The Mileage of Friendship

“Who says? Who says friendship lasts forever? We’d all like it to, maybe. But maybe [pause] it just wears out like everything else – like tires. There’s just so much mileage in them and then you’re riding around on nothing but air.” ~Gregg Lindroff (film Tequila Sunrise, 1988)

Does friendship come with an expiration date? I’ve thought a lot about the above quote over the years as I have let go of many of my old friendships. It has been a hard journey to come to terms that for various reasons – mostly to do with emotional health – my old friends and I will not stand the test of time.

Even with this realization, I still believe that friendships can last and make it through rough times. I was reminded of this by a recent article in the Huffington Post entitled “5 Secrets of People with Lifelong Friends” written by Catherine Pearson.

I found this article to be poignant at a time when the old friends that I had come to terms with as having no future resurfaced after a long absence. The five secrets served as a reminder and a good evaluation.

The first secret, “They Keep Their Expectations in Check”.

This is true for life and when it comes to friendships I failed miserably at this. I know that I had too high of expectations of my friends as well of as my role as a friend. A friend isn’t all things. And some friends you can share vulnerabilities with and others you can’t. I learned this the hard way and when I began to adjust my exceptions of my friends and myself (equally important), my eyes were opened to the realities of our friendship. It was only through shifting responsibility and well, keeping expectations in check that I could really see if the friendship was a healthy one.

This shift in my behaviors helped me deal with #2, “They’re Adaptable.” As I made changes in my behaviors it became painfully obvious how adept our friendship was at handling them. Even small changes like not ‘chasing’ after them and taking on less responsibility of staying in contact (example, sending e-mails, traveling to see them) began to takes its toll. As I adapted, there was little to no room for embracing the new present.

And #3, again becomes an extension of #1, “They Make Time for Each Other”. It turns out that I was the one making time/plans and my friends didn’t have the time. Unanswered short e-mails of ‘how are you?’ to making the plans and literally getting stood up (not fun when it involves long distance) allowed me to see that I did a good chunk of the work. The time I made for them left me feeling drained – leaving little to no energy for friends who honored their commitments.

And lastly, #4 “They appreciate just how unusual it is to have lifelong friends…#5 But they know not to hold on to friendship just for the sake of it.”

My old friends are from school days. And maybe the reason why I held on so long. It is rare and special to have friends who have been through a lot of stuff for so long. Many of them were my lifeline when I was dealing with the abuse at home. They were who I turned to when I needed an outlet, to have fun and numb the pain.

But holding on for ‘holding on sake’ isn’t healthy, it would be repeating the patterns of my relationship with my parents. This is maybe the hardest part, letting go of friends who, at one time, were my lifeboat. I have fun memories, a not total dreary childhood, because of them. I am grateful for them.

“I think it happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. And so you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.” ~Nicholas Sparks, True Believer

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16 thoughts on “The Mileage of Friendship

  1. Afternoon TR, this post really resonates with me. Just like you, I had expectations of friends that really weren’t realistic in all cases. Some people just need us for mirrors or affirmation of themselves, or when things are in crisis, so we can run to their aid. These are all good things in a friendship; but then such people back way off, and we’re forced to think about what they, and we, are doing. My best friend from high school is like that. I held on way longer, I invested lifelong love and connection in her; she just doesn’t do the same. Several other friends have dropped out of the picture along the way, and many have moved away and never kept up contact. It’s painful, especially for ACoNs for whom friendships were lifelines against FOOs who treated us as expendable. When friends do that, it’s a carving knife following the same old deep groove. I always had expectations of people that were “too high.” Thinking now, some of that was excessive, in compensation of having parents who didn’t care about me; but some of that was just simple expectation of mutuality. Like you describe above–if you travel to see someone and they stand you up? It’s NOT expecting too much that they’d show up or abjectly apologize! When contact is one-sided, and we stop doing that work, we find out whether or not we matter to people. That one is hard. The biggest thing in my book is #3. Making time. W/o that, even if it’s only to Skype or to get together once or twice a year, there’s not much there, IMHO. So happy to see a new post from you, I always love your posts. xo CS

