9 ways to be proactively positive
how to be patient: 5 tips for staying calm now

best friends forever?: lessons on friendship (part I)


Lately I've been dealing with a difficult situation in one of my friendships. A friend of mine knowingly put me in a situation that had the potential to make me (and other people) very uncomfortable and unhappy. When I discovered that the situation was going to present itself -- and that she had been the catalyst behind it -- I was shocked.  When she casually mentioned the impending situation to me the very night before it was to occur, my heartbeat sped up. My palms grew sweaty. Though no mirror was around, I could feel that all the color had drained from my face. My mind raced: How could she do this to me? Why would she do this? How could she think this would be okay? Though my mind was spinning with questions, I took a deep breath to steady myself and refrained from saying anything to her. 

Though the next day arrived and the what-could-have-been-terrible situation didn't actually end up occurring (despite a day filled with worry and anxiety on my part), I couldn't help but wonder how a friend could do this to another friend. I couldn't help but wonder what a friendship really was. Time and time again, I've been faced with situations where friends have shocked me with their actions. Too often I've turned my frustration and sadness inward, accusing myself of picking the wrong people to be friends with. If that's true, I can't help but wonder why I continue to do that. And if it's not true, I can't help but then ponder: what really is a true friendship? 

Though it might seem like something that might be easy, maintaining a good, true friendship can be very difficult, especially when you are in a phase in your life where a lot of things are changing (hello, twenties!). Over the past few years, I've developed a lot as a person and the changes I experienced in myself didn’t always translate very well when it came to friendships. I've tried to take a more positive route when it comes to my life's path and, oddly enough, that hasn't always impacted my friendships in a positive way. I do have some wonderful friends who have stuck with me, through thick and thin, and who have never done (and I imagine never will do) me any wrong. But then I've had some up-and-down friendships that have caused me just as much heartache and pain as any boy-related breakup. 

One of the hardest things I've learned when it comes to friendships is that people change. You will change and your friends will change. Sometimes friends will change together and will have a life-long friendship. Other times, one or both of you might change and you might grow apart. As sad as that sounds, it’s okay. Some friendships aren’t meant to last forever. But what's really hard to deal with is the friendships you think are meant to last forever that don't. Just like a romantic relationship, sometimes it's hard to let go. Sometimes it's hard to know when it's over. Sometimes it's tempting to cling to a bond that just isn't really there (or, at the very least, isn't positive for one or both of you). 

Because I've dealt with a lot of friendships -- both wonderful and heart-wrenching -- and because I'm currently struggling with understanding what the next step is going to be in this particular friendship that has been causing me pain lately, I've given some thought to three very important elements of friendships: (1) how to maintain them so they stay positive, (2) how to know when it's time to call it quits, and (3) how to recover from a lost friendship. 

 

5 Ways to Maintain a Friendship

Friendships take work. While generally they are a lot of fun and such a great thing to have in your life, like any relationship, you have to work on them. To maintain a friendship, here are some things you should strive to do:

  1. Be a good listener. When a friend confides in you -- or even just tells you a tidbit about her day -- strive to be really present and really hear what she's saying to you. Our own thoughts and commentary can be a big distraction, but instead of always thinking about what advice or comments you can give her, try to really listen to what she's saying to you. 


  2. Don’t judge your friends harshly. Judging people is normal and it's part of human nature, but it's a good thing to try to keep those judgments to a minimum when it comes to friendships. We're all human; we all make mistakes. When a friend does or says something you don't understand, strive to be open-minded and nonjudgmental. 


  3. Find positive common bonds with each other. Friendships are often based on things we have in common with one another. However, the bonds we make with other people are not always positive. Often people bond over judging or putting down other people. If you want to have a lasting, meaningful friendship, focus on positive things that will bring you two closer together. 


  4. Be open to trying new experiences. As people change and grow, their friendships can often become strained because one person seems different. If you want to maintain a friendship for a long period of time, you must be open to new experiences and perspectives. At her core, your friend is the same person so try to be open-minded when she changes -- and encourage her to do the same for you. 


  5. Establish (and don’t break!) trust. Trust is the most important aspect of any relationship. It takes time to establish trust with people and it's essential that you make establishing trust a priority in your friendship. And, most importantly, once that trust has been established, don't break it. Once trust has been broken, it can be very difficult to get it back. 



Doing these things will help to keep your friendship intact. It’s important to remember that friendship is a two-way street. You should be both getting and giving. If you’re doing all of the giving (or all of the getting!), the friendship may not be genuine; it may be time for you to reevaluate that relationship because a true friendship is always about give and take. In Part II, I will discuss how you know when it's time to end a friendship and Part III will cover how to recover from the loss of a friendship. 

