Friends Til' the End or Too Many Ended Friendships?
Updated: Aug 20, 2020
Do you make friends easily, but have difficulty sustaining friendships? I’ve had many clients in my office confused about how they appear likeable and connect with others easily, yet they are lacking longevity in friendships.
First thing I ask is, “How did the friendship make you feel?” Outgrowing people and friendships are an inevitable part of life. Sometimes we mature and change and the people around us don’t. In these situations, staying stagnant might not be the answer. Don’t confuse feelings of grief from a friendship loss as making the wrong decision. The end of toxic relationships can still leave you grief-stricken. Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same (Yes, I’m quoting Maroon 5, sorry not sorry.)
What do you value in a friendship? It will look different to everyone. It might help to make a list of desired qualities and ask yourself if you’re exhibiting them. For instance, if reliability is a priority for you, do you think your friends can rely on you? Sometimes being a good friend is selfless and inconvenient. Do you show up for your friends? (and not just when it’s convenient for you.)
Not to confuse you, but I will add that you are looking for the right combination of selflessness along with self-preservation. Meaning, your needs are important too. It’s all about balance, my friends.
If you’re feeling unsatisfied in your relationships, CHECK YOUR BOUNDARIES. Sorry capps lock is a little harsh, but I am really hoping to drive this point across. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Are you continually putting your friends’ needs ahead of your own? Do you silence your opinions or needs to avoid confrontation? Is there something in the relationship that bugs you and you don’t acknowledge or discuss it? These are all examples of where setting a boundary might help.
When we internalize our needs, resentment can build. And what happens when resentment builds? Let’s just imagine you repeatedly shake a full soda bottle with the lid on. Ok, now take the lid off and what happens? Yes, that is your resentment all over the place (and probably all over your friend). Cue another falling out.
I’m sure it’s no surprise that I mention the importance of communication. I’ve yet to encounter a successful relationship that has crappy communication. If you haven’t learned about “I Statements” yet, do yourself a favor and look them up. Practice them. Talk it out.
Genuine friendships are based on mutual respect and positive communication. Because once again if you’re bottling up your emotions, we’ve already discussed what can happen. Also, let me point out that genuine friendships allow space for discussions and disagreements. If you’re not interested in that, then perhaps a surface level friend is more up your alley.
How are your expectations for your friendships? Are you expecting perfection? Do you allow grace for mistakes? Because I can guarantee that mistakes will happen. Whenever you feel disappointed, try to get curious. Instead of making it about you, ask yourself what they might be going through. Empathy, forgiveness and grace can go a long way in friendships. If the “mistakes” happen far too often, then perhaps you’re dealing with a sub-par friend (or see above paragraph on communication.) But at least start with curiosity.
And last, but certainly not least. What effort are you putting into your friendships? Good friends understand when you’re busy and some friends don’t need you to check in frequently. However, do you think putting forth more effort and showing interest would help? I strongly believe that the energy we put out there can have a boomerang effect. But don’t be that friend that’s sitting there just waiting for the other one to make all the effort.
This is my take on friendship sustainability (in a rather long nut shell). Obviously, friendships aren’t a one-size-fits-all situation. But, hopefully this can at least be a starting point for you. At the end of the day, I always encourage my clients to turn inward when they want change. When you experience growth within yourself, you’ll notice the relationships around you will change also. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on friendships and longevity! What am I missing? #yougotthis