rift

Today is National Reconciliation Day!

Oh I wish this holiday had been on my radar last week so I could have given you plenty of notice to start thinking about what action you wanted to take today toward reconciliation! Watch the 30 minute HuffPo Live panel regarding Reconciliation by clicking on the link to the left.  (Featuring: Alvin, going through a divorce, Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess, and me-- all sharing our experiences and wisdom.

But, alas, it was only when HuffPost Live contacted me and asked if I'd be on a live panel this afternoon on the topic of reconciliation that I was made aware that there was such a day.  Apparently Ann Landers decided back in 1989 that every April 2 should be celebrated with everyone picking up the phone to call with whom we may have had a falling out with, hence it's become the Day of Reconciliation.

I was honored to share on the panel, but here is a more comprehensive post about what reconciliation can look like.

The Two Types of Break-Ups

First, there are two types of fall-outs that I speak to: Rifts and Drifts.

Rifts are when something happens to undermine the relationship; whereas, Drifts are when nothing specific happens to the relationship yet we find ourselves slowly drifting apart.

You undoubtedly have experience with both.  Reconciliation is possible and necessary with both, but they may look quite different.

Reconciling Rifts & Drifts

Let's start with defining reconciliation.  Reconciliation can mean reestablishing the close relationship, but it also means simply the ability to find resolution, or acceptance. In other words, when we speak of reconciliation, it doesn't automatically mean that the goal should be intimacy, trust, and connection with the person we felt hurt by.  Certainly, to come to peace, to forgive the other person, might mean that we'd be open to that re-engagement someday if growth had occurred on both sides.  But more often than not, forgiveness might just mean finding our own peace, reconciling what is real with our expectations of what we want.  The discrepancy between those two causes unmeasured angst.

In my book, knowing whether we're dealing with a Drift or Rift helps me know what path of reconciliation to seek.

Drifts....

If there is Drift in a relationship, the invitation is for us to not only recognize it is happening, but also to check with ourselves about whether we want it to happen.

In one of my recent Drifts, I knew that it was only busy-ness and distraction that was putting distance between us.  In my gut, I knew I wanted this friendship to last.  I didn't need to know whether I needed it as often or as deeply in my life as we had co-created before, but I was clear when I checked-in with myself that I didn't want to lose the friendship. So in this relationship, I wrote her a note and said,

"I miss you! I know we've both been so busy, and I'm so sorry that on my end I've not been as present or available. I know relationships ebb-and-flow, but I definitely don't want to let us get too far from each other since you mean so much to me!  Any chance you're up for scheduling a catch-up call next week?  I'm flexible Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday evening, do you have an hour anytime in there you'd be willing to give me?"

Reconciliation in this case was reaching out with a sorry I've neglected the relationship (it doesn't matter if she has, too, our apology is still true) and a stated desire to re-engage. She was honored and grateful.  Neither of us had meant anything malicious and neither had wanted to put any pressure on the other. But we all like to know that the other misses us and naming it helps us both take it less personally. (Because if you ignore it here, this is where we're more likely to get our feeling hurts with unmet expectations that can then turn into a Rift, all because we didn't address the Drift.)

To contrast it, another Drift in the last couple of years was a relationship where I checked-in with myself and realized that reconciliation actually meant being okay with letting the relationship take a backseat.  I was at peace with it happening because I sensed that both of us were going different directions, our energies pulling us into other relationships and experiences.  To try to re-engage here would have been simply out of guilt, the voice of "you should..."

In some cases of Drifting, it's possible that the two of you simply call less and less and it slowly dissipates.  That's okay, but if possible, I'd still prefer  a little communication if possible, out of respect for what we've shared.  Obviously every situation is different, and is largely determined by whether we sense both people are at peace or if we feel she is still pursuing while we're retreating.  But in my case, in response to her reaching out to me via email to set up a time for dinner, I wrote,

"Thank you so much for thinking of me!  You are someone whose relationship has meant so much to me over the years.  Let's definitely get a dinner on the calendar, and hopefully we can make that happen every couple of months even though I know we're both so busy! I hope that no matter how much time and distance ever separates us, that we can always call each other a friend.  I so admire you."

Reconciliation in this case was two-fold: me being at peace with letting the relationship be something other than "all-or-nothing," and making sure I communicated to her how much I admired her.  My goal is to leave relationships with people feeling better about themselves for having known me.

Rifts...

Rifts, can be a bit trickier, in that our hearts have likely been more bruised and our expectations more unmet.  Her disappointing actions have left us frustrated and questioning the friendship, which is almost impossible to do with out us feeling both defensive and judgmental.  Those two feelings make it hard for us to even want to reconcile.

The second-to-last chapter of my book highlights healthy options for responding to the five friendship threats, but for these purposes today, let me just get on my soapbox for a moment and say this:

GirlFriends--as a rule of thumb, treat your friendships that experience frustration and disappointment with the same courtesy you give to your romantic relationships: consider a mature conversation.

I've yet to hear of the dating break-up where someone disappointed you and you just cut off contact without ever having a single conversation about it! No! We may dislike confrontation, but we step up to it for romance.  We say, "We need to talk..." and then we tell them what we need, how they hurt us, what's okay, what isn't, what we hope for, etc.  Sometimes it turns into this awesome conversation where we both feel heard and we can move into a more meaningful and trusting relationship.  But even the times it leads to a fight, we always expect a follow-up conversation, knowing we need to either make-up or at least facilitate as healthy closure as possible. Sometimes we break-up, make-up, and break-up again.  We give them multiple chances, because we "love him" (or her), or because we know "he's trying...", or because we've "invested so much already."  All valid excuses we should be giving to our girlfriends!

