Are you holding on to a friendship that no longer fits?
Many of us are.
Our growth and development as individuals can often change what we need from our friendships. When we are young and energetic, we are more likely to surround ourselves with friends who are outgoing, excitable, and ready to join us on our adventures. As time passes and the responsibilities of career, life, and family change, it is only natural for us to require something different from our friends and social network. Coffee meetups and kids’ playdates replace the once epic late night excursions. Hours of chatting about the future gradually become delayed text message responses that start with, “Sorry, I didn’t get back to you sooner (insert excuse here).”
Some friendships fare well through the different phases of life. If we maintain open communication, clarity of expectations, and a commitment to the health of the friendship, then our relationships have the best chance of survival over time. However, not all friendships will grow with us.
So, what happens when a friendship no longer fits who we are?
Where there is a strain on any relationship, we need to look at expectations. What do we expect? Is that expectation being met? Are our expectations reasonable? Have both parties agreed on the expectations?
Consider this scenario:
Melissa and Grace have been best friends since elementary school. 6 months ago, Melissa got married and 3 months ago, she and her husband welcomed their baby boy. Melissa has sensed Grace’s growing frustration with Melissa’s lack of availability as she transitions into her family life. On multiple occasions, Grace has sent Melissa text messages accusing Melissa of being selfish and not caring about their friendship. Melissa has done her best to explain that she values her relationship with Grace but is taking time to focus on her new life as a mother and wife. Today Grace sent a message asking Melissa to meet for lunch. When she said she was unable due to an appointment, Grace launched a series of text messages that ended with, “We’re done. Don’t talk to me anymore.” Melissa was saddened but is unsure of how to maintain the relationship that Grace wants.
What are Grace’s expectations? Do they seem reasonable? What should Melissa do?
While there could be a million valid things on Grace’s mind, it is evident that she is struggling with how the changes in Melissa’s life have impacted their relationship. Melissa may not be able to be as attentive and responsive as Grace needs her to be. This would be a suitable time for both ladies to ask the following questions:
- Is there a way for us both to remain connected in a positive and fulfilling way?
- Are my expectations clear and reasonable?
- What could we learn/understand about each that could help our relationship?
- Is this friendship still a fit for me?
If your friendship is struggling…
As adults with busy lives it is important that our relationships represent a positive input in our lives. When we ignore a friendship strained by the natural transitions of life, we invite the kinds of toxic interactions and drama we all want to avoid. Not every friendship will last forever. Not every friendship was made to.
If you have a friendship that is on the rocks, address it. Encourage your friend to share their needs and expectations and be clear about whether or not you feel you can meet them at this time. Identify the struggles each of you are having and work together to find solutions. If a solution cannot be found, or if you feel the relationship is no longer adding the value you want it to then let it go. Respectfully share how things have changed and why you are no longer interested. Be happy about the good times, let go of the bad, and find the people you want to surround yourself with.
What kind of friends do you want in your life? Are your current friendships a good fit? If not, what’s missing? What changes do you need to make to feel better about the people around you?
Cleaning up our social circle can be an act of self-care and a way to ensure you are surrounded with love and support. Whoever you choose, make sure they deserve to be there!
Bonnie J. Skinner, MEd, CCC, RP
B. Skinner Coaching & Psychotherapy