In this series, I address all the questions that clients have come to me for on the topic of friendship and offer some insight into what can be done and what perspective can be shifted so you feel happy and free. It’s my hope that this inspires you in your own similar circumstances and gives you a sense of what it is like to work with me! *All names have been changed and permission obtained before sharing. Details may have been modified.
Sheryl* is a lady in her 30s and has been working as a consultant for most of her life. We connected through a consulting event and really hit it off and became friends. A couple of months in she paid for a session, saying she had issues with her close friends that have been bugging her for awhile. Sheryl had several friends that she met through different activities and most of them did not know each other. Most of her friendships went way back to high school and university, and she kept contact with them over the years.
When I asked her to describe her dynamics with them and the quality of the friendships from her point of view, she mentioned always feeling a sort of “up and down” with each of these friends. She enjoyed hanging out with them and meeting up from time to time, but did not feel like she was very close to them. She seemed to have deep-seated frustrations with each and every one of them.
One of them, A, she described as very fun and she confided the most in, but A was never available to meet often. She didn’t seem to want to meet often actually which frustrated Sheryl who liked meeting up more frequently than what A liked. She felt A was setting the pace of the friendship and it was a pace she didn’t like.
For another friend, B, she felt almost a sense of disappointment in, as B never remembered her birthday and always seemed to only hit her up when there was a cafe or movie or something that B wanted to explore. She felt made use of but was happy to hang out with B as she found new places to explore through B.
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Besides her various frustrations with her friends, Sheryl also felt less and less close to them as time went on. She felt she had nothing much in common with most of her friends except 2 or 3 of them and didn’t fully enjoy her hangouts with them. She constantly found the conversations disengaging and boring and found herself pretending to be interested in order to allow the interaction to flow.
The things she used to be interested in and which she bonded over with her friends have also held lesser meaning for her now that she was into other things in her life. She felt guilty and was worried about looking like an asshole for allowing friendships to drift apart, felt ashamed that she found them boring and was also worried about being alone and not being able to find more friends.
Some things we can learn from Sheryl’s case about friendships
#1 There are seasons for friendships
Some friends are meant to last forever, and some are not. Most don’t actually. I’ve actually found that it’s pure luck sometimes to be able to sustain friendships that last a lifetime. The media has also sold us a story that only long-time friendships are the only type of friendships that matter.
Honestly though? Many friendships only last for a particular season in your life. They may be there when you were going through a breakup, perhaps you were close because of a specific interest, or maybe you were really close at college or at work, and you drift apart after that. That is all very normal.
For Sheryl, she was close to A because they were both fans of the local arts scene and of a specific boyband for many years – there were things to talk about always. But when she fell out of love with both, she realised there was little to talk to A about.
Maybe Sheryl may reconnect with her friends later in life, or maybe she wouldn’t. But all those friendships served a purpose at that particular time in her life and got her through some not so nice times. I’ve had several of these happen to me previously and although sad, I was grateful to have great memories with them at certain points of time in my life.
#2 People change, friends change
What some of us sometimes don’t realise is that friendships don’t survive the test of time simply because we are each on our own growth paths and we are constantly changing and shifting. Our identities, outlook on life, relationships, work etc will shift and our perspectives will change. Some things that used to matter to us may not matter anymore to us.
Sheryl mentioned that she used to bond closely with friends like B because they all met at university and bonded over the stressful exams and over relationship issues. But when she graduated, she moved overseas and became interested in other things – dating took a backseat and she was more into other things.
Sheryl also confessed that she used to love gossiping about others and about celebs with B, but she no longer had any interest in doing so once she hit her 30s. She is/was on a spiritual journey and found gossiping affected her moods.
We all change, we aren’t the same people at 21, 30, 49, 69. It’s natural for us to fall out of affection with friendships that are no longer aligned with our changes.
Alot about finding the right friends has to do with really knowing yourself from within and liking yourself. If you are ready to rebuild your self-esteem and get to know yourself better, grab your self-esteem guidebook below!
#3 Your friendships may not have been that deep from the get-go
She felt sad about it and the ambivalence she felt with them also meant that she didn’t truly enjoy their friendship and there always seemed to be a grey cloud hanging over their gatherings. The frustrations that she expressed did not seem to be addressed in the friendship and she mentioned that sometimes her friends felt she was over-reacting. She found it tough to bring up these issues to them.
These pointed to not only completely different values, but a lack of communication as well as emotional unavailability and a lack of emotional intimacy. Values, emotional intimacy, trust and honest communication are important ingredients in a healthy relationship. When one or more are missing you are left with a shell of an interaction. This is the reason why Sheryl felt quite empty in her friendships.
We need to learn how to be more selective and discerning about who we allow into our lives as friends. Many people are usually just acquaintances at most – great as lunch buddies and for hang-outs but nothing more. Friendships are deeper and more emotionally intimate.
Learn what factors you need for a healthy friendship and how to vet for the right friend here.
#4 When one door closes, another opens. But do you allow that to happen?
Yes cliched I know. But many a time, we are unable to or don’t want to let go of friendships that are way past their “expiry date”. For Sheryl, she was already ambivalent about her friendships and particularly about A and B, but felt a need to carry on the friendships out of loyalty.
Many of us are like that. I used to cling onto people when it was obvious things were fading between us and it never ended well.
When something is coming to an end, it is in our best interest to show our gratitude for the purpose it has served in our life thus far and let it go. When we are entangled with people whom we don’t feel friendly feelings for anymore, we do not have the mental, spiritual or emotional capacity to let in other people into our lives.
This may sound woo-woo to you, but people, events, relationships, friendships, they take up energetic space in our lives. When we refuse to allow ourselves to let go of friendships that we no longer align with, they occupy space and because they aren’t aligned with our inner selves, we feel dragged down and drained by them.
Have you noticed how some friendships just feel so draining and meh, whilst others feel so energetic and uplifting? This is one of the reasons why.
The ability to let go of someone who has been in our lives for a long time isn’t easy. It takes wisdom, courage and self-confidence. Learn how you can build up your self-esteem to a healthy level with this guide that I’ve written below:
It took some time for Sheryl to let go of those friendships that weren’t working, after all, they were a part of her life for so long. But she felt way more herself and much happier and content when she allowed them to drift away for awhile. Instead, she has deepened her connections with other friends and found new acquaintances in her workplace and social groups.
Have you felt like you’ve outgrown your long-time friendships? How did you deal with the situation and what did you do?