Thursday, February 12, 2015

Beyond Friendship Bracelets

Adult friendships are such a tricky thing. I knew they were tricky long before I got married, but post-wedding bells, they've gotten even more complicated.

I used to think that my best friends would always be on speed dial. I would drop everything for that 3am phone call from my BFFs, ready to chat about anything, ready to jet out on a plane to solve any crisis. But reality has set in: my phone at 3am will always be on silent, because I don't want the baby to wake up. Sometimes, I really can't chat - not for days or weeks, because the season I'm in is hectic, and all my emotional energy is being eaten up by trying to maintain my marriage and love my child and offer something to my Savior. My friend themselves are busy, with their own families, work, volunteer responsibilities. We all have our own seasons of crazy.

But that is the modern narrative for friendship: "being there" for someone, which means attending to them excessively in their hour of need no matter what. What happens when you suddenly have other real responsibilities in your life, that means you can't 'be there' for someone the way they need you to at that second, because you already promised before God that you'd 'be there' for someone else for your whole life?

For my part, I have ended only a few friendships, most for egregious actions not on the 'being there for someone' spectrum. I rarely begrudge people for growing apart from me, and I enjoy renewing acquaintances with long-lost friends. Although it's hard when I reach out and someone doesn't reach back, I try to understand that I am not their primary responsibility. Unlike what Sex and the City portrays, I don't have only my friends - and they don't only have me. We live in a wider world of responsibilities and relationships: we have extended family, husbands, children, and work, to name a few. I don't expect my friends to be everything to me.

It seems that lately, what really makes a friend, is actually being able to work through a genuine disagreement. It's easy to be a friend when together you and the other person are putting up a united front against something else, but much harder when you feel at odds with one another. It's at that point that you have to dig deep: be willing to be honest and humble and uncomfortable. It doesn't mean just covering over or ignoring our differences or default apologizing just to assuage the other person, but really getting to the heart of the pain or difference. I'm beginning to realize that most people just aren't willing to do this; they either don't want to examine the hurt or they don't want take the time to hash it out - they don't want to feel discomfort. It's easier to ignore it or write off the friendship entirely.

I'm finding what this means in practice is that I have fewer and fewer good friends as I get older. There's nothing wrong with that, but the shifting landscape of my adult friendships often leaves me feeling lonely and confused. It seems all the rules have changed and it's hard to learn the new ones since they vary from person to person. Sometimes, it means I just let all of it go and try to survive without nurturing friendships. It can feel like so much work - work that feels one-sided, with no standards to hold the other person to. If I feel like my husband were not pulling his weight, I would have a standard to appeal to - but friendship? I'm not sure what I'd say if I felt the same way about a friend.

How to make friends, keep them, and flourish within these friendships has only gotten harder once we move past the stage of friendship bracelets. You out there in internet land - how do you balance your friends with...everything else? And how do you navigate difficult times within the friendship itself?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments make me feel like I'm not just talking to myself or the government (because I know the government secretly reads my blog). Help me feel less crazy - comment away!