Growing apart is perfectly normal in our relationships.
When we think of the term ‘relationship’ many of us jump to our romantic-type relationships. But there are many types of relationships, familial, friends, romantic, associates we are friendly with here and there, etc.
This post will be based on friendships, specifically.
For those that don’t know me very well, you should know that I value intentional relationships. I am intentional with you, as you are with me. I have intentional conversations with people I value as friends, and I’d hope that it would be reciprocated.
But what happens when there is no reciprocity in the relationship?
I saw a tweet that basically said “if you don’t put in the same energy, I’m out”. While I understand the desire to leave a friendship because of lack of reciprocity, I have to sit and wonder, did you both even try?
I am a huge fan of letting people know if I’ve felt slighted by them. Specifically, when it’s a relationship I want to keep or mend. If this person is distant out of nowhere, I will reach out and share my feelings. If I feel this person has been putting our relationship on the back burner, I will say so. Most importantly, I also make myself available to receive those same conversations from those that I love. Reciprocity.
I believe that it’s important to give grace in relationships, and not slam the door before there’s a chance to save what is there. However, I am not saying keep begging and hoping that they will value you as their friend. If that’s the case, so long boo boo.
There are a few friendships in my life that I have grown apart from. If I can take the term from Transformation Church, I need to be H.O.T. (humble open & transparent) with you. I had a group of women I loved to be around. I saw them more than my own family. We vacationed together, ate together, partied together, etc. But there were times when I realized I was not getting the same love in return.
When I am intentionally spending time with a person, I am letting you know that I value you as my friend. But, I noticed that I had this tendency to ignore the red flags. There were many times where I wasn’t invited to things I originally gave the idea for, there were times when I would speak up about not feeling included in the ‘sisterhood’ and I was shut down each time, there were times when I would just plain old disappear and no one would even notice or care enough to check-in.
Red flags, all around.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t purposely gagging them to see what they’d do, and I understood that we all have lives and responsibilities that don’t center around each other, but I noticed the connection each of them had with each other and I couldn’t help but feel like I was just a friend by association. My relationship with my husband was that association.
As time progressed, I became less bitter about the relationships I was growing apart from. I’d shared intimate moments with these women like they were my own sisters, and I was hurt that when I shared my concerns they weren’t taken seriously, and I was basically treated like I was thinking too much. But, intuition doesn’t lie. And I had to face the mirror to see if I’d been the friend I was looking for in others (more on that another time).
I slowly learned that it is perfectly okay that you grow apart. I think the real injustice is holding onto a friendship that has sailed its course. It doesn’t mean you keep these harbored feelings of bitterness towards the other person. Honestly, letting go of what once was should bring peace to you, because you can appreciate the time you had together and keep going in your life living happily.
There are people in my life right now that I still value, including those women I’d spent 8 years with as my sisters. But, I had to learn where my boundaries were, what I expected out of a relationship, and really, what I was willing to do for others with intention.
I’m not saying I am the perfect friend. I have my selfish moments, my irrational moments, and my ‘leave me alone’ moments. But I know now that it’s okay because we’re human. We learn to share those concerns with each other so that the relationship can grow. Once the friendship becomes stagnant, stuck in place like hardened glue, that’s when you need to do some reevaluation.
I reassessed, and I realized that sometimes friendships just die off. It doesn’t mean we’re not still friendly, it doesn’t mean I feel bitterness, it doesn’t mean I’ll treat you less than. It just means I realize where I stand, and I’m not going to push open a door that was meant to be closed.
If you’re struggling with a friendship and you feel that it’s just time to move on but you want to hold on to the history you have, I urge you to reassess your ‘why’. History with a person (or people) doesn’t necessarily mean you keep pushing a locked door. Have that conversation with this friend, if you can, but be open for them to share their feelings about you to you. It’s not all about how you feel, it’s about how you both can put your feelings on the table and figure out what is working and what isn’t.
If that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to let go, and move on.
Some friends are like leaves, some are like branches, and others are like roