It is the expectation during our development years to have friends. As a young child, we fight with our friends and learn how to forgive and grow up. As teenagers, we greatly value our friendships and the more the better. In junior high and high school, it is about being well liked and being popular or liked by many. We connect on a sister or brotherhood level with our friends and look forward to being friends through our adulthood.
Some friendships grow into our young adult years and are simply there due to the need for longevity or because they meet our current needs, or because there are few other choices. Some friendships grow apart as situations and circumstances such as marriage and children change. Friendships grow stronger or weaken as a result of distance as well as the gaps that are formed by maturing at varying rates or by becoming more educated. Others die due to a unforgivable act or conflict. Most people are usually aware of reasons for a diminished friendship or the growth of friendship and most everyone knows friendships, just like any other relationship, requires work and effort. It takes effort to not only maintain those friendships, but also to grow. Friendships grow by experiencing things together, both good and bad and good friends are there for you to celebrate the good times with and to be there for you in the bad times as a shoulder to cry on or to build strength. Everyone wants friends because loneliness is a scary thing.
It’s difficult to write about the characteristics of what makes up a good friend or a bad friend since everyone has different needs. Friends that are only present during the good times and are missing during the bad times are not considered great friends. Friends that use you for what you have, such as your money, your toys, your other friends, or family are not good friends because they have a selfish or ulterior motive rather than getting to know you and being liked by you. Friends that don’t value your friendship above others, or those that talk bad about you behind your back are not friends, although they might be just learning what is good and acceptable in a friendship. They are self-serving, attempting to win the friendship over of someone else at your expense. Friends who are not there for you during a time of need to offer emotional or other type of support are not real friends, unless they’re just away on vacation or are unreachable. Although they may have their reasons for distancing themselves, if not communicated, it appears to one side to be self-serving and not a strong friend; a very disappointing place to be in for the friend in need.
Some friends require constant contact or communications to consider them close and others require gifts or the remembrance of certain dates or events, such as their birthday, holidays, or recognition of other life changing events. Some friends can go weeks or months without contact and pick up right where they left off. Essentially, every one is different and the importance of these things are learned by each throughout the friendship. I am not a regular gift giver, but I always try to wish everyone a happy birthday either via phone, unless they are a very close friend to me in physical vicinity and it also depends upon what is going on in my life financially. If I were a regular gift giver and decided one year to not give gifts, then one might suspect something is wrong with either my finances, my mood, or our friendship. Giving gifts can be a great part of friendship, but shouldn’t be the basis for the friendship in itself.
Real friendships take awhile to form, as you get to know the other person. You may find the person that has become your friend might be emotionally toxic or that you are not available to provide the level of support they need. Some friends or people are just negative and while their presence may satisfy one need (as in cure the loneliness), they might suffer in the contents or the basis of the friendship. For example, I had one friend who complained constantly. Our meetings and conversations rarely involved positive conversations or a contributor or requirement for the fun to take place, therefore she was considered a toxic friend, as she did not bring anything valuable to the relationship but caused more strain than good. On the surface, she was a cheater, complainer, shopaholic, and pessimist. On the other hand, she leaned on me to help solve her problems, she relied on me for my opinion, and she had time to enjoy fun together. It gave me joy to help solve someone’s problems. At the end of the day, she couldn’t return the favors when in a position to do so.
While its fair to say one shouldn’t expect their friends to give on the same level or to be there you for you just because you were there for them, it’s natural to expect it and it is often a potential motivator for helping friends. Not only because you may need the help one day, but also because you genuinely care about the well being and happiness of your friend.
What is friendship? It is a relationship between two people where they value each others’ presence, opinion, and interaction in their life. It is natural to want to have closeness with someone who is not your mate, your Mother, your Sister, or your other half. It is a person you can learn from and with and trust that they will be there for you in a time of need. They are someone you can rely on for help, companionship, a biased opinion, or educated reference for problem solving, or just someone to waste time with doing nothing or growing together experiencing fun things. They are there for you through breakups, relationship problems, and offer sound advice. They call you out when you lie to yourself and they are often relied upon and happy to hear from. Their company is enjoyable and they are missed when gone.
