Monday, September 6, 2010

Friends in Need...

The past week I have read no less than two articles about friendship. Which is ironic, because I have been having a lot of inner back-and-forth about how to handle a relationship with an old friend that has grown uncomfortably confining.

One article says that people change their friends every seven years, and most of our friendships are matters of convenience and proximity - such as becoming friends with the parents that attend your kid's soccer games, or in your workplace -- when you become friendly because you're in similar circumstances and share common interests. I think the term was neighbor friends actually, or something like that.

We've all had those kinds of friendships. I hazard to guess most of our 'friendships' ARE these friendships of convenience, at whatever phase in your life you are in. And when you move on, chances are most of those friendships don't last. One job I had that lasted 12 years resulted in fast friendships, but years later, only four of us are still friends, and of those four, only two of us keep in close contact, and that's pretty good, I guess. The other job I had seven years yielded good friends while I worked there who I adore, and seldom ever see. But when we talk, we seem to pick up where we left off pretty easily. With email, it's easy not to actually see one another and keep in touch.

When should you cut someone loose? Or do you never? As a person who avoids conflict and confrontation until it is absolutely essential, I'm guilty more of just... fading away until the other person gets the idea or gets bored with never getting phone calls or email returned. As I grow older I find myself less and less tolerant of the 'roles' that once defined a relationship. If a friend isn't willing to share a little give and take -- if I find myself a constant sounding board where it's always about them, I am less inclined to continue to be their counselor or Rock.

During these awful months dealing with Excy's surgery and medical issues, and imminent inevitability of having to move, I've found myself more and more impatient with a long-time friend who never seems to have much time and energy to talk unless the conversation quickly steers to her situation, which, granted, is in crisis, but to be truthful, isn't as much a crisis as ours. Also to be truthful, for the past ten years, she always seems to be in one crisis or another. I feel I am having friendship/caregiver fatigue/ burn-out and am reaching the point I have nothing left to give. I think if some situation, or some person, has you feeling sapped of energy and snarky, there's a good reason to pull back and asking yourself if it's a friendship that has finally run its course.

But with old friends, maybe it's more apt to hang in there and take a breather and see what the future holds. Any relationship has its ebbs and flows, and maintaining them can occasionally mean hanging tough. I don't give up on people easily. I guess that's why my Chinese zodiac sign is the dog -- loyal to a fault. I wouldn't want to be responsible for ending a friendship because I'm feeling more fragile these days. I think I'll listen to my inner voice, though, and take a breather from emotional vampires, no matter how long we've been friends.

9 comments:

ReformingGeek said...

It sounds like you have done well keeping up with the friends you have made over the years. I've never been good at this but I'm getting better.

I also get frustrated with the friend that always has drama and the friend that always expects you to initiate contact. That one makes me think that this friend wants you to fade away....

I have given up on a few friends here and there when the friendship was causing more stress than I was willing to accept.

Good for you, though, taking a break.

Tony Single said...

Actually, I think you may have the right idea when you talk about just fading away until the other person gets the hint. Perhaps you made to do that in this case as it'd be a lot less confrontational... and confrontation must surely not be what you need right now, especially after what you and Excy have been through of late. Here's hoping that everything resolves itself in a manner that doesn't add more strife to your days.

Chris said...

It's not me, is it?

Tam said...

Good advice you're giving yourself there. You need to take care of you and Excy right now!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Hmmmm.....I've had this discussion with myself a lot in the last few years. When you figure it all out will you let me in on it? :-)

You need to do what is best for you and your family. Priority one is you and Excy.

e said...

It is hard to be in this situation...

I hope you'll take care of yourselves and take a break from energy sappers.

Best Always.

wendy said...

Sometimes a breather is all that is needed.
nothing wrong with stepping back for a bit, strenghtening yourself and your life and your needs right now
A true friend will still be there.....
I have just moved away from my best friend of 20 years. I miss her so much. I feel sometimes due to our "proximity" as you mentioned, things have changed some,
I feel a loosening of that link that always held us together.
I believe however, that we will still always be there for each other in the great scheme of things.

You have heard the saying...people come into our lives for a reason or for a season.

dana said...

It has been said that the cruelest memories come from childhood, and that is correct. But I still remember a "friend" explaining to me why we couldn't be friends any longer. We were in our 30's, and she said "Dana, I"m healthy and I like to play tennis and do things that I enjoy. You're too sick to do that." I must add that she told me this in the middle of a parking lot, after I had walked up to her with a smile, and my arms extended for a hug.

Now? I know that what she said was true, but so cruelly delivered. I avoid physical friendships due to the truth of her statement. Without the internet, I have no one but my wonderful husband and loving little fur-child.

Traci said...

I have been pondering friendships as well. You do have incredible insight on the subject, but having understanding about what's going on, doesn't necessarily make a decision easier. I am finding that I make friendship way too complicated. I recently stumbled upon a quote by C.S. Lewis. which expresses a simple way to look at friendship. "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one."

Maybe men have an insight we don't have on friendship, I'll have to share what I am going through with Alex.

I do hope that things get better with Excy. I am guilty of being one of those people who gets caught up in my mess. But one good thing is when someone writes a blog such as this, I stop and check myself. Because of this blog I am reminded to be a better friend. Thank you for being so transparent.

Since we have talked about movies before, I have a suggestion of a wonderful movie Alex and I just watched. It's called Temple Grandin. http://www.templegrandin.com/