What Does Friendship Look Like?

When I was a kid my best friend was my cousin. We did everything together–even sharing a bedroom during all of summer vacation. We were so inseparable that she even went with me on dates and in return I attended her prom with her. Yes, we were those attached-at-the-hip, finish-each-others-sentences kind of weirdos. She was, for all intents and purposes, my other half. I didn’t realize how entangled we were in our relationship until when I announced that I was getting married, she suddenly became very withdrawn and increasingly distant. It turned out to be the beginning of the end of our long friendship.

At family functions she rarely attended, preferring to skip off to the mall or a movie with her new friends. When I found out I was pregnant, she was the first person I called, and though she feigned a lighthearted congratulations, it was clear she wasn’t remotely happy for me. The blow that stung the worst though was when at Thanksgiving when I saw the BFF scrapbook I had made her with pictures and little mementos of all the fun things we had done together, on her bookshelf. I pulled it out to look through it and saw her staring over at me from across the room.

“Why don’t you want to talk to me anymore?”, I asked her while staring at the page, hoping she wouldn’t notice the sob I was choking back.

“I don’t know”, she replied with cold eyes. “I guess we just grew apart.”

That is when I understood that this was the punishment she was delivering to me for leaving her to get married. Things had changed forever.

Though I’ve only see her a handful of time since, 14 years later it still stings when I think about it. I feel like a part of me died back then and I’ve been nursing those wounds ever since, trying to figure out exactly where I went wrong. Here I am at 32 years old and still trying to figure friendship out.

Oh sure, I’ve had friends since then. Some really close, some casual. But for one reason or another, those friendships have always seemed to take a sudden turn off onto a dark road. They would start our burning bright and beautiful, but just as I was getting used to them, all at once they would burn out. Once again I was left feeling hurt, confused and very rejected.

After some reflection I realize that a lot of it’s my fault. Well that’s not to say that I single-handedly ruined the friendships, but I did allow the friendships to be set up on a foundation that was quaky at best. And while it’s true I’ve not managed to make to find that one BFF sort of relationship (outside that of the beautiful relationship I have with my husband), I think I have managed to hone in on some of the things I have done wrong in my past friendships:

Let myself become someone’s safety-net. I have a habit of befriended people in need. 2am and you need someone to talk to about your husband’s affair, your child’s latest struggles, a pimple in your recesses of your ear canal? I’m your gal. Need a loan? An extra pair of hands to help you around the kitchen? Found yourself without a sitter? Want a doula but don’t want to shell out the cash? Just call me! I’ll do it all for free. And while I do think it is true that these types of people are drawn to me, simply because of the fact that I can be a good listener, I can’t deny that I go looking for it because I like to be needed. If I am needed, then I am valuable. And valuable people don’t get dumped, right? ….Wrong! Actually valuable people don’t really get valued much at all. We’re just a stepping stone. And the worse thing is, we lay right down there in the ground and stick up a sign that says “step on me!”, so we really have no recourse.

Try to find friends I have everything in common with. I spent a lot of time sizing people up–their musical tastes, religious beliefs, favourite books, foods and movies–to find that perfect match for me. But what looks like a good fit on a resume, doesn’t necessarily mean will be the makings of a beautiful friendship. In fact, people just like me tend to really get on my nerves. I’m overly-analytical, more than a little obsessed with my own thoughts, and I like my own space–if you paired me up with someone just like me, chances are I wouldn’t like her at all. Sure, I like me, but hey, I kinda have to because I’m stuck with me either way.

Look for that one perfect friend. BFF, close friend, fair-weather friend, buddy, pal, acquaintance. All of these labels mean little because in reality friendships evolve and change just as we do. Who is an acquaintance one moment becomes a best friend the next and vice versa. Some of us might have those people we can call a true friend who can manage to ride along with us from third grade and on into our 80’s, but that just isn’t the norm. Most of us have a variety of people whom we have had the pleasure–and pain–of calling friends all through out our lives. Looking for that one person to meet all of our friendships needs is burdensome to any relationship.

Assume I’m not worth spending time with. After being ditched by yet another friend, I assumed I must not have anything to offer to anyone else. Which sent me right back up to number 1–trying to be the all around best friend. When that didn’t work, I gave up on trying to find friends. I shut myself away for a couple of years, and ignored other people, save the handful of people I knew online. This can become an ugly place very quickly and so it’s best to avoid letting your mind go there at all. It’s normal to have “dry spells” in our friendships, but we need to keep putting ourselves out there and make connections with real-life people.

For the first time in my life, I’ve puts the stops on looking for a best friend. Instead I’m allowing myself to be open to the friendships that may find me. Sure, I hope that perfect friend comes into my life again. Someone I can share those private jokes with, someone who will call me to ask how I am at 1 am, someone who will value my character an accept my (many) flaws.

But if it doesn’t? I’ll still be okay.

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7 thoughts on “What Does Friendship Look Like?

  1. Such a good post. I’ve been interested in how friendships have developed in entirely different ways at different stages in my life. A lot of my friends now revolve around my neighborhood, or my kids, and wouldn’t necessarily have been the people I would have gravitated to earlier in my life (but I’m glad that we’re friends now!).

    Something else I’ve thought about is how we moved a lot when I was young, and I never really developed a long-term friendship. I never had the person who knew me since preschool, and I found that it made me feel less grounded. When you don’t have anyone who goes that far back with you, what’s to keep you you? There’s no one to really hold you accountable, to call you on your pretension, except yourself, and I’m lousy at policing myself.

    Anyways, I hope you find the relationships that best suit you. And I REALLY hope that we can actually get together one of these days. I need to just pile the kids in the car and come over.

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  2. This was a great article. I’m sorry your BFF pulled away like that. I’m very thankful that my BFF and I are still close, but we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve weathered through a lot and come out stronger each time. 🙂 I do have friends who cut me out of their lives with no explanation and that totally bites.
    In any case, I am thankful that Hashem put us in each other’s path through the joys of Jewish geography. I enjoy chatting with you whenever we hang out and via e-mail. 🙂
    Hope you have a wonderful birthday tomorrow! All the best to you!

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  3. Hi! I hope you get this comment; I see you posted this a few months ago (I just found you through Twitter!). I’m also sorry to hear about your cousin; I’m glad you know you didn’t do anything wrong, though it probably feels like you did a little. I just wrote a post about losing dear friends, and your words really resonated with me. I hope it’s OK to share my post with you here. Also… I think you will find more friends, especially being so self-aware. PS: Here is the link to my post http://girlgrowingbrighter.com/2013/09/11/how-to-lose-a-dear-friend-without-even-trying/

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