 

Stay tuned for Parts II and III coming soon! 
Please feel free to share your comments about
maintaining friendships
 in the comments section below.  

 

Comments

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There was an email floating around some years ago that I loved. It was all about how friends show up in our lives when we need them most. There are the friends from grade school and high school. The ones who partied with you in college. The ones who stood by your side when you got the news from the doctor or your babies were born. They come and go through our lives and while it is sad to realize that they won't be forever friends (there are very few of those), they gave you what you needed when you needed it most. So it is not to mourn the loss of those relationships but to celebrate that they happened. I hope that your friendship with this woman can be repaired, but if it can't there are others that will come.
Enjoy the day.
Erin

This is a very heart-felt post that has a lot of truth, thank you for that. I think the key is what you said:

"what's really hard to deal with is the friendships you think are meant to last forever that don't."

Anytime you expect something to last, you are creating suffering by default. Stress, worry, difficulty are embedded within the word "forever"

All that arises passes away. If a friendship arose, it WILL pass away. Maybe not for another 80 years, or maybe tonight. Whatever. The goal is to embrace that relationship with this truth in mind. When you see the experience with this person as something totally transient, the relationships can take on a whole new dimension of fulfillment while it's here.

Erin - Thank you so much for your comment. It really helped me to see what I think I've always known to be true: most friends serve a purpose, for a specific period of time, and friendships don't have to last forever to be meaningful. Though for some time I've hoped for this relationship to be repaired, I can see now that it will be okay even if we are not able to repair what we once had.

Andrew - You're welcome. I'm glad I am able to share my experiences here. The word "forever" does carry a lot of weight and, oddly, I think people attach it even more to friendships because there are not the traditional break-ups associated with them. I really like your idea of embracing friendship with truth in mind. I think that idea would work well for any relationship. Instead of seeing what we want to see, or expect to see, our relationships would be a lot more productive if we simply looked for what is true in them.

Dear Dani
To me trust is vital in and maintaining a friendship not least of all because love leaves you vulnerable. But I think it’s also important to consider what you are actually putting your trust in. Do I trust that my friends will always be there when you need them? No, because this is not always logistically possible. Do I trust them to never put their foot in it? No, because they may not always be aware. Do I trust them to always act with the best of intentions? YES!! If I didn’t have this element in a friendship, I would question whether it truly was a friendship at all.
Even with our best intentions, my friends and I have all messed up at some point over our many years together but we have maintained our friendship because of our love and trust in our best intentions- which I believe can soften the blow rather than making things sting harder.
When you’re establishing your life’s right path (a lifetimes work I’m finding!) it’s great to know where you’re heading, but also it’s important to consider the ‘what and who’ you have on that path with you. I hope it transpires that your catalyst friend was acting with the best of intentions (however incomprehensible!). But sadly if you do have to let them go, it may be worth asking yourself what benefits you ‘think’ this friendship provided for you, and then perhaps seeking it elsewhere.
I really do get a lot out of your site and each article can make me think of valuable and positive things for days or weeks on end, and makes me very happy! So thank you.
With love and very best wishes, Rachel

Rachel - Thanks so much for your comments! I really appreciate your feedback on this topic, as it's such an important one to so many people (including me!). You've brought up such a great point about your life's path; who is walking down the path with you is nearly as important as the path itself. If you don't have people who are positive influences, making your way down the path will be much more difficult. I'm so glad you get a lot out of Positively Present. Thank you so much for reading!

Very excited to hear Part III, as it is very hard for me to look back on what appears to be a string of relationships (friendships) I think of myself as having ruined, but I'm much more aware now that how other people act and react, if that causes a problem, is THEIR problem, and not necessarily a reflection of me or my character. It's very hard for me to swallow, but I'm trying, because it seems like without getting past that, I'm having trouble making new friends.

Gourmet - It's definitely difficult to get over relationships (friendship or otherwise) that have ended. Hopefully Part III will provide you with some helpful insights!

I recently had a real big decive of an old-time friend...

I´ve in some way been able to get over it it but ill tell you the quick story:

I had a girlfriend for 2 years, she became friend with all of my close friends and everything went really well for those 2 years

My friend, a guy i guy couldve have protected with my own life, sudenly got in a romance with my girl, and a couple of days later we broke up

I sure had some good memories with my friend but, and i´ve forgiven him. But i don´t really think it´s somehow constructive to talk to him ever again. would you forgive someone to that level?

Paul - That sounds like a very difficult situation and I'm sorry to hear that you have to deal with that. With a situation like this, I'm sure there are a lot of factors that go into deciding whether or not you should continue to keep this friend in your life. If it were me, and that trust was broken, it would be pretty hard for me to repair that friendship. However, I do believe in forgiveness so it all depends on how your friend acts from now on. Best of luck dealing with this difficult situation.

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