Since publishing the post, Confusion & Clarity, I’ve engaged in several conversations about the significance and meaning of ‘friendship’ as an adult. I’ve discussed my ups and downs – mistakes, wrongs, missteps – as well as heard stories and truths from others’ journeys. The verbal exchanges have been refreshing and eye opening as they’ve allowed me to understand the what’s and why’s behind gaining, keeping and losing friends. When I was younger, I spent little time pondering my relationships and how they developed. Forming a friendship out of convenience, shared interests and proximity was typical in grade school. My best friend and I had the same schedule and lived within a five mile radius of one another. As I ventured off to college and subsequently moved farther away from home, it became harder to understand the rules for identifying friends. Even more perplexing was the notion of demoting someone from the role of friend to mere acquaintance or more startling–them having no role at all.
So often we fall into the trap of continuing a relationship simply because the person’s already a part of our life. Comfort and convenience are prioritized and our emotions take the brunt. But aren’t there times when a friendship isn’t worth keeping? Isn’t it important to regularly assess one’s relationships to ensure the good times still outweigh the bad? Similar to romantic relationships, some need an intermission while others require an ending. If you’re struggling with the idea of removing someone from your life, you aren’t alone. At some point we’ll all know the impact of dumping or being dumped by a friend.
Regardless, here are 3 ways to know if your connection is worth fighting for or better left in the past.
Are you a hostage to your past? Writer and poet Alison Croggon once wrote, “We are all mistaken sometimes; sometimes we do wrong things, things that have bad consequences. But it does not mean we are evil, or that we cannot be trusted ever afterward.” Healthy friendships are rooted in trust and mutual respect. Respect begins with allowing someone to be an imperfect being. If your friend spends more time reminding you of mistakes and holding them over your head versus acknowledging your progress and growth, it might be time to loose the chains of (friendship) bondage. While making the same mistake repeatedly may cause a raised brow or sideways glance, a decade old misstep shouldn’t be the headline of today’s friendship. If it devastated your seemingly unbreakable bond significantly, s/he should’ve walked away when it happened. By choosing to have you remain in their life, they communicated a commitment to let go and move forward. Surround yourself with those offering support and encouragement and cut strings with anyone solely concerned with making you a prisoner to the past. The last thing most people need is someone adding to the ever-present self-doubt and negativity plaguing their minds. Real friends forgive, forget and enable you to live freely.
Do you feel valued? Most 30-something women remember the episode of SATC when Carrie was dumped via post-it. No one saw it coming, especially the “It Girl” of the dating world and no one accepted his words of apology written in three brief sentences. The sentiment was clear, she wasn’t valued enough to get a phone call or face-to-face goodbye. His actions were cowardly and inexcusable and so often in our real world, friendships face a similar fate. They’ve ended via texts, emails and for some–no words at all. The relationship simply drifted away without warning and was forever lost. One-sided relationships are never fun and one-sided endings are worst. Never have someone in your inner circle that struggles to see your worth. If one values your presence in their life, they’ll show it. Even if showing it means picking up a phone or stopping by in person to say goodbye–respectfully.
Similar to dating, assessing a person’s alignment with your needs and wants is imperative. If you want regular in-person connections and they can barely make time for a fifteen minute phone call, problems will brew. You may feel disregarded and unloved while they feel guilty or burdened. While effort is the best indicator of interest, not everyone puts forth equal or similar effort. You must determine what characteristics define friendship for you and hold firm. Friends complement one another while healthy, balanced friendships complement our lives. You should feel wanted, not simply tolerated, in your friendships.
Is there mutual respect for life choices? While it’s acceptable for two friends to have different dreams and life plans, I’ve learned, the more disparate they are, the greater probability the friendship will struggle. Plenty of women are world-traveling businesswomen with best friends that make less money and work as middle managers at a 9-to-5 or are stay-at-home moms. It’s another thing to be a weekly club-hopper-bottle-popper reality television junkie that jumps from man to man with a sober, Bible-thumping best friend content with staying home watching HGTV, starring in the role of wife and mother. Conversations strain, distance widens and the relationship always feels… off. You can’t put your finger on when and why things changed, but they did. You hold on for memory’s sake without realizing what you valued is long gone. To be clear, I’m not advocating for your friends to all be carbon copies of you. However, you’re more likely to respect someone that’s (most) like you. Not saying it’s fair, but isn’t it true? The friendship suffers not merely because there is a deep chasm between you; it suffers because the respect and appreciation for the other person’s path is absent. For a friendship to thrive, you have to respect a person’s right to choose–from careers to significant others to parenting choices. It’s not your right to determine how someone else must live.
As I’ve watched my friendships blossom, I’ve seen deep expressions of love, support and forgiveness in every bond I share. I’ve felt physical absences as some have lived across states and others, across oceans. We’ve been divided by time and brought back by mutual want and need. My friends, the men and women with whom I’ve exposed my deepest vulnerabilities, still rally beside me. We fight with and for one another, always knowing our friendship is greater than a passing emotion or a zone of time. Those friends–my forever & always friends–will never be forgotten nor left behind.
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