This is me with my dear friend Lantana. Can I just start by saying we are definitely NOT breaking up. Lan and I have been friends since we were 9. Through numerous schools, relationships, jobs and countries, our friendship has remained strong.
Not all of my friendships have worked out so well, and I have spent a lot of time wondering what I could have done differently to keep those friends I have lost. I still sometimes feel hurt about the way those friendships ended but as I get older, I wonder why? Was I genuinely upset to have lost that friendship because that person enriched my life, or because it was important to me to be liked (I am NICE, why don’t you LIKE ME!?)
Friends for a season
This is something I did not understand as a young person. You can have friends who are only for a reason or a season. I remember feeling utterly betrayed when my Uni friend - who had recently moved to NZ and had no support network - didn’t need me anymore and ‘moved on’ to a new group of friends. Your inner voice starts ranting ‘I did so much for her, how could she just move on like that!?’ Sometimes when circumstances change, so do your friendships.
Different stages of your lives require different types of friends.
Having babies is the perfect example, you flock towards friends who also have babies so they can understand what you’re going through. Not many of us still have the same group of friends we had when we were at school, because we have grown and changed and that’s ok! I think as women we have an image of what it means to be the ‘perfect friend’ -even if in aspiring to this image, we sometimes stretch ourselves further than we should. The images of sorority sisters that remain friends for life seems like something we should aspire to - very Sex in the City, but not very realistic.
Big changes in your life often affect your friendships. These are the times that either solidify your friendships or show them up to be less than you hoped. When things go wrong who is the friend that will be first on the doorstep to help with the clean up? Will she remind you of the fine line between leggings and pants even when the going gets tough? During big changes is the time to put effort into your friends and remind them when you need them or that you are there to help.
You drift apart
She gets a new relationship and gets really busy (we’ve all done it!), you have kids and have new priorities she doesn’t understand, or one of you moves away. These are the times you have to decide how actively you want to pursue a friendship. Without effort on both your parts, it is unlikely to survive.
One of you hurts the other
This is a biggie. I pride myself that if I ever feel I have done anything to upset a friend that I let them know that I was wrong and apologise. Unfortunately in this case, if your friend won't communicate that there is a problem, it is very hard to fix it. With any luck you will know them well enough to see there is something wrong and can work to fix the problem.
You didn’t know you were breaking up
You find out after the fact that someone was miffed with you, it’s a bit late to approach it and the friendship just sort of dies away, or you hear through a third party that that person no longer considers you a friend (so very high school!) This happened to me with someone I considered close to me, I reached out to try and fix it, but it wasn’t acknowledged. You can only do so much, and you have to wonder how close that friend really was if they could have released you without even letting you know!
My Mum always says at the end of your life you will be able to count your true friends on one hand. There are those special souls who, once you have found them, you could never be without (you know who you are!)
It is ok to mourn the friendships you have lost throughout your life, each person we spend time with adds something to who we are. But, it is important that you don't allow these lost relationships to define who you are as a friend. For me, I try to reflect on what I am bringing to the friendship- and to spend my energy focussing on those that enrich my life, instead of those who have left it.