That’s What Friends Are For

The beauty and the peril of friendship is that it’s a relationship that is totally voluntary. No strings attached. Unlike those relationships that bind us by blood, duty, obligation, and love, we choose our friends. The only bonds in friendship are mutual attraction and a shared desire to be in the relationship.

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Friendships come in infinite varieties: yoga friends, misery loves company friends, Facebook friends, fair-weather friends, bosom buddies, work related friends, party friends, work out friends, and many more. There is no one size fits all friendship. We attract friends into our lives for all kinds of reasons and sometimes only for a season. But whether they last a season or a lifetime, our friendships help us grow.

Juanita and Sarah had been best friends for more than 25 years.  They met in middle school and attended high school together. Even though they attended different colleges they stayed in touch, visiting each other as often as possible. Once they graduated they went their separate ways each living in different cities. They corresponded, talked on the phone, and saw each other whenever they could. Because they were emotionally close, geographical distance never threatened their relationship.

Juanita said Sarah was the closest thing to a sister she had ever known. They were inseparable. They stood up in each other’s weddings, hosted baby showers for each other, mourned the loss of loved ones together, and supported each other through serious illnesses and even through a divorce…without a doubt they were best friends forever.

When Sarah told Juanita in a late night phone conversation,  “You haven’t been calling me as much as you used to, I guess I can’t count on you anymore.”  Juanita thought she was kidding. True, since she had remarried and taken on the responsibilities of a blended family, she had not been as available to Sarah. But what about all the times she had gone out of her way to be there for her; like when Sarah got fired from her job, or when she was diagnosed with lupus, or when her father died? It slowly began to dawn on Juanita that the friendship had become lopsided. When Sarah was in need Juanita had always been there to help. Now that she was not as available, Sarah put the relationship on the line.

Their relationship had always seemed balanced because Sarah was needy and Juanita needed to be needed.  Juanita was a giver and Sarah was a receiver. We tend to think that if a giver ends up with a receiver there is balance in the relationship – but this is an illusion. Two people out of balance do not create a balanced relationship. Eventually the one who needs to be needed asks for support, or the one who likes to be given to has something she wants to offer. When that happens it throws things off. If you’re not mindful, the shift in dynamics can threaten the friendship.

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Instead of relying on our friendships for balance we need to balance the ability to give and receive within our own personalities.

There is a certain energy that attracts friends to each other. Opposites do attract. Like magnets we tend to attract those who possess traits and qualities we would like to possess, or traits and qualities we are unaware we already possess. Needy people tend to attract people who love to give but who have a hard time receiving. Those who love to give tend to attract those who love to receive but have a hard time offering their gifts and talents to others.

To grow, each friend needs to become more like the other. Over time, if the friendship is working its magic, and you are making the effort, you will start to change. But here’s the peril. When you change even if it’s for the better, and your friend doesn’t make the adjustment, the balance shifts and you’re out of sync with each other.

So how do we restore balance when this happens? First of all try not to put your relationship on the line. It can be a deal breaker. In a dynamic relationship nothing stays the same. In order to sustain a friendship there has to be mutual interest and attraction as well as a willingness on both parts to maintain the connection.

When the dynamics of friendship change we have to make certain adjustments. Instead of trying to relate in the same ways you always have, if you’re like Sarah you may have to give more and ask for less. If you’re like Juanita you may have to give less and ask for more.

Can your friendship survive the change in circumstances that life inevitably introduces or that personal growth brings? Do friendships last a lifetime? What is true friendship anyway? Why is it so difficult to let go once we realize we’ve outgrown a friend? Is it really okay to end a friendship that’s gone bad or one that has stagnated?

I would love to hear what you know about the answers to some of these questions and to hear how your friendships they have helped you grow.

Namaste

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10 responses to “That’s What Friends Are For

  1. My friends have changed throughout the years sometimes due to family dynamics, but mostly due to my inability to “entertain” and/or “tolerate” certain behaviors which aren’t conducive to my lifestyle. But one thing’s for sure, I have no regrets! I recently shyed away from a “friend” who always expects accommodation but is NEVER accomodating. She’s single, works 2 jobs, takes classes every now and then, and is very involved in her church. I’m married w/2 children (whom I homeschool), employed full-time outside our home with pets! We decided to swim for fitness and found a suitable place nearby. This friend’s schedule only allowed her to swim during the middle of the week, I accomodated this for several months. When classes were over, she “could not” accomodate anything I proposed. When she invited me her birthday party at the last minute, I told her I could not make it since we were celebrating my daughter’s birthday that same day in the city. This “friend” actually asked if we could stop by her party first and THEN go into the city. Thats when I shut down. She is unaccomodating. At first I thought back to when I was single and thought of no one except self, but then realized that she is just a common taker. So I stopped giving. We must clip our “ends” to keep on growing. Thanx for Great the article!

  2. Being an only child caused me to forge hard friendships at an early age. It took a great deal of time, pain, and experience to weed some out. For the most part, though, the same attributes have cemented life long friendships. I believe as I released some of my selfish behavior, it enabled me to receive as much as I thought I was giving. It might be that I just began to give from the heart as opposed to attempting to please. At any rate as I mature the value of friend increases. Through the years, my true friends and I have made the adjustments. I do agree that work is required.

    • Friendship is such an important relationship. It is hard to release the ones we’ve outgrown. As we mature the value of friendship increases and giving from the heart becomes so much easier. Thank you for sharing.

  3. This article was just what I needed. I value my friendships like I would landscaping a lawn. There are some fine things and some de-weeding. There is often times a lot of work but when it has been all said and done, it had been well worth the time & patience.

    Well my best friend from my teenaged years has been busy with his pursuits and family. We used to play football for hours and cruise for babes. I was the grounded one and he was the artist.

    But this fine article reinforces what I feel that seasons change, and with those seasons we must make our changes as well.

    • It’s like taking off your winter coat when summer comes, or taking off your sandals when it snows. You don’t have to discard them but put them on when it’s time. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Friendships can last a lifetime even when we have to let a friendship go. After over 15 years, I let go of my two best friends from high school. I often think of them and the memories we shared and where things went wrong. Did I let them go or did they let me go? Yes it still hurts but I know it was the right thing for me, it opened up space to build a relationship with my new best friend. A friendship where we both choose to invest in each others strengths and weaknesses.

    • This is an important awareness, that friend ships of the heart can last a lifetime even when for what ever reason you are no longer in contact with each other. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Belinda M. Cunningham

    As always, your blog is enlightening, thought provoking and enriching. It has provided me with insight as it relates to ALL of my relationships. Thank you!

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