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Is it time to have a review of our friendships?

Changes in personal relationships are often hard to deal with, as when we have a strong personal relationship it can be difficult when they change. When someone you have been close to, shared experiences with, supported and been supported by them, through good and bad times and spent so much time with either disappears from your life or is no longer there for you when they were before it can be difficult to deal with and quite stressful.

We talk about relationships where people grow apart and if this is in equal measure on each side then it can still leave a tinge of sadness and loss but is relatively stress-free.

When it is unexpected then it can cause feelings of stress, loss and even feel like bereavement. It can generate self-doubt in terms of what’s wrong with me. Why don’t they want to spend time with me anymore? Where did I go wrong? What did I do?

I have had many friendships that have changed over time and been in the situation where it’s been a mutual drifting apart, where I have been the one who pulled away, and where I have been the one who has felt left behind.

What I have come to recognise is that as relationships change over time, so do we, and what we get out of them or give to others also changes.

Sometimes we stay in friendships for old time’s sake, or because we feel obliged to, not recognising the negative impact they can be having on our lives in terms of stress. When a relationship is one-sided it can cause feelings of anger, resentment, frustration, and even shame.

Life Changes us and our priorities

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I used to enjoy going out socialising, which really means going out drinking to the local pubs and clubs, and generally went out at least six nights a week.

I had a large group of friends, and we were always out together but the person who was my closest friend who at the time I would have said would be in my life forever, was the one I was always with. If you saw one of us, then you could guarantee the other one was somewhere close by.

I was the quiet one whilst she was the one who didn’t care and would talk to anyone and approach anyone. She knew what she wanted and expected to get it.

I have so many happy memories of that period, laughing together, going on holiday, shopping, and just generally enjoying ourselves. I also have memories of the times things weren’t so great for either of us and had always looked back and thought that we supported each other through those times.

Over time the relationship changed and by the time we were in our thirties, we had completely drifted apart.

Why did it change?

What I recognise now, when I look back is that my values in life shifted and what was important to me changed. I no longer wanted to be out partying all the time, I was happy to stay in and curl up with a book or watch a good film. I became more discerning about where I wanted to go and would go. Previously my desire to go out and have an enjoyable time was the priority, and I didn’t really care where we went, so I went along with whatever was suggested. Now I refused to go to places I didn’t like, I started to say no to things. I wasn’t someone who would just do anything they wanted to anymore or agree to go places or do things just because the other person wanted to, I had to want to do it too. That didn’t mean I only did what I wanted and didn't care about my friend's wishes, I just wouldn’t do it all the time.

This changed the dynamic of our friendship, initially, she blamed other people for influencing me and accused me of letting her down and not being a good friend because if I was, I would do what she wanted.

I also started to recognise that as long as everything went her way then she was great, and if she had any issues or struggles, she expected me to drop everything and be there for her until she got through it or I worked out a solution for her, but if it was me that was struggling or had any personal issue she wasn’t really interested and would turn things round to be about her again.

This made me re-evaluate the friendship and over time I spent less and less time with her until we just stopped staying in touch.

When I look back, I realise that at the time the friendship served a purpose but as I matured and the things that were important to me in life changed the relationship had to alter too.

Is it time for you to re-assess the friendships you have with the people in your life?

Now may be the time you want to sit down and ask yourself the following questions about the people in your life.

- What connections and relationships have changed in your life?

- What does the friendship provide me with?

- If the friendship has changed, what purpose did it serve at the time?

- How do you feel about them now?

- Do you look forward to seeing them?

- How do you feel when you have spent time with them? Do you feel enriched or drained?

- Do you have a sense of dread about them?

- What do you give/do for them?

- What do they give/do for you?

- Does the friendship enhance your life or take away from your own self-worth?

When you have your answers consider whether you want to surround yourself with these individuals or want to change the dynamics of the friendships you have.

You may want to use the above questions or your responses to them to generate a conversation with your friends to help you both recognise how you feel and potentially make some of your friendships stronger and more fulfilling for each of you.

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