Written by: Jenny Smith
There is a lot of emphasis in our culture about the significance of primary relationships, whether it’s partners or spouses and how painful it can be when these relationships go through difficulties or end. There is however, little consideration about the impact of long term friendships ceasing even though this a fairly common experience particularity as you age.
In the school playground, there is much talk of best friends and girls in particular can fall in and out of favour with each other, which can really take its toll on their self-esteem and confidence. As we mature, there seems to be an unwritten rule that says we will manage our friendships and not run into difficulties and so when challenges arise and break up happens, they can feel confusing and very unsettling for those involved.
What are friendships?
Friendships like relationships are centered around certain things: you enjoy each other’s company, trust each other, enjoy doing the same things, share the same values, laugh at the same jokes and so on. As with any long term relationship, there are common reasons why long term friendships become pressured and it can be helpful to understand the typical tests that you might face in this situation.
Pressure on relationships
Lifestyles and subsequently personal values might change. One of you might make a decision that takes your lifestyle down a new road. For example, if one of you has a baby and your friendship was based on lots of socialising and late nights, you will both have to adapt in order for the friendship to survive.
Similarly if you are both single and then one of you meets a new partner, there will need to be an effort on both sides to acclimatise yet still prioritise the relationship. Like with partners, our friends‚Äô decisions and behaviours can trigger unresolved issues to rise to the surface and these need to be dealt with sensitively and kindly so that they do not spike the friendship. Reminding yourself that it is natural to have both negative and positive feelings about your friend and finding ways to process these feelings, is a mature gift that you can give the both of you.
How many friends do you need?
Sometimes people’s needs around friendships go through changes and whilst in earlier years, a person may want lots of people around them, there may be stages in life where just a handful of friends feels much more preferable. If a person is going through a lot personally, they may only be able to handle being in communication with a few people and need to really reduce their friends to a tight inner circle.
Just a season?
Some friendships really are just for a season and whilst it may be an intensely meaningful season of your life, it is important to accept and grieve a final ending of an important buddy in your life. Pretending people didn’t matter and trying to swiftly move on, only sets you up to feel less trusting and open in the future. Taking the time to express your feelings, the hurt and disappointment, will help to soothe the pain and will increase the chances of you being willing to risk letting another person matter to you. If you are hurting from a friendship breakup and finding it hard to move on, writing things in a diary or journal can help. Each day, give yourself time to write out both the pain of what you are feeling and any gratitude for the person that you can access.