I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship. I’ve been trying to figure out what it means to me now. That might seem like a funny question, but I think it’s worth asking.
Friendships change from childhood to adulthood. When you’re younger and in school, you’re often automatically friends with the people you see every day. You may form friendships in little groups and then be friends with all the members of that group because they are there, not because you necessarily like them. You may be friends with people you don’t particularly like because your friends are friends with them.
As an adult, however, you seem to have more of a choice. You can be more selective. You’re no longer bound to people who you have little else but school in common with. You know yourself a little better. Hopefully, you’re better at identifying toxic relationships or knowing when you simply don’t want to be friends with someone.
These are good things, but not all of these changes are good because, in some ways, adult friendships are also very weird.
You don’t see each other unless you actively organize to do so. You may go weeks or months without seeing the other person if your schedules are busy.
You may not have a common thread, like school or work, to keep you connected, and so you have to find and develop your own points of connection. If you don’t manage this then the friendship just sort of fizzles out.
In high school, I belonged to a group of friends, but now my friends are mostly spread out and separate from one another. I spend time with them one-on-one as opposed to in a group, which I prefer anyway as someone who’s pretty introverted.
Since entering the realm of young adult friendships, I’ve had no problem meeting people but a lot of difficulty with maintaining connections. People my age are so transient. We come and go without making too many commitments to each other because commitment isn’t always possible when you’re always coming and going.
Then there are ruptures, which can damage or end friendships. Ruptures are very common and can happen for a whole variety of reasons. It can be very hard to know how to repair ruptures, especially if they are only a symptom of a larger problem: an unhealthy relationship.
Friendships can be unhealthy. Friendships can be toxic. Friendships can be abusive. Sometimes we overlook these things because we don’t tend to expect them from our friends. We think of friendships as being relatively innocuous. We underestimate them. They can have far more profound effects on us and our lives than we usually give them credit for.
This year, I am learning more about what healthy friendships look like by learning about what unhealthy friendships look like.
Generally, they shouldn’t be stressful and demanding.
You shouldn’t feel like you need to walk on eggshells around a friend because any little thing could set them off.
You shouldn’t be putting their needs before your own in order to please them.
They shouldn’t act like they know you better than you know yourself. Your friends are not the authority on you, only you are.
If they become irritated with you all the time for no other reason than you simply existing, there’s a problem.
If they’re dismissive of the things you’re passionate about, the things that make you feel excited, there’s a problem.
If they take your friendship for granted, there’s a problem.
If you desperately need their support and they won’t give it, there’s a problem.
If their friendship and love are highly conditional on you being what they want you to be, there’s a problem.
If they’re having a relationship with their projection of you instead of you, there’s a problem.
No one is perfect. We’re all shitty friends sometimes, but when some of these things start to add up into an overall unhealthy relationship, it’s time to reevaluate that relationship.
As an adult, I feel like I have a lot more control over who I choose to spend my time with. None of my relationships are passive. I have to work to make them happen.
I believe in giving people second chances, opportunities to change, but I don’t believe in third, fourth, or fifth chances. I don’t believe in endless chances. At some point, you need to be able to recognize that your friend isn’t going to change.
You have a choice. Can you or can you not live with that?
I’m still making mine.