ON A DEEPER NOTE: FRIENDSHIPS, SOME THOUGHTS


Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, the other is gold... I know, so basic right? But I really think there is something to be said about friendships, especially as I become more of an adult-I am 28 but it's a work in progress- it has become more and more apparent to me that friendships have been changing since my earlier years. And I think for the most part these have been good, necessary changes. A little history of my friendships to preface; mine really started as most seem to in childhood, I had my school friends, family friends, summer friends, neighborhood friends- and leading up until about 4th grade this really did hold true. In middle school however, I did not have the best luck, it was so rough and I was an easy target for being bullied, despite having a few friends who were very supportive and also not that popular by the majority of the class standards. Fortunately I had a lot of self-confidence, or perhaps just a lot of hope, and despite the negative experience, I felt good going into high school. There I made some of my longest friendships and first learned what friendship really is; beyond our Xanga pages (did anyone else have Xanga?), or coordinating Abercrombie and Fitch outfits, and BFF necklaces, but also jealously, betrayal, loyalty, confidence, real love, trust, endurance and support. I truly believe there is no better feeling in this world to know you can trust someone, for ten years, a couple months, a weekend or a lifetime. Friendships make up the fabric of what makes us human, as we need our social relationships to be functional in life. And having one good friend is more than enough, but what happens sometimes to those friends? What are some of the painful realities when friendships change or we face conflict with the people we cherish? How can we adjust or rethink some of the common dips that happen in friendships? I don't give advice but here are some thoughts. Enjoy and let me know what you think. 
#Besties4life, we all have or have had our #1 BFF, head bitch in charge, or considered family. It's been a thing since the beginning for me, the expectation to have one #1 friend in charge of everything. The assumed maid of honor, the girl responsible for knowing my favorite flower (it's a peony BTW) and being in our MySpace top 8. Ever since being a little girl I always made point to thoroughly define who this person was, despite them often changing or sometimes competing with one another. I recently have changed, the "best friend label" because I feel it puts a lot of pressure on a relationship. When one person is responsible for always being there, doing the most, consistently proving they are worthy of the number one title. This is not to say that I don't still have friends I am very close to, in much more serious ways then others, but I have started to rely a little less on one friendship all the time and instead started to realize what each person contributes best is very different. This mindset helped me tremendously, because I stopped expecting perfection from one person and started appreciating the uniqueness of every friend, the one that gives good advice, the one who also enjoys instagramming pretty restaurants, the one who will eat with me at my favorite tsukemen spot (actually that friend also said she can't anymore with the smell so I have resorted to going by myself, oy vey). 
Brunch friends vs. let's pick up where we left off friends, there is quite a distinction for me. It used to be that I would consider these large groups of girls who all fell into some umbrella my closest friends: grad school friends, sorority friends, high school friends, junior league friends, etc. And I would be lying if I didn't say a lot of them still fall into the same category, meaning I typically only see them within the constraints of these groups. However, at some point over the last several years I have noticed a shift, where I feel less equally close to each and every member of every group and I have finally realized THAT IS OKAY. I think it's natural to spend different amounts of time with different friends because let's face it, we only have so much time. I can imagine that people who get into relationships, have long work hours, have children (or dogs) find that at some point their time is limited and that is the real test, I believe, about a friendship. Is it a lunch friend or a pick up where we left off friend? Can this friend be okay with seeing you once a month, taking a yearly weekend trip or talking on the phone a few times per year? Can this friend always be there for you no matter what, even when you don't see them very often? I feel for the most part all my friends I am still in touch with, and even the ones I am not, pretty much fit into this category of picking up right where we left off. And if I my say, I think this is really what friendship should be like, grateful for our history, respectful of the changes and just the same as always when reunited. 
The friend who gets into a relationship. This happens all the time, and despite whatever drama, I think we all need to just accept that relationships DO CHANGE friendships and that is totally OKAY. I hate when people deny this, because it's almost as if they expect more from a friend in a relationship and I think it's more about balancing time and also just being happy for them. I have a lot of empathy for those friends who either don't like a friend's new partner or just feel the loss because the reality is that it is a loss. Especially when it's a really close friend or you don't have many friends. The way I have always thought about this is to be really honest with yourself and friend by acknowledging the change and perhaps instead of promising to keep up the same level of contact, promise to keep quality time, whether it's a weekly phone call or get together once a month. Whether you now have to schedule time together, where before it just happened naturally. And I think the most important thing for me is having empathy for what the change is like on both sides and not placing blame on either party. For the friend who doesn't like their's friend's partner, this is really tough (aka Hills reference) and in my experience, stating your opinion (even when asked for it) has never lead to very good things. So it's just helpful to consider how important your opinion is to this friendship/is it worth possibly changing the friendship or even dismantling it before stating your peace. The reality is that criticizing someone's partner is essentially criticizing them and therefore can cause a lot of hurt or even backlash. I am not against speaking your mind, lord knows I do all the time, but I have started to take a different approach in keeping my opinions to myself and when I address something, I really consider all the possibilities of what might happen as a result before deciding what to do. 



