Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The work of friendship

This is more observational than anything else.  I notice that close friendships require work.  This is much like marriage in that if you want to keep a very close relationship you have to do things to keep it.  Mostly small things are all that are required, but consistent things.  You have to commit to the friendship and accept the unwritten responsibilities that entails.

As examples, in college, I developed a very close friendship with a buddy.  We did stuff together multiple times a week, we lived in the same dorms for several years and we routinely sat up late at night fixing the worlds, schools or other friends problems.  We dove deeply into each others psyche and found that we had many similar ideas AND that we admired the way the other acted, cared and thought about things and people.   I also found another friend while stationed over-seas in the army and found the same things happening.  The couple of years we were both stationed together found us hanging out a lot, enjoying many of the same things and really appreciating having another person to share the rigors of military life away from home and loved ones. 

Over the years I found myself making sure that I connected with these two buddies (different sets of years), I called them once a month, remembered birthdays and planned opportunities to get together.  At some level I realized that friendships require work and that close friendships require more work than any except spouse and children.  I looked forward to the monthly chats, our various get togethers, I even took an entire week of my vacation to be my buddies best man and help make sure he was ready.  This went on for several years and eventually (to long) I realized that I was making all the plans, calls or attempts to sustain the friendships.  I pondered this a bit and then spoke to my friend to tell him what I had discovered, both of them said that they understood and appreciated the need and that they would also put forth the energy to continue the level of friendship we had attained.  I felt better and went on, but I had decided to see if they would follow through.  They did not, and at first it made me very angry and hurt to be honest.  I did not make very many close friends and that ones I did make I had invested a lot of time and energy in.  Eventually I grew up a bit and realized that life happens, keeping a friendship close when either hundreds of miles apart OR after such a huge life change like marriage can be difficult.  Your priorities change and sometimes old things/friends get moved down the list.  This can be difficult but it is truth and it is necessary.  I learned to be happy for my friends and adjust expectations.  Not a perfect solution but an acceptable one.

The stuff I find unacceptable are the friends you have that should be close, or could be close if only a little effort was given.  Friends that are close by but don't have the time to reply to a text, return a phone call or initiate a meeting.  This is frustrating also because you realize, 'they just aren't that into you'.  I also realize this sounds like a jilted or unrequited love reaction and it kind of is that.   I believe we are ALL looking for a relationship or two that you can completely count on.  People (outside of our spouses) who enjoy us as much as we enjoy them and when you think you found them it is very fulfilling.  Unfortunately,  I have also found that there are a lot of 'fools gold' friends out there.  You find a strong connection but it is not quite as strong the other way OR they are a bit lazy and want you to do all the relational work.

 I very much wish that folks would be more aware of the relationships that they have and the real gifts these things could be.  Don't take your close friends for granted, look at your friendships and see if you are giving them the time and attention they deserve.  Don't lose close friendships just due to being too busy, take the five minutes to respond, take the initiative on getting together, take responsibility of a little bit of another persons happiness.  I believe you will be well rewarded for it.


NancyJ said...

I've been thinking and thinking about this and realize I have a HUGE disconnect when it comes to how I do friendship...compared to what I expect from a friend.

So here's the deal...My interactions are ALL about me and what I want or need in my relationship. And when I think about it, quite honestly, what I "want or need" usually is all about that friend's transparency and growth. I find that their reaction to me doing the friendship the way I want doesn't at all phase me. If I'm getting what I want/need then it's a "successful" relationship.

With that said, I don't just ignore their reactions...I constantly readjust my expectations, based on what the friend actually does or doesn't do, and therefore my assessment of what they're capable of. But all the fulfillment and joy of a friendship comes from how friends grow and evolve.

Given that's what I'm looking for, it makes sense that I just haven't ever noticed who contacts who or who arranges what...because either way, I'm still getting what I want out of the relationship if I get to watch people grow and evolve...especially if there's a BUNCH of fun thrown in along the going to see Christmas lights...or watching Christmas movies...but NOT 80s Edition Trivial Pursuit - that game should be banned!

THANKS for so clearly talking about this. It really made me think. As I put it down in words here, I realize I sound a bit selfish and pretty darn controlling or pushy!! Oh dear. MORE to think about. Thanks, Big Tea!

Big Tea said...

Thanks for reading my meanderings. I think we all have to take a look at what we bring to our various friendships. Then we have to decide if it is enough or even too much because I think both are possible.

Anonymous said...

Ihad a friend who never "requited" my attempts to keep our friendship intact. When I realized that every call I made to him turned into a long listening session about him and hisfamily and his work with only a minute of his time to hear about my life I began to doubt his interest in me. When it came to pass that he never initiated contact with me, I let it go. Sad, but true and healthy for me. Your
blog nails it. Well said.

Big Tea said...

Thanks for the response, and it is sad but friendships change and it isn't our fault and many times its not the others fault either.