Why can’t we be friends?

Is your friendship based on reality or history?

We all envy those stories of lifelong friendships. “So-and-So” has been friends with “So-and-So” for twenty-plus years. Collectively, we celebrate these achievements knowing firsthand that friendships can be hard. I know this feeling all too well.

A few years ago I lost what I thought was a very close friend. We had weaved in and out of each others lives since high school. It is certainly a fair argument to say that we have a limited friendship pool as children and gravitate to whomever lives in the same neighborhood out of necessity, especially pre-internet days, much like mine. However, make no mistake, it wasn’t simply a matter of convenience, but we were steeped in common interests. We grew up in the same small town, both were musicians who talked about nothing but music, and shared many other interests.

As life pressed on , and our lives took us into very different directions, we managed to not only stay in contact with one another but stay involved in each others lives. She stood up in my wedding, as I did hers. We spent many late nights sharing our ambitions and vision for our lives. This trend stayed on a steady clip well into our 30’s. However, life can get messy and ours did. We both experienced intense personal turmoil; one a divorce, the other struggling with chronic depression. Happily I report that we both made it through our difficulties with our lives intact but changed forever. We no longer related to one another in the same way but we were still great friends. Or were we? One day, we had a minor argument and without warning she just up and left my life.

Not only did this sting, it hurt! Her life took a sudden shift and there was no place left for me in it. I lived in the grief of this revelation for a few months, mourning the friendship. One day, while I was pondering it all and wondering what the heck happened, it dawned on me, we had nothing in common anymore. For the last several years we had a relationship of merely history. I was blown away by this reality because historical friends are so comfortable. They are effortless, easy, and in most cases, easy to misconstrued. Not only was this no longer a fit for either of us but I realized I hadn’t enjoyed the friendship for quite some time. She could no longer be a good friend to me. We were simply too different. This didn’t make her bad, wrong, or evil. It simply was what it was. There was nothing left there. Think about how hard it is to keep a marriage together when two people are (hopefully) constantly growing and it is our job to keep coming back together. It’s no wonder we don’t always have the wherewithal to weather that through friendships as well, at times. Coming to this reconciliation of my mind and heart made the transition of letting go that much easier. I was no longer hurt. Relief would probably be a better description.

Was this situation salvageable? Possibly but probably not. Is it goodbye forever? Maybe , but maybe not. Life and maturity have taught me to remain open to any possibility. However, it is a lesson learned. It is important to look around you to see exactly how fruitful your connections are with the ones you lend your valuable time to. If they are not what you need them to be, ask yourself “why?”. Maybe you are holding on to some friends simply out of convenience or history. Ending a relationship is never easy and it may not even be necessary to cut all ties but it is important to live in reality. It helps to manage expectation and cut out any of the false illusions of friendship because you yourself and the people you care for deserve better.


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