The tricky business of friendships

Something I have been thinking a lot about lately is friendships and earlier in the week I spotted a piece on the Irish Times which captured pretty well what I was contemplating. It was a compelling read and further reiterated how I was feeling.  Friendships are a very tricky business, they require effort, give and take, mutual support and respect.

Someone once said to me that new friends are like silver but old ones are like gold. At the time I was in my second year of college and was certainly feeling the inevitable drift from childhood friendships. They were the only friendships I had ever known and was struggling with the fact that realistically they weren’t going to last forever, even when I thought they would. However, I do think it’s also important to acknowledge that friendships will go through phases where people drift away from and sometimes… back to each other again.That was all going on when I was in my early twenties. Now, at 27, I find myself going through a similar experience.

As humans we all need friendship, we need the social interaction but at what point do we acknowledge the difference between a genuine friendship and that which is now a just formality. There comes a point when people stop being part of current circle of friends and gradually drift into the past. So how long should we hold onto the mediocre treatment  just to hold onto a friendship? There is no straight forward answer, it’s a personal decision and very much depends on how much a person is willing to put up with. Over the past two years or so I have become much more self aware. As a result, I have begun to treat myself with much more respect and kindness. In turn, I now notice much more quickly when there is a disconnect within a friendship, or when I feel someone isn’t treating me well. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t throw in the towel right away, but my tolerance for what other people deem to be a friendship and the amount I am willing to put up with is far far less. I think as we get older and more self assured the thought of shedding friends isn’t as daunting as it once was. There was a time when I would hold on to even the most toxic of friendships just for the sake of it but thankfully, that is now becoming a thing of the past.

I don’t think there is any one reason why friendships end but the direction in which our lives go is a massive part of it, in my opinion anyway. Different experiences in our lives shape who we are. They influence our qualities and characteristics, our decisions, our outlook, how we behave, how we treat others and so on. Our life experiences mould us and while we can still have friendly catch ups with those we grew up with or knew from a different era in our lives, can we really open up to them about our current situations and know that they can relate to us? or at the very least, empathise.

Inevitably as we get older our responsibilities increase. Chances are we will face a lot more adversity and it is in these times that you will very quickly separate your friends from those you thought were friends or perhaps, used to be. You can give and give and give to a friendship and sometimes you just have to accept that you no longer have enough in common to sustain it. That doesn’t mean that you will never be close again, it just means that at that particular time you have drifted. It may stick or it may not. Either way it’s a natural part of life and while it can be difficult at times to let go of friends sometimes it’s far better for yourself. Although some may read this and think it is somewhat harsh I have learned the hard way on more than one occasion that if you don’t look after yourself, not many other people will. At different points in life we look for different qualities in people and people we can relate to. Unfortunately, it’s not always who we thought it would be.

There are so many sayings about friendships. Just one is that you can tell a lot about a person by the friends that they keep or that your friends are the family you choose. Ultimately we all need friends but not at the expense of being treated poorly.

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