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.