I’ve read two articles recently, both in Stylist magazine, that have really resonated with me.
The first is about having and needing less friends as you get older.
The second is about assessing friendships and taking stock of the benefits.
Friendship can be a funny thing, especially in the days of social media where it’s easy to get to know people quickly and fairly intimately without actually seeing much of them in real life. It also makes it easy to stay in the loop with existing friends. Because of Facebook we know what people we know have done over the weekend, where they’ve booked up to go on holiday, what they had for dinner last night. I’m not saying this as though it’s a bad thing. I think it’s great. It keeps us closer in a way we’ve never had before, and I believe it keeps friendships alive where they may have drifted apart due to time or distance.
Text messages too mean it’s easier to stay in touch. A quick “hello, how are you” can be sent from my desk, whereas I couldn’t be making personal calls in the office. While they can limit the art of making telephone calls (I keep in touch with friends mainly by text rather than speaking to them physically) the ability to keep in more frequent touch is a definite benefit.
Back to the articles. As you get older friendships are more about quality than quantity. In my 20s I had loads of clubbing friends, but in truth the thing we had in common was going out and having fun. A lot of them, outside of that, I’d have nothing to talk to about. It’s so easy to think we have lots of friends when, in truth, it’s easy to mistake friendship with acquaintance.
I also think that, with age, your bullshit detector becomes more accurate. Whether that’s someone not being nice to you or to people around you; not treating you as you would treat them; or just not exhibiting the characteristics you want in a friend, you’re much more likely to pick up on it and deal with it as you age.
Plus, friendships are cyclical. Another Stylist article (this is not my lifestyle bible, I promise!) suggests that the 7 year itch is a real thing – in friendship. A friendship that is everything you want at one point, may not be at another future point in time. And that’s ok. The trick is to realise it, acknowledge it, and move on. Don’t flog a dead horse. I’m not saying walk away at the slightest hint of things not being great. But recognise when a situation has changed. It doesn’t necessarily mean not being friends anymore (and by that I mean real friends, not Facebook friends). It just means knowing that the intensity of your relationship has passed and can’t be recreated.
That leads me on to friends not being there for you at a time of need. There’s a lot of truth in the old saying “treat other people as you would want to be treated”. I’m not always the best friend to have on board. I don’t think any of us are always the best we can possibly be. Life and work and money gets in the way. But there are some circumstances where you know you would be there for a person, even if it’s just to check in and see how they’re doing. And it’s not unreasonable to expect the same in return.Going back to how easy it is to stay in touch with people, a text or a Facebook message is quick and easy to send, and can mean a lot to a person having a rough time. Feeling uncared for by the very people who should be there for you hurts. If you’re in a horrible, miserable, challenging or upsetting situation, the last thing you need is the extra emotion that comes with feeling like your pals don’t have your back.
I know. I’ve been there.
On the plus side, challenging times separate the wheat from the chaff (another cliché for you). It’s fairly easy to be a friend when times are easy; when it’s all about having fun and going out and light hearted laughs. But real true binding friendship happens when times are tough. When you need to be a rock for someone. When you need them to know that you’re there. When you can honestly say you’re supporting them in the same way you would want them to support you.
To be able to let go of a friendship, for whatever reason, is an admirable quality, and one that comes with time. To reach that destination I think you probably have to travel through anger, bitterness and disbelief first. It’s a journey that can be long and arduous. Just make sure you have real friends around you for the ride.
Thanks, as always, for reading! x