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    • Hi CS!
      Thank you! I love your comments b/c they add so much. Great points: people may need us at different points in their life. It is a toggle between knowing what type of friends we are for each other and being used. It is extremely painful for the very reason you state: “…especially for ACoNs for whom friendships were lifelines against FOOs who treated us as expendable.” Dealing with what was happening at home put friends on another level, in many respects, an unfair level. That course correction and putting expectations of friendships in a more realistic frame opens us up to seeing things in its entirety – “we find out whether or not we matter to people.” That question was answered. I’ve struggled with these old friends since beginning this journey and I am putting to rest the friendship even with their resurfacing this month. I’m able to understand what happened but still keep the fun memories with me, b/c they helped me through some really difficult times. xxTR

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      • Great post! I, too, am experiencing this issue. One friend, I’ve been in the process of “ranking” her in my life and I now realize the ranking is becoming a -1. In the past year, I’ve really have been taken aback by her behavior towards me and I now realize it more than likely has always been that way but now I’m not taking it like I use to. I’ve “always” been the one to make the effort to travel to see her but now I see it’s not reciprocated. She has not been to see me in almost 3.5 years and I can probably count on two hands how many times I’ve made the effort to make sure I see her if I’m in her area. Now, she’s moved farther away and I can’t do it anymore. I’m tired of it being on my dime. I’ve stood by her through break ups and divorces but I can’t say the same for my trials. I don’t even think she knows who I am and we’ve been friends for almost 38 years. Anyway, it helps to know that others are experiencing this like you have written so I don’t feel like I’m nuts or “reading” into it. In some ways it’s easier to deal with the friendship stuff versus the family stuff because it’s not family but it still hurts to think that in my mind I made up this “friendship” to be more than it really was…two friends who happened to meet on a tennis court in junior high and it probably should have ended after that….good memories that I will hold onto but not the friendship. I really enjoy your blog!

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        • Hi!
          Is this the same friend you knew since 11 years you mentioned below?

          I can relate to taking on a huge part of the ‘work’/responsibility. I have struggled like you. I think as I have been processing my feelings (since this post) and looking at how I naturally react to situations I am finding that some behaviors on my end needed to be adjusted. One is the expectations of my friends were too high. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ friend. The other is that I can start to set boundaries directly with them. It isn’t easy and it has taken me a while to really see this and begin to set them. I hear you on this. Keeping the friendship ‘alive’ is a lot of burden. I’m starting with boundaries and mentally letting go of the ‘idea’ I’ve had in my mind. I wish you the best in this.

          Thank you for sharing your story. It helps to know that I am not alone. xx

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  2. It was painful to admit to myself that many of my friends only wanted me as a cheerleader. Even more painful when I’d set boundaries, like please don’t call me while I’m working, and those boundaries were repeatedly violated. They would set boundaries, but I wasn’t allowed to do so. It was also difficult to accept that all I had in common with some friends was the past; we had nothing to connect us in the present. Thanks for pointing out the making plans and being stood up. Interestingly enough, I did have one dear friend who frequently cancelled, but she also had a lot of health problems. She was very understanding when I had to cancel. Other friends would be offended if I cancelled, while they expected me to understand their reasons… I had a lot of friends too much like the N… probably because I know how to interact with Ns. I like this list. Thanks for sharing it, TR.

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    • That is interesting you bring up the role we played in friendships. I play the punching bag and something I think I have allowed throughout the friendship. That has also been maybe a revelation I have had that you mention – we have nothing that connects us in the present. It is hard to see some of those same patterns from our FOO repeat itself with friends as they are so important, as family of choice. xx

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  3. I think you’ve touched on part of why I find friendships to be tiring. I think I’d often take on too much of my friends’ emotions and then feel guilty when it wore me out. Conversely, I also had too high expectations of some friends and I’d get angry when they fell short.