When you think a person is your friend and then find they are not really your friend is heartbreaking. It’s usually heartbreaking since it involves betrayal or disappointment since things did not go as expected. What is also troubling is finding out you don’t like your childhood friends as you grow into adulthood, but you tolerate them due to an ideal that you think you must remain friends with them for longevity purposes or other reasons. Losing a childhood friend is almost like losing a family member and possibly worse, depending upon the closeness of the relationship.
What must be looked at is the 1) reason for the friendship; 2) value of the friendship; 3) reason for the loss and 4) actions towards growing or dissolving the friendship. If two people agree their friendship is no longer of value, it is because of a disagreement and both parties have agreed the disagreement cannot be resolved and therefore the friendship must die. Both parties go through their grieving process and one or both may change their mind and find the loss is greater in hurt than the friendship itself; or they may decide the friendship caused more harm than good to their lives. In this case, they will move on with their lives without each other and take their lessons learned and experiences and seek out friends that can meet the need the other friend couldn’t.
At any rate, friendships are valuable relationships that require nurturing, trust, kindness, as well as an occasional argument or two to grow stronger. Some require courtrooms.
Some friendships that start during childhood and end in adulthood are concerning because something has gone wrong psychologically with their friend or because one is finally becoming aware of or has been taught to recognize psychological deficiencies with another. These cases are difficult to mend because the trained and skilled person recognizes mental superiority in comparison to his/her friend and while they long to help their friend, they are frustrated by their friends’ deficiencies. When those inabilities are basic actions such as compassion, trust, and doing the right thing for one another, then obviously the friendship breaks and its over and the person in awareness goes on in concern and heartbreak, while the other goes on disordered.
I had a friend whom I’d known since I was 11. We remained friends for nearly 20 years despite the distance and the varied circumstances or differences in personal relationships and roles such as Motherhood. When those experiences could be shared, the friendship grew apart due to a disagreement in style; one was more refined with higher education, a profession, and higher expectations, while the other appeared to be abusive, alcoholic, with poor skills as a wife and mother. She didn’t grow as I had. She naturally became a memory, but the pain still exists because I accepted her for the way she was. The breakdown of the friendship occurred not only due to their differences in how they carried themselves, but also because it came down to a point of proving reliability and the friend failed.
So, I guess childhood friendships won’t last forever unless they can openly communicate and celebrate their differences, as well as manage conflicts as they grow into young and mature adults.
As Adult Friends, you must be able to carry on adult conversations and enjoy time reminiscing if you were childhood friends. Sometimes its fun to even do the things you did as a child together with your own children, but if one differs greatly from the other and doesn’t find enjoyment in those activities, then it doesn’t mean their friendship has to end, but it means the friends must adapt to the changes in each other.
For example, I had one childhood friend I’d go visit every six months. I enjoyed spending time with my friend for the weekend. She’d put her family role on hold while I visited or incorporated me into their activities; her life looked fun, someone I’d want to still be friends with. When I moved back to be around my friend, I found I still enjoyed her company. Something changed and that something was called Motherhood. I became a Mother and naturally I’d observe the skills of Mothers around me because it was my practice to surround myself with positive influences. My friend did things I greatly disagreed with such as using profanities around her children, carrying on in a drunken state, and not caring for a household the way I expected a stay at home Mother should. Gossiping about and with her husbands’ co-workers wives. While I relied upon her for emotional support during my time of need, I became irritated by her lifestyle and our friendship eventually ended. She had not changed much from before. She was very committed to her husband, seemingly abusive and childish in her ways, and not displaying positive characteristics of an independent woman. It wasn’t the fact that I was a professional, educated, working, single Mother and she was a stay at home Mom, it was her childish, self-serving, and spoiled ways that became irritating. I never had an opportunity to share with her that from the outside looking in at the age of 30, she appeared to be the same spoiled brat with the same bad attitude she had when she was 15.
Some grow and some don’t and it is the gap between the two that caused the breakdown in friendship. It may have came down to an Educated Single Mom vs. Stay at Home Mother/Wife and a comparison of households’ cleanliness and order or just an interpersonal need to feel stronger and better as a means of championing my owns self for my accomplishments while dealing with a relationship setback. I had a natural need to compare her to myself and although I could’ve lived with her flaws and enjoyed her company, I was devastated by the fact she failed me in a time of need, as with my other friends.