As kids, it was almost as easy to change “best friends” as it was to change your outfit, (several times a day if necessary). Status was measured by who would be invited to which birthday parties and who shared nail polish. Then, as we grew and changed schools, we stayed in touch with some and lost touch with others. Now, as an adult, friendships we have maintained over time and distance may seem like they should go on forever. But, should they? Have you ever found yourself avoiding a call or meeting with an old friend even though you feel like you should get together?
Just because we have past together, do we necessarily have a future together?
Friendship is an investment in another individual. Its an investment of time, emotional and physical energy and trust. Like any investment, we expect to contribute and expect to get something in return. And, as the typical financial disclaimer goes, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Friendship is obviously more complex than a financial paradigm, but as a tool, it is actually a pretty good way to evaluate friendships. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you both equally invested? Or, do you initiate all of the emails, calls and set all of the dates and activities when you meet, or is there an exchange of ideas and planning because you are both excited about spending time together? This doesn’t have to be a 1:1 exchange, the balance shifts throughout the relationship, but successful, fulfilling relationships are not one-sided.
- Do you each continue to bring something new to the table: new authors, activities, interests, individual experiences? Or, are your conversations limited to rehashing past events and shared experiences. Reminiscing is fun, but it is not the basis for growth in a relationship*.
- Are you still invested in the relationship? Are you still putting something in or are you just taking out? Do you only meet or talk when the other person contacts you? Have you avoided calls or emails to postpone contact? If someone wrongs you terribly, it is fairly easy to discontinue a friendship, but more often the matter is much more subtle. If you find that you are disengaging, you can share your feelings with the other person, or initiate something new to revive the relationship if it really is still important to you.
Given the time commitments and constraints we face as adults, it makes sense to be very particular about our friendships. It makes sense to invest strongly in those that continue to grow and develop as we grow and develop personally. It also makes sense to discontinue or scale back on investment into those friendships that no longer work for us.
We need to allow time to make room for new friendships and associations in our lives. Have you ever found yourself thinking “I don’t want any new friends, I don’t even have time for the friends I have now!”? I’ve said that, and I’ve felt it. That’s not the type of energy I want to put out in the world, but sometimes a gal gets tired!
*There is one more category, those in-between friendships. Friendships based on the past that we feel a pull to continue, not out of obligation but desire. Sometimes its nice to have a solid connection to the past, not as a place to dwell, but as a mile marker or sign post. Treasure these friends and remember to invest with your future in mind.
This is not an all-or-nothing game, but rather one of degrees. Investing heavily in a relationship may mean getting together every week for a glass of wine or movie or sending a quick photo or text when something reminds you of that person. Maintaining a more distant relationship may mean coffee every couple of months. Both are perfectly fine, as long as both parties investments align with their return on investment.