    I do feel envy of people who are able to cultivate friendships, but even many of them aren’t healthy or superficial. I think I have the opposite of rose colored glasses when it comes to friendship because of my own family history and I mostly try to make peace with the fact that it’s really is ok for me to not have a million friends and feel “popular.” In fact, just writing that makes me realize that to some degree that high school desire to be loved by all people sort of never goes away, we just channel it differently.

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    • That was the pattern I saw in myself as well. Give, give, give unhealthly and then get resentful when I couldn’t take. I can understand that, I wanted to be liked and knowing it is natural is ok. I think after we have learned about emotional health we also realized at what expense are we willing to be liked. I think we learn that was desired (especially from ‘not good enough’ feeling at home) and understanding there is a price to pay for it and now, we have a limit on that. xx

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  4. I’ve had very “high” expectations for friends who could not keep up with the changes in my life. I appreciate reading that list because it helps me understand “my part” in ending a friendship. I had assumed that they would transition with me and we’d be friends forever. But it didn’t work out because it couldn’t work out. I had no right to expect anyone to travel the same path as myself and question their assumptions and beliefs, too. The cowardly thing I did was “avoid” them, rather than being honest. I let our friendships fade away and that has bothered me. The problem was me, not them–but how could they know that if I didn’t say so?

    I’ve become intimate with online friends who are involved in the same personal work as myself. This seems to be a better fit. Some of my friendships go back over ten years and this has been a great comfort. I’ve met many of these women in person which “seals” the relationship, too. So I have to say that online relationships can be very grounding and satisfying.

    As I’ve aged, my relationships online and off have become more valuable and I don’t take them for granted the way I did in my youth. Maybe when you get my age, you realize life won’t go on forever and the best things in your life are people. I take better care of my relationships than I used to…but that’s because i made mistakes and regret letting some relationships end too soon; and hanging on to other relationships too long (like my ex, for example. I shoulda ended that friendship before we married. ha! You just knew I’d find a way to insult him, right?) xxCZ

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    • I appreciate what you have shared because it challenges me to consider another point of view. Indeed, when I made adjustments is it really fair to assume they will change as well and go down the same path? Well, I had hoped for the reason that some of the similar changes I have made have strengthened other friendships. But this is not fair to ask of someone, that is an excellent point. With my school friends I think that is very much how the relationship was established and what I was allowing for so long. There has never been another way of functioning until recently. And I struggle today and you have given me something to consider and self-reflect upon. Thank you.

      I can understand how you feel about past friendships. I have regretted what has happened in the past and I know that the friendships that have ended was also my unwillingness and fear to say what I thought and felt. My friends are my family of choice – online and offline – and going through this recovery continues to teach me about friendship. xx

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  5. Hi TR,
    A very thought provoking post. It would be lovely if we could have stayed friends with people from our past. There is something about having someone who shares a history with you, but ultimately, it comes down to what CS said: mutuality (and genuine interest in the welfare of the other). Without it, no friendship can survive. That has been my experience too, as you know.

    Hugs,

    Kara xx

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    • Hi Kara,
      Thank you. It does come down to mutuality. Indeed, we’ve learned that we can’t ‘make’ someone be interested or care no matter what we do or how we behave. Hugs, TR

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  6. Great post! I’ve been totally struggling with this for the past six months. One friend I have known since I was 11 and I’m finally realizing I’ve been a better friend to her than she has been to me. It was always convenient for her to cancel at the last minute so she could go on a date or it’s okay for her to not follow through on future plans and she would just forget but I would not. My expectation I guess was too high but if you make plans and it doesn’t work out, a phone call is in order. Anyway, thanks for the post. It’s exactly what I needed to read.

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    • Hi Kel Ann,
      Great to hear from you! Thank you. I totally understand getting cancelled at the last minute. I think with friends since childhood/adolescence we’ve established a pattern and changing that pattern puts a lot of stress on a friendship – for them and us. There is something about older friends and I am beginning to wonder if I need to have more of a deeper discussion with them because of how we operate has become ‘ingrained’ (I’m still going back and forth in my mind as I write). I have let go of any notions of ‘saving’ the friendship but I wonder if my next step would be more for me than for them. I do understand that respect needs to be there mutually and a base to which true friendship is founded. xx

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