As much as we don’t want to admit this – friendships are circumstantial and they are completely dependent on what is going on in your life and the life stage you are in. Friendships are a choice, completely voluntary and they are sustained by the efforts from both parties. As such they are usually the type of social group that people are the least concerned with. We usually won’t go weeks and months without talking to a spouse, partner or family (I hope!)…even colleagues/work people just cause we see them so often.
Friends though? They are usually the least prioritised group of people. When anything happens in life, they are the first group of people to fall by the wayside. Like, as an unmarried lady, I rarely get to see my married friends once they tie the knot. Worse, when they have kids, we go years without keeping in touch and the friendships disappear.
Does that mean that the friendship was a waste of time? Or that we are both bad people? No. It’s just different things were going on in our lives which did not support the prior friendship dynamic anymore. Different priorities, different expectations. I don’t have much in common with married couples or couples with kids, so I’m less likely to seek them out for friendships, and vice versa.
Sometimes it just means that your friendship wasn’t all that engaging as you may have thought it was.
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According to Julie Beck who wrote the article How to deal with changing friendships in the Atlantic back in 2015, there are three types of friendships:
- Active – you keep in touch and see each other regularly. You know how they feel about things presently and are involved in their lives in a deep way.
- Dormant – you may not have spoken for a period of time but do meet up when there is a chance. You aren’t as active anymore in each other’s lives though you’ve had a shared history.
- Commemorative – A friend who was important to you at some point in time in your life. Perhaps you formed a very close bond at a job or at summer camp but you never expect to see or hear from them, perhaps ever again. But the bond you shared at that point in time was great and you still consider them a friend
The article also mentioned a couple of other key points about friendships that align with my views and I will share them below.
Friendships need equitable effort, reciprocity
This means an almost equal or similar amount of dedication from both parties and regular enough contact and communication between you two, most of the time. Yes, sometimes one of you may “fall off” a little because of something going on in your life that you had to tend to, but you always find your way back to each other.
It’s when one side is constantly putting in more effort than the other that resentment and frustration starts to build in and you start experiencing one-sided friendships.
Friendships that have shared history and investment tend to go the distance
When you’ve known each other inside out for years and have bonded in such a deep way for many years, it’s hard to let go of friendships like that, provided that there’s reciprocity. Personally, I think this is alot of conscious effort on both sides and both of you must want to invest in the friendship. Many friendships don’t go the mile because one side or both do not see a point in investing in the friendship.
Social media gives you the illusion that you have many friends
Though most are fairweather and some others should have already been “gotten rid of”. Scrolling through Facebook and still seeing news about Tom or Jerry popping up on your feed though you’ve last seen/heard them 15 years ago? It’s time to unfollow these people. Having all these information about people who are no longer in your lives takes up energetic space and prevents other more aligned people from coming in. And to put it bluntly, why would you care about what your elementary school classmate from 27 years ago ate for breakfast today? This person is no longer a part of your life and shouldn’t be taking up your thoughts (or your feed).
Friendships aren’t friendships if you don’t have shared experiences and you only see/talk to them once a year or online
This is connected to the point above but if you are only chatting on social media and have never met, or you’ve only seen them once or twice in your life and do not know anything about the person…sorry, you guys aren’t friends at all. Commenting on each other’s social media pages and connecting online gives you an illusion that you are familiar with them and know them more than you do.
But as long as the person isn’t spending time with you in any way, has no idea what is going on in your life and what you may be thinking/feeling.. they aren’t present at all in your life then you guys aren’t friends.
So what does these all say?
#1 Most people have more dormant and commemorative relationships than they realise
…and are holding unrealistic expectations towards these friendships. They treat these friendships as active ones and hence get disappointed when their dormant and commemorative friends do not reciprocate in the way that an “active” friend would.
#2 Most people do not have the capacity to maintain a large group of active friendships
…as it requires effort, dedication, communication a capacity and space in your life to dedicate to friendships. Remember, friendships are voluntary and both people have to want to be in it. It is easy to choose your friends when you do not have much responsibilities or commitments in your life, like when you were younger.
But as you hit mid-20s and beyond when people get married and careers start to take importance, it’s difficult to maintain the same level of commitment to all your friendships. So before you envy people who have a large group of friends, remember that you do not know the exact nature of their friendships. They may have alot more dormant and commemorative friendships than you realise and/or they are lucky and privileged enough to be able to sustain friendships whilst balancing work and other commitments.
#3 You may be holding on to friendships that are way past their expiry date
…especially if you are on social media places like Facebook and constantly see their random updates pop up on your feed. If you aren’t in these people’s lives anymore and aren’t interested in what Anne fed her son for breakfast, or where Henry took his family for a hike in summer, unfollow them, let them go. Having information about people you do not have any interest in or don’t care about is taking up mental capacity -and energetic space that is preventing other people from coming in.
#4 Friendships change in your life
It’s not all doom and gloom and it doesnt’ mean that once you are past 30, you will never have friends – no. Usually, people start to gain new friends at later stages of their lives when things like career matter less or when your kids are all grown up. You may start volunteering at church or in a community that gains you new friendships. So never fear. “Losing” friendships now does not mean you will be alone forever, you will just meet others who are more aligned with you at various stages of your life.
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!
What can you do about changing friendships?
Something that I’ve come to understand and learn about friendships is that – you enjoy and treasure it the most when you allow it to exist in your life just like how a butterfly rests on a leaf or on your hand. When it is present/at-rest in your life, you allow yourself to immerse in the moments of the friendship and enjoy every second you have together.
But just like you never squash the butterfly on the lead or try to grab it so that it won’t fly away, you don’t hold onto the friendship for dear life as well. Instead, you understand that this person/friendship is in your life for a reason, but that it has its own freewill and its own path in life.
Both the butterfly and your friendship needs to be allowed the freedom and autonomy to evolve and change. You need to be allowed the freedom and autonomy to grow and evolve as an individual on this planet as well.
So enjoy your friendships while they are in your life, understand that everyone has their own journey and that most of your friendships will change at some point, some people will exit your life, but it gives space to allow others to come in.
With this newfound perspective, my hope is that you will start to see your friendships a little differently and start to treasure them a lot more too!