The time came when Grace asked herself “what am I doing?” She was getting ready for a night out with friends and realized she would rather be at home reading. Grace did go out that night and quickly became bored and her focus drifted. “What’s wrong with me?” she thought “I’ve had these friends for twenty years.” That led to a light bulb moment for Grace – she was not the same person she had been twenty years ago. Maybe these friendships had run their course?
At The Nook, issues or themes come in waves – one month will bring a flood of calls regarding grief and trauma. The next month, clients reach out with parenting issues or marital troubles. Without rhyme or reason, areas of concern ebb and flow. This month, the repeated topic has been the challenge of friendships.
Layla called seeking guidance on how to help her eight-year-old daughter manage her feelings and behaviour with a frenemy. On a daily basis this little girl was named The Best Friend, only to be “broken up” with by the next recess. Marika, a whip smart litigator in her early 40’s felt badly turning down social invites from friends she had known since law school. She was bored to tears listening to more gossip and the same recycled conversations they’d been having for fifteen years. Angela felt left out and hurt when she was repeatedly excluded from dinner parties and social engagements, despite being a frequent host.
Regardless of age, friendships can be tricky territory. As we grow and change, so too will our relationships. Pursuing different interests or lifestyles may lead us in new directions that our friends don't share. For many clients, achieving sobriety means that weekends or evenings centered on cocktails and drinking are downright dull. Friendships may also grow and transform. Perhaps the friendship based on weekly play dates at the park with the kids turns into a few dinner dates each year to catch up and stay connected. The group that you had brunch with every Sunday may become a once a month coffee date. This is a healthy, mature way for friendships to evolve.
Different categories of friends will enhance and enrich our social life. There’s the Movie Friends, the Deepest Secret friends, the Mommy Friends, the Neighbour Friends. Not everyone needs to be a bosom bestie. What I’ve noticed is that we’re most at risk for hurt feelings when our expectations don’t match up with our reality. Consider these quick tips to assess your friendships:
1. If I had no shared history with this person & I met them today for the first time would I choose to pursue a friendship?
2. Have I been a good friend? Do I listen and share? Do I keep up my end of reaching out and connecting? Am I repeatedly being a supporter and not the supportee (or vice versa)? Am I the host, but never the guest?
3. Am I striking up new friendships with people whose company I enjoy?
4. If I am repeatedly excluded from gatherings, should I be letting this friendship drift? Are my expectations realistic?
5. Have I outgrown some friends or drifted apart and need to shuffle up the ‘friend category’? Less frequent contact doesn’t mean the friendship is weaker, just different.