Years ago I experienced a painful “break up” with a friend. If you haven’t experienced it, you’re lucky. A break up with a friend can be just as upsetting and unsettling as a break up with a boyfriend or signficant other. The thing about friend break ups, is that they aren’t always as clear cut and easy to figure out. When I experienced my break up, I was pretty bummed and dumbfounded. We had been friends for years, closer than close, and did everything together. When we lived together, it wasn’t uncommon for us to get mail addressed to the two of us as if we were a couple.
About nine years ago, this friend cut me off cold turkey. I was devastated. After a number of phone calls went unanswered, I sent her a marathon email apologizing for anything I could have possibly done to upset her. I never got a response. I just couldn’t understand how someone I had been so close to couldn’t take the time to even respond to me to let me know what I had done and why our relationship was over.
A friend who knows both of us was very helpful in assisting me to get over the end of this important relationship. She comforted me by telling me that perhaps our friendship values were just different. I was intrigued by this concept. She went on to say that maybe for my former friend, her expectations of friendship and what she needed out of a friend were different than mine. Some people only want friends who will tell them what they want them to hear and others don’t. Some people need friends who are around 24-7 and others see great value in their friends, even if they only speak to them or see them a couple of times per year. She went on to explain that people need and expect different support and interactions from their friends. She suspected that our mutual friend perhaps didn’t internalize friendships as deeply as I did and perhaps needed something I couldn’t provide her.
I’m so grateful for this life lesson. Up until that point, it had never dawned on me that everyone I knew didn’t have the same wants and needs when it came to friendships. As for me, I grew up without a sister and always had lots of friends who as coincidence would have it, moved away. For me, when I have a friend, I am very excepting of the time apart and thankful for the time together. I appreciate my friends’ honesty, supportive criticism, and encouragement–no matter the dosage. I have learned that I might not agree with everything my friends say or do, but they are still my friends and I accept them for who they are. Perhaps even more importantly, I have learned that when a friendship’s negative or nonbeneficial interactions and attributes out weight the positive, it’s time to terminate the relationship, and that’s ok. All friendships are not meant to last forever. Some are meant to benefit us for a short amount of time and some friendships are relationships that we will engage in at only certain times in our lives.
Taking a close look at my friendship values has been one of my most important life lessons. When you have some free time (stop laughing–I know that’s rare!), think about your own friendship values. More importantly, think about how your friendship values match up to the friendship values of those in your life. If you are reading this, you are probably one of my friends and I am very, very thankful to have you in my laugh.