There’s a lot of focus these days on how to have “successful” romantic relationships, with stacks of so-called relationship gurus providing tips, tricks and hacks in an attempt to keep our romantic relationships alive. But when they do ultimately fall apart, as some of them are destined to, there’s a far more important relationship we fall back on for support: our friendships.
Not only do our friends support us through our romantic woes, but they see us through births, deaths, breakups and breakdowns. Friends become part of our extended family; so ingrained in our daily lives that it becomes hard to imagine life without them.
The problem is, people change.
While a friend might have been great support for many years, even decades, some friendships inevitably turn sour. Friends – much like lovers – can grow apart and take different life paths. On that basis, how do we know when we should hang on to our friendships, and when we should simply let go?
I once had a friend who was fun, kind and loving. If I needed help she’d be by my side in a heartbeat, and I’d do the same for her. But over time, holding onto her friendship kept me stuck in an emotionally unhealthy space.
It started as small differences: she didn’t like my spiritual side, so I stopped talking about anything spiritual when she was around. She didn’t like that I avoided wheat, because only idiots do that, so I didn’t eat when she was around. She often complained about people who posted too many “feel good” memes on their Facebook and Instagram accounts, so I became very conscious of what I was sharing, and kept my “feel good” posts to myself.
None of these changes seemed overly drastic. I only needed to made to keep myself slightly different and slightly hidden, in order to keep my friend happy. It wasn’t life or death and she was far from “toxic”. A little bit oblivious to the effects she had on other people, perhaps, but still a good person. I wondered if it was fair to be considering giving up our friendship over such small things, when in the past, she’d done so much for me.
But it did become tiring.
I was constantly thinking about how I needed to act around her, which parts I needed to hold back. I could never just “be”. Elizabeth Gilbert once said “I’m tired of being good. Now all I want is to be free.” While each facet of myself I was holding back was only small, the effects on my energy levels were not. I was living in a self-constructed prison. It was the opposite of freedom and peace which we surely all are entitled to, particularly in our friendships.
I decided it was my responsibility, as an act of self-love, to break free. Without any drama or hate, I slowly became less available, and eventually my friend fell completely out of my life.
At first, my old habits were hard to break. I would almost stop myself from publicly doing, saying or writing anything that might find its way back to her, potentially resulting in a disapproving eye-roll or shake of the head, even though I was no longer around to witness it.
It was logic got me through this phase. I decided it was quite simply insane to live a half-life just to keep someone else happy, particularly someone who didn’t even like me that much. I made a conscious effort to go in whatever direction of my heart guided me, regardless of who disapproved.
In allowing all parts of myself just to “be”, I wasn’t only more at peace with myself, but I discovered new facets of who I am which I never knew existed. I realised my uniqueness and perfect imperfection, too good to keep hidden. Not hiding myself was vital to not only being true to myself now, but evolving freely into who I am becoming.
Finally, I discovered there is no scarcity when it comes to friendships. Once I let go, I made space for new people to come into my life. People who love and enjoy me as I am, quirks and all. People who make me feel encouraged in moving closer towards my own truth and uniqueness, not further away from it. My energy levels have increased as I’m not attaching to things which are no longer serving me.
My old friend is not a bad person, we’ve just changed as we’ve gotten older and no longer meet in the middle. And you know what they say: some friendships are for a reason, some for season, some for a lifetime.
A yucky cliché, but true!
Love should never cost your freedom. We know it’s true when it comes to our romantic relationships, but let’s not forget this when it comes to friendships, too.
Image: Jeremy Bishop
Denise Mills is a freelance writer and life-enthusiast who blogs at denisemills.biz.