Have you ever been in the middle of a friendship that’s falling apart? I have. I’ve fought for it to last, pushed the issue until we were both worn out messes and still there was nothing to be done.
It stinks to lose a friend, especially when you’re an introvert who doesn’t make new friends easily.
Long after the middle school lunchroom jockeying for a spot at the cool table ended, I still placed much of my identity in my friendships with other women. My self-worth became entangled in relationship after relationship, measuring myself against how often the other gal wanted to hang out, schedule play dates or grab coffee. My happiness was founded on successful friendships.
After a few failed friendships in my twenties, I began to wonder if the problem lay in me. I was the common denominator in each of these relationships; although, the cause for them falling apart was always different. My friends struggled with infertility and depression among other things, causing communication breakdowns in the relationship. I didn’t understand what they were going through (and they made sure I knew it) and felt like I had to pretend to be something I wasn’t when we were together.
It wasn’t just me, and it wasn’t just them. It was us.
Hindsight has blessed me with a gift that has laid a foundation for many wonderful relationships with girlfriends that I have now. In fact, my best friend and I have walked almost all of our mothering years side by side, because I finally leaned into this simple bit of knowledge.
Well, let’s just say it didn’t really feel like a gift at the time … more like a smack upside the head. Now I can see it for what it was.
I finally realized my identity, my worth and my hopes shouldn’t be pinned on another person. That belongs to God alone. Not that I ever planned to give anyone that kind of control over me, it just happened. So when the relationships fell apart for various reasons, I felt like a failure as a person.
Along the way I’ve learned a few things that have helped me develop healthy friendships. If you’re struggling to find a new friend, or like me have a string of failed friendships in your wake, I hope these can help you too.The art of friendship ... It starts with learning to be comfortable in your own skin.Click To Tweet
When you’re not relying on another person to give you a perceived sense of worth, you’re suddenly and unequivocally free to be yourself. And really, that’s the foundation for a true and beautiful friendship.
If you always have to live up to someone else’s standards to be around them, you will never be able to get to the place where you feel comfortable in your relationship, and then the first little bump will cause a fallout that may not be fixable.
Forgive the stupid stuff
We all have our struggles. We say stupid stuff. We occasionally act like jerks or say what comes to mind without considering the other person’s feelings. Speak up if your feelings get hurt rather than sitting on bitterness and angst over something. Be quick to ask for forgiveness if you’re the offending party.
Always be willing to help (or to receive help)
Friendship shouldn’t be a one-sided relationship. It’s more like a seesaw. We go up and down and help balance out the person on the other side. And once in awhile it evens out perfectly, but most of the time it’s a delicate balancing act of give and take.
Be willing to disagree
It is OK to disagree with someone. In fact, sometimes it’s healthy. My best friend and I have had some fantastic discussions over the years on things we disagree about. And while we have rarely changed the other person’s mind, I always come away from those discussions with a new perspective. We can absolutely disagree and still be kind and respect one another. Our friendship is better for it!
Make time for your friends
My life is busy. So busy. But I still find ways to spend time with my friends. Whether we meet up at the coffee shop, I make a phone call while running errands, or we get some steps in together during soccer practice, I do my best to make time for the people who matter to me. Don’t let your life crowd out your friends.
Keep each other’s secrets
The best part of finally finding friends that you can be yourself around is sharing your best and worst things. The parts of you not always fit for public consumption. Be careful with the things your friend tells you in confidence. Honor the trust you’ve built.
Be willing to let go
Sometimes we have friends for a season. While I’ve had friendships that have fallen apart and ended badly, I’ve had others that I just had to let go. They were wonderful for a given time. We helped each other and bonded over shared miseries and joys. Trying to hold onto them after their season passed can make you both miserable. It’s OK to let go.
I’m not the perfect friend. I never will be. The art of friendship is nuanced and delicate, yet wildly tough. Taking the time to invest in making beautiful friends is so very worth it.