Conflict and resolution, not the best part of friendships, but fairly common and normal. As a therapist I have learned that it's not always about the fight of the moment, but more so, what it represents in terms of patterns over an extended period of time. So yes, addressing a snide comment, who picks up the check or an invite to a party is one thing that tends to come up and should hopefully go away. But it tends to be a pattern of frustration or hurt that causes a problem in any relationship. As I have gotten to know all my friends, I have put different expectations on them and what I am able to tolerate. I think for the most part as you get older you just have to accept some things about a person, because as a therapist I will tell you, people don't tend to change unless it's extremely important to that individual and even then, it can be very difficult. So I always ask myself, is it worth bringing up? Especially if I am in a particularly bad mood, I try to put things aside first and really think about them before deciding whether or not to bring it up. At the end of the day, sometimes addressing something is worse for a friendship then actually trying to change it, for example, the friend who is always late or who never offers to drive. These of course are little things but sometimes they add up and depending on how good a friend they are, might be worth addressing. I always try to consider how they might react before I address something and make sure it's worth my effort. There are then of course the obvious conflicts that are much more hurtful or serious, like telling secrets, betraying trust, hurting loved ones- which I would say might end up changing a friendship or unfortunately breaking one. I think these are obviously all case by case, but I do think that we all have the right to expect trust and respect from our friends and therefore it's important to ask yourself, can I still be close to this person, whether they apologize or not, is this repairable or will it just change what the friendship is. Coming from a place of owning your own feelings, rather then calling out what someone did is always a more honest and more effective way of addressing a major conflict, because ultimately you can only own your feelings, not explain someone else's actions. And to set the record straight, I don't accept or give apologies such as "I am sorry I hurt your feelings," because I think we are all mature enough to be humble and just say "I am sorry" and truly mean it. 



When friendships end... This is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of friendships, because they are often very painful, frustrating and sad. I think it's safe to say that all people have experienced some kind of conflict with a friend and hopefully it's been resolved or repaired. But there are many situations when they are not and if I dare say, I think this is okay. Our society has often made the end of a friendship appear to always be a bad thing, inevitably with one person to blame, particularity in female relationships (thank you Real Housewives) but I have started to look at it from a slightly different perspective, becuase I don't think it's okay to give a lot of time or energy into something that isn't working and isn't beneficial for both people. As difficult or sad as the end of a friendhsip may be, I don't think it should have to be terrible. And at best, it could just be amicable and make your life better or less stressful. I think the way you end a friendship can say a lot about your character, because even after all the long and drawn out conflict, being able to split amicably is a sign of how much respect you have for both that person and yourself. If I am being really honest with myself, most of the mean words I have said in the heat of argument have not been about respect for myself or the friendship but rather to get back at someone and make them feel the pain I feel. This has never helped me or a friend feel better, maybe it has for other people but what if there was a way to fight fair or perhaps not at all? What would that look like? To say how we feel and be honest about the fact that the relationship will just have to change significantly. Some friendships may even be able to end slowly, perhaps even without even discussing it. And for most (not all) situations, I think it's best to remain cordial when reunited whether by other friends, social situations or work. Even when people have really hurt me, I have tended to find a way to remember enough of what attracted me to them in the first place to muster some grace and show respect. If this is still hard to do, I think it's worth some introspection and time as to what might be getting in the way of being at peace. After all, we all deserve to be happy. 



Making new friends... when you are not in school. It seems to just get harder and harder to make good friends as you get older, perhaps because there are less opportunities then pre-21 to meet large groups of women. When I first moved to LA I had my really good friend I came here with and graduate school to help but it still felt like a struggle just finding some decent women to get drinks with. My good friend and I went through quite a few "friend dates" before finding the group of girls we still consider our "la girls" in addition to a few other groups as well. I wish I had joined the Junior League a bit earlier, as I met so many incredible women through that membership. There is no doubt about it - making new friends, quality friends, can be difficult but the most important thing I have learned is to say YES and SHOW UP. If you put in the effort to join a workout class, or go on a awkward brunch friend date, meet the daughter of your aunt Betty's cousin that was recommended, then you really will have a much easier time making friends. It's just like dating, you have to put in 100% to get something out of it and yes there might be some bumps along the road and #awkward moments to laugh about later. But it really only takes one good friend sometimes to make a new place feel like home. Some things I would consider to make new friends, taking an art class (or class about anything of interest), joining a volunteer group like the Junior League, playing on an intramural sports team, finding a church or spiritual group you align with, and maybe even Bumble BFF haha. Even if you just start off the first couple of years in new place with some brunch friends, it's okay for your close ones to live in other places, more reasons to plan fun weekends in another city, with more quality time. And for anyone who meets someone new to a city, job or friend group, remember how important it would be for someone to extend the olive branch to you in the same position. A little kindness tends to go a long way. 


And that was quite a long post, hope some of my thoughts were helpful!

-MGN
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