So off my soapbox, while I know full re-engagement of the relationship, recovering from whatever caused the Drift, isn't always possible, I am an advocate of at least trying before a friendship break-up.  Too many of us walk away, unwilling to try again, claiming the other person isn't healthy, doesn't know how to be a friend, or  can never be trusted again.  All of which may not necessarily be true.  As any of us who have been a long-term relationship can attest, we will hurt each other, and that doesn't mean we can't also still love each other well.

Your Invitation:

Since you're getting this blog post so late in the evening on this Reconciliation holiday you may think you're off the hook from having to reconcile with someone?  No way!  In fact, they say the best way to let yourself off the hook is to forgive, to come to peace, to accept, or to resolve.  Who can you reach out to tonight or tomorrow as your way of stepping into a holiday that we should really be practicing 365 days a year?

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More relevant posts:

  1. Friendship Break-Ups 1: A Drift or a Rift  (Defining both, and going into more detail about causes for Drifts.)
  2. Friendship Break-Ups 2: Saving a Drift, Avoiding a Rift (3 steps to help prevent our Drifts from becoming Rifts)
  3. Friendship Break-Ups 3: Was She Really a Friend, Anyway? (Speaking to when we get our feelings hurt because a friend wasn't there for us...)
  4. Friendship Break-Ups 4: Letting Go or Holding On? (How to decide if the friendship is worth pursuing.)

 

 

 

 

Friendship Break-Up 1: A Drift or a Rift?

A TV producer called me last week because her afternoon TV show is hoping to interview some women who are currently going through BFF break-ups. She said that when the show idea was discussed, nearly every woman around the table had a story. As do we all. Changing friends is normal.

If you're a faithful reader of my blog, you'll recall that I often remind women that research suggests that we replace about half our friends every seven years.

To see if it's true in your life, list the five to seven women that you'd invite to stand up with you at your wedding if getting married today. Now think back to where you were seven years ago and see how many of those same women would be standing up there with you?  Most likely, with perhaps the exception of family members, two or three of the women might have been different if chosen back then.  And chances are that two or three of them might be different if chosen seven years from now.  Our lives do change. And with that change comes some movement in our inner circles.

The word replace speaks of two directions-- new friends coming in and old friends going out.

Many of my posts have to do with how to start new friendships since there are few platonic pick-up lines, winking seems inappropriate, and there aren't bars for female friends.

So in honor of the fact that we aren't just making new friends, but also having to let go of them, I'm going to write a series (number of posts still TBD) about friendship break-ups.

The Drift vs. The Rift

Friendship Break-Ups typically fall into two camps: The Drift and The Rift.

The Drift is when two people have less in common due to life changes or personal preferences.  There's typically no big break-up or blow-up, it's just two people moving apart.  That's not to say it doesn't hurt or that you're not aware of it though!  On the contrary, we often carry guilt, anger, or fear as these relationships drift.  We sometimes feel betrayed that they are leaving the job, moving away, having a baby, or going through a divorce that we feel threatens or changes our friendship. We know that our relationship is shifting.... even if we don't know yet whether it will survive or what it will look like.

The Rift is when an event or behavior causes damage to our relationship leaving us hurt, angry, or confused for what we'd consider a grievance or mistake.  I differentiate a Rift from a Drift when we feel that there is a behavior or action that would need to be discussed, forgiven, or changed in order to continue to be friends. Our pain can come from unmet expectations (i.e. she didn't ask us to be her bridesmaid and we thought we were close friends), blatant mistakes (i.e. she gossiped about our failing marriage to other friends, betraying our trust), or what we might call character flaws (i.e. she never calls us and we're tired of being the ones who always have to initiate). A Rift is when we feel justified at being mad at her.

I'll talk about the Rift in an upcoming post. This post is about the Drift.

The Common Causes of a Drift

One of the reasons we replace, or need to replenish, our friendships is because our lives all happen in different ways and in different times. Often, we drift apart. While there can be a hundred variations of why we no longer lean toward the same people, most of those reasons fall under these six common categories:

With so many of us switching jobs or starting companies comes the obvious fact that we are losing the friends that were associated with those specific workplaces.

If there was an era where we all followed a similar path: get married out of college, have kids two years later, live in the suburbs, etc.  We're definitely not there now. Now you're just as likely to be new mom at twenty-one as you are at forty-one.  We're not doing life in the same order or at the same pace as our friends which leaves us often wishing for new friends in our new stage of life.

On location alone, with Americans picking up and moving every five years it's no surprise that not all our friendships can survive the distance. Even if you stay planted, chances are high that a friend will move away in the next couple of years, forcing you to either drift apart or be incredibly proactive and intentional about staying connected.

And in that last sentence is where you'll find what I think is the most important choice in a Drift: decide whether this friendship is important enough to you to go through the transition.

Responding to the Drift

  1. Relationship Changes Are Normal. Every change-- in her life or yours-- will likely require the friendship to shift.
  2. Awareness is a Strength. The worst thing is to lose friendship unknowingly! Or to have to deal with anger down the road because you didn't take the time to see it coming or to do the work of readjusting your expectations. Don't live in denial!  Seeing it coming gives you time, wisdom, and increased generosity.
  3. Feel Your Choice. There are two kinds of Drifts-- the ones where we simply let it happen to us and the ones where we chose to let it happen. I don't believe we need to hang on to every relationship; nor do I believe we should simply let-go of relationships with people we love simply because life changes. While the actions of both choices may end up looking similar (i.e. call less, hang out less, slowly lose touch), one happens out of negligence, whereas the other happens with our blessing. There's a big difference.

We are called to learn how to hang on to some relationships, even when awkward; while also letting go of others, hopefully with intention and eventual peace. The trick is to know how to make that choice.

Leave your comments: How do you know when a friendship is over? What helps you decide? How have you handled friendships drifts before? Do you tend to "hang on too long" or "let go too soon"?