There are many times in life where you go through a change. Some you are prepared for and others that are forced upon you. During this time of social distancing I find myself reflecting upon friendships that I may need to distance myself from.
The disintegration of the friendship feels like a slow breakup that is waiting to happen. The inevitable is there, but no one wants to acknowledge it. Days of not talking turns into weeks and months. Every time we speak, silence is more prevalent than words. We both are at a loss of what to say. “Hey it’s been six months, tell me everything that has been going on. I feel like we never talk anymore.” Honestly, I cannot recall what happened last night on the Real Housewives of Atlanta. You cannot honestly expect me to intricately weave you into the inner workings of my life during the past six months. In that same breath, sadness overtakes me, because I realize that I do not even want to try to invite you into those inner workings anymore. Where there was once feelings of safety and acceptance, there are now feelings of confusion, anger, and a hint of guilt. Because I want to end this friendship, but I just can’t seem to find the words.
No. Surely that is too drastic of a solution? But, I find myself thinking how can I feel comfortable if every time we speak, I am constantly reminded of how much I have changed and you wonder if that change in the friendship is a direct correlation to a lack of love for her. No, that change has everything to do with me and my demand to be authentic and to have boundaries I set in place respected. Really, it is a direct correlation for my increase of self-love. I begin to state my needs— I begin to be honest about the time I need alone to recharge. In an essence, I remind her that I too am a whole person, with a range of needs and desires that deserve to be respected and met in this relationship.
The problem is not that she doesn’t want me to have boundaries—she just doesn’t want me setting boundaries with her. So, I begin to advocate for myself. I don’t say yes to every request. It is in these moment that a friend should support you and begin a whole new beautiful and wonderful chapter in the friendship. But, not everyone wants change. So, they may try to make you feel insecure or even try to fill you with guilt. Like my friend – they may begin to question your compatibility as friends. They wonder if they can withstand this change and more importantly do they want to? Is it temporary? Will the old you (maybe the unhappier you) ever come back?
Apart of me understands that what my friend wants to know when their old cheerleader is coming back? The friend whose sole focus seemed to be to constantly remind her of how amazing she is. My response—your cheerleader is still here, but she has to cheer for herself too! And she would really love the same support that has been given to you over the years. Yes, I gave you some part of me, but I am growing and learning each day. I know what I want and I am not afraid to share it. I’m finally treating myself as well as I treat her. I get it, for her it’s scary. It’s new. And it’s not what she felt like she signed up for. But, guess what? People reserve the right to change in any relationship. It is up to you to decide if you will accept who they are becoming.
Real growth can be difficult. Like it or not, people have to change and things can’t always stay the same. Friendships are about two people giving support and compromising without losing themselves in each other. No friendship should cause high levels of anxiety and resentment that allow six months to go by and no one even wants to pick up the phone. Sometimes when you love someone, you realize you have to let them go (for both your sakes). And that is truly the hard part. In the absence of active friendship, there will always be love for what you had.
So to all who are on their own personal journey out there, remember that not everyone can come with you. Do not feel guilty for living in your truth and ridding yourself of those that don’t support the transformation or honor your boundaries. Do not resist the process of growth because you are afraid of experiencing some pain.