Lately I’ve been thinking about the friendships I’ve had in my life and the ones that I still cherish today. I’ve always been the kind of person who has had a few very close, longtime friends than a large group of people I’m sort of close to. That’s great, so long as those friendships can continue to survive the test of time. I can’t help but think that getting older inevitably means losing some friendships. But why?
- We’re busy. Yes, it’s a poor excuse, but it’s the truth. Whether you’re finishing up a degree, starting a new one, changing careers, or starting families, we’re all enormously busier than we used to be. We spend more time texting our boss or significant other than we do our friends. We move far away and can’t hang out as easily, but we need to take a minute out of our busy schedules and appreciate our friends who may not be present right this moment, but who have been over the years.
- “It’s a two way street.” We like to tell ourselves this when we start to feel bad for not reaching out to someone. We try to mask our own guilt by shifting the blame. “Well she hasn’t texted me either!” At the end of the day, if you want to stay in touch with someone, does it matter who picks up the phone first? Have we digressed to playing games with friendships like we do with relationships? At the same time, should we be drawing a line? If I reach out to you 95% of the time, does that mean I should take that as a hint? It’s a fine line to straddle, but more often then not, you can have that conversation with your friend, instead of having to make that decision on your own.
- Our interests change. We don’t go to the same school, or the same office anymore. We don’t have the same group of friends or types of problems anymore. It seems as though we don’t talk as much, because maybe we don’t. Maybe your only common ground is that you went to high school together and the only thing you can talk about is the people you went to school with and the drama that you see unfold on Facebook. Maybe you still want her to dump that deadbeat boyfriend and are waiting for her to do that, while she’s busy falling harder for him. We have to measure whether or not our friendships can survive once we stop seeing each other every day.
- We fundamentally disagree. So you think her boyfriend is a deadbeat? Why would she want to open up to you about her relationship? You don’t think the career she’s in is good for her health? What do you want her to do about it? We’re going to disagree in friendships, that is inevitable in any relationship, but if the disagreements lead to judgement, or fear, or shut-downs, the friendship may not weather the storm. Leave politics alone, respect other people’s relationships, and decide what is truly important to you in your friendships.
- We stop checking in. In romantic relationships, checking in should be a norm. “How are we doing? What do you need more of? How can I love you better this week?” So why are friendships different? When was the last time you said, “How am I doing as a friend? Was the advice I gave you actually helpful?” If your friend isn’t being the type of friend that you need in your life anymore, eventually you’re going to drift apart. So why is it that we’re too afraid to ask those questions before the drifting happens? Like I mentioned, we have fewer chances to see each other and less in common than we once did, so we’re probably going to have to adjust if we want to maintain that friendship.
Getting older means lots and lots of changes, but your friendships don’t have to change, if you don’t want them to. Sometimes, it’s okay to let go of a friendship. Sometimes, you just need to put more effort in. The beauty in the situation is, only you get to decide what is best for you and what you need in your own friendships. Just make sure you’re being a friend that a friend would like to have, the rest will figure itself out.