transition

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"?

 

It's Hard to Maintain Friendships Through Stress & Change

I'm tired. May was one of those months for me. A month where so much energy was spent planning, thinking, deciding, wondering, processing and aligning. Change, Stress & Transitions

I'm sure you've had those life phases where there is just a lot going on?  Sometimes your call to change is prompted by something external (job loss, break-up, lack of funds, a move, a death), but sometimes it just starts inside as a whisper, a question you ask yourself about your own life.

We are called in these times to invite alignment in our lives.  Whether it's catching up our heart/mind to wherever our bodies are, or influencing life events to align with whatever internal decision we've already made--we're trying to line up life with what we feel. And while it all sounds important and valuable, that doesn't mean it's not mentally, physically or emotionally tiring.  Even good change can exhaust us. (I posted on Huffington Post last week that a move across town takes 6 months for your body to recover from the change!)

For me, this month to step into alignment meant making some tough decisions.

I know from my own life experience as a life coach and pastor that many people pull away when they have stuff going on in their lives.  It's always struck me as unfortunate that sometimes when we need people the most is when we withdraw.  And yet, I get it.

The Toll Our Stress Can Have on Friendships

Loss of Energy: For me, the most obvious was that as my energy flagged, it was harder to keep engaging with everyone.  Even a very social person, I kept feeling a need to pull away, conserve, withdraw.  Having commitments on the calendar felt stressful to a life that felt up-in-the-air. Hard to keep up friendships, or forge new ones, when my energy feels used up in other endeavors, real or imagined.

Unsure of What to Share: I think part of the hesitation to "get out there" was connected to the fact that my ability to engage in small talk decreased during this time.  When you have big things going on-- everything else seems to pale in comparison.  Harder to flippantly answer "fine" when people ask how you're doing. And yet, sometimes those big things aren't ready to be shared with the world, are still being processed or simply aren't appropriate to talk about with every person.  And so the conundrum-- if I don't want to talk about the small things or the big things-- what do we talk about?

Self-Focused: There's no question, when you have things going on that matter-- it's harder to be present for everyone else.  Which is understandable-- you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.  But still... hard to show up on their doorstep with the proverbial chicken noodle soup when you're sick in bed yourself.

My Stuff Brings Up Their Stuff: Undoubtedly, this is one of the hardest part of being in a relationship. We're so inter-connected that it's difficult to have a conversation about anything that matters without it reminding us of our experience or feelings on that subject--divorce, having kids, career choices, dating, retirement, health. My friend talks about moving away... I just think what I'll lose if she does.  One friend decides to take a job for the money and it makes me re-evaluate my own career.  When I went through my divorce-- it brought up all my coupled friends greatest fears.  When we're under stress-- it invariably will be felt in their lives.

I'm sure there are so many other ways our stress impacts our friendship and countless nuances to the ones I've named. (feel free to name others in the comments!)  We simply show up differently when we feel insecure, scared, and tired.

The Commitments that Helped Me

If left to my own feelings this last month, I surely would have been inclined to be a bit more of a hermit.  And to be sure, I certainly did pull back.

But there were some commitments in place that provided me the support of friends whether I had the energy for them or not.  Which was a good thing.  For friends, even though they take energy, end up giving us more energy.  The investment is worth it-- you stick five friendship dollars in the stock and you'll ten back.  (Compared to say, watching TV, where it might only cost one dollar of energy, but neither will it give you more than one dollar back, if that.)

And by the word commitment, I mean things that are routine in my life.  The things that I have put in place because they are important so it's never based on my mood whether I engage or not.

For me, talking on the phone every Wednesday at noon to my girlfriend in Texas is one of those things.  It's not that I wanted to call her those days when I was tired.  It's that I didn't even ask myself if I wanted to.  Hanging out with four friends (we didn't all start as friends!) every Tuesday has taken on sacred significance-- we schedule our lives around that night.  We show up-- no matter how yucky our day was or how intense our PMS symptoms.

My friendships were still impacted by my stress, undoubtedly.  But I still showed up.  (granted, not always full of energy, but still...)

In Latin, the word crisis means "to decide."

Which is ironic because usually in a crisis-- we are prone to feel like a victim, not necessarily someone ready to make choices.  Yet, choices we do have. We still get to choose-- no matter what we're grieving, deciding or feeling-- how we want to navigate it, and with whom.

As you encounter your stresses and life bumps, may you build in the routines that can help sustain you!

p.s.  In the ebb & flow of life, I'm thinking I'm headed back into the flow... :)