Recently, Dee (a reader) was generous enough to share her experience with me, asking how I know. How do I know when someone will be a good friend? How do I know to whom we should grant entry into our lives for the long haul? And, how do I know when it’s done and how do I let it be? The following has at its core my response to her, but has been fleshed out here in greater detail.
I often wish there was a simple formula for this, but sadly, human nature makes this impossible. Barring a few very distinct spaces in my life, I walk into every situation with as big a heart as I can muster, a willingness and openness to hurt, allowing myself to bring people into my life full throttle.
Reality is that many — if not most — people we meet will behave in rubbish manner eventually, be it on purpose or otherwise. I know that I have; inevitably, I have let people down without even knowing it, and I have deservedly mourned their friendship.
All relationships, platonic or otherwise, experience the ebb and flow of growing pains. Sometimes you will be hot, otherwise not. In such circumstance, I tend to shut down; I don’t generally keep friends with whom there is a violent ebb and flow (lest the relationship is long distance). Because I take a suck and I pout and I have high standards, and I am not interested in lowering my standards to meet the less of another.
The flipside to such openness is that you will be hurt at the hands of some of these people. That acknowledged, worth the pay-off are the collection of a few breathtakingly exceptional people into your life. At the end of the day, everyone else is just icing on the cake, and icing can be sloughed off with the proper knife.
In terms of when do I know a friendship has run its course? Let’s instead focus on how we know when a friendship is a keeper. It’s when both of you make the effort to support and place time of value into the relationship. It’s when the levels of time and energy being put into the relationship are equal, the caveat being that within a friendship, we have to give for the sake of giving and the pleasure of it. To a limit (because “chump” is a very hard look to pull off); when we start feeling as though we are being taken for granted, bring it up and address it. The keepers are those who hear it, action it, and make an effort not to hurt you in that same way again.
The thing is, we should never be scared to step away from people, because the hurt associated with a painful friendship / relationship of any kind far outdoes the possible loneliness we may feel should we step away. This should be among our standards for all relationships both romantic and otherwise.
Ultimately, with so many people in the world, we should be placing our energy and love into the hands of those who appreciate and reciprocate.
As for those who are no longer in our lives, we have to do our best to shake off the film of gross which accompanies any ending, and instead take away only the good memories, appreciating the moments shared because inevitably, even the for-sh.t friendships held your heart accordingly then. Which means that they should hold a place in your heart always now, even if the friendship itself has lost its will to live, Otherwise you are doing a disservice to someone you once held dear and that’s fair neither to you nor them.
Photo from ChicagoNow.