards to marriage, careers, writing, houses, starting families, etc.
If these “needs” are met with your friends, and those needs, those factors, are later eliminated and those stages in life end, what is left? Sure, you can find friends that share the same values as you do, and that may ensure a life-long friendship; however, I’ve noticed that many friendships in which I thought we shared similar values ended after that “catalyst” expired. I found that once that factor of necessity is gone, we didn’t really have that much in common.
At first, this realization made me really sad. Then it made me start to think about what I value in my friendships so I can be more attuned to what is important to me as I develop friendships in the future. These major factors are:
Loyalty – If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you say you’re not going to do something, don’t do it. Keep your word and have my back and I will do the same for you.
Honesty – Don’t worry about hurting my feelings. Tell me the truth even if you think it may cause some temporary tension. I’ve found that hashing out differences as they arise is much better than letting tension build up and explode.
Respect – Your friends don’t have to have the same values and opinions as you do. You don’t have to always be right. Know when you’re crossing a line, know when you’re stepping over a boundary, and learn to take a step back and let things go. Respect differences in lifestyles and appreciate that diversity.
Compassion – Sometimes you just want to vent. Sometimes you just need a shoulder to cry on and someone to listen and tell you it is all okay. Be that person. Don’t make it about you and try to turn it into some lengthy discussion about the issue. Have the empathy to just let the other person be and offer support and compassion.
Loyalty. Honesty. Respect. Compassion. Friendship is a two-way street that I will happily walk with you so long you are genuinely there for me. Be honest and respectful. Show compassion. Be happy in my successes and don’t try to compete with that.
As friendships continue to come and go throughout my life, I will certainly be more mindful of these factors as I develop new relationships. Yes, I realize that this sounds incredibly selfish, but if you can’t be selfish about something as important as your emotional needs, what can you be selfish about? I love all of my friends dearly and truly hope that our relationships last for many years to come; but if they don’t, that’s fine too.