Friendship is an interesting thing. It has caused me lots and lots of grief and even more joy! My purpose in writing this is to share a few things I have learned over the years that have really and truly diminished the level of stress I have in my life as a result of friendships.
Here are 10 thoughts on friendships in general (and this could be equally applicable to romantic relationships). Don’t you love how I set myself up as the expert? I’m not. These are just my thoughts. Feel free to add your own, disagree with mine, or say anything else in the comments.
- Choose your friends. If you don’t like how someone is treating you, if you don’t like that a person never meets your expectations, if you have any kind of problem (beyond the minor irritation) with a friend, you may want to evaluate the situation and make a choice. You can decide to a) reign in your expectations and be okay with how your friend is or b) not be friends with that person. But own your decision…especially if you choose option A.
- If you can feel yourself being phased out (technical term meaning that someone is trying to “dump” you as a full-time friend), just let it happen. This is especially true in dating, but I think just as applicable in the Land of Platonic Relationships. Why on earth would I want to be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be friends with me? There’s no need for a DTR…ever. All that does is make things awkward and hurt feelings on multiple levels. Having been both the phaser and the phased, I know both sides well.
- Side note #1: If all of your friends in every aspect of your life are phasing you out, or if this is a regular occurrence, you may want to do a good self-evaluation because chances are, there’s probably something you are doing that is causing this regular exodus. If, after a thorough self-evaluation, you don’t see anything that might need adjusting in your behavior, just accept that you are a very particular shade of chartreuse that a selected few can handle, but when those selected few come along, you will have friends for life!
- Side note #2: Should you be the phaser, you might be tempted to share your feelings about why you don’t want to be friends with/date that person anymore. Or the person might ask why. DON’T DO IT! DON’T GIVE IN! I’m not saying to lie. Lying never works (even if you are trying to spare someone’s feelings). Just share your feelings, not thoughts, not observations, not advice; just feelings. Here’s the thing. You may not want to be friends with that person, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be 10 other people out there who like your ex-whatever exactly the way she is. If it is the case that no one wants to be friends with her, it is her responsibility to figure out who she wants to be and with whom she wants to be friends. And words NEVER GO AWAY!
- Friendships will evolve. Life moves forward. I have great friends from high school. These girls were, and are, very important to me. But our lives went in different directions and our friendships changed. I have recently caught up with a number of them, through blogging mainly, and it has been fantastic. I still adore them. But…it is different and there’s nothing wrong with that. This includes when a friend starts to date someone. She still likes you, she is just really, really excited about a particular guy and that’s all she can see. Let her be excited. Let her love it and enjoy it without making extra stress for her. Eventually, things settle. They get married or they break up. If she’s a friend, she will still need you either way. Don’t make her feel like she can’t turn to you.
- If you are lonely and think that people don’t like you and don’t want to be friends with you, you might be right. Harsh? Perhaps. I prefer honest. On this one, I speak from personal experience. I have been that girl with whom no one really wanted to be friends. I felt sorry for myself. I tried way, way, way too hard and all for naught. When I finally decided that I was going to be happy and enjoy my life anyway, I suddenly had friends…through no “friend making” efforts of my own. Be the friend you want others to be to you and you will naturally attract those people (unless you are ingratiating or a doormat…then you will attract the wrong kinds of friends).
- No one wants to be a “pity” friend. Be genuine. If you find yourself inviting someone along because you feel sorry for him, trust me, he can tell. I don’t know what the best solution is on this one. I think a case-by-case assessment is always needed.
- Be wary of misunderstandings. Don’t assume that a friend is mad at you when she doesn’t return one phone call, unless you’ve done something that merits “upsetedness”. Life is busy! Wait a while. Try a second one. And then, depending on the history, don’t worry about it. She will call you eventually or she won’t.
- Just because you get along with someone does not mean that you will like all of the same things. Now, some of you are thinking, “well, duh.” But trust me, I had a hard time learning this lesson.
- Along with #7, just because you have known someone for years and years, don’t assume that you know him better than he knows himself and don’t assume that he won’t change from time to time. This is both limiting and irritating! However, there are times when a drastic change occurs and you may be concerned. As a good friend, do you butt in or let him flounder? My vote: voice your concerns, offer help, then let your friend come to you. Don’t force it.
- Do not assume that, because you enjoy all of your groups of friends, it’s a good idea to mix them. Even for those of us who aren’t friends with everyone, we do have various circles. Sometimes mixing works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Just be aware.
- Be kind. No matter what. Yes, those of you who know me realize this is not always one of my strengths…but I’m working on it.
And now, for my particular shade of friendship: I am not a person that is friends with everyone. I like people, and I enjoy being social, but I also like my little close-knit circle of friends. I don’t think everyone needs to be like me. I have a dear friend in Arizona who is friends with almost everyone she knows and she does a great job of it. It’s her passion! What is hard for me is when those people (the kind that want to be friends with everyone), want me to be friends with everyone. For whatever reason, this really, really irritates me…when it is a forced issue.
So, here are some things that I would ask all of you “I want to be friends with and include everyone” types to consider.
- Just because I enjoy spending time with you, does not necessarily mean I will enjoy spending time with all of your other friends. Statements like, “Oh, you have to meet Katie. You are going to love her!” really bug me. A) I don’t have to do anything but die. B) How on earth do you know that I am going to love her?
- Not everyone is going to want to be friends with you and that’s okay. If you make an effort with someone and you are annoyed that the person is not reciprocating, you may just want to move on.
- When we (those of us who limit our friendships more) don’t want to be “good friends” with somebody, it’s not usually because we don’t like the person. We just are not as good at maintaining friendships with lots and lots of people, so we make choices.
I promise, I’m nice. Really. I am.
Note: These are not foolproof rules. There are exceptions to every one of them. Please drink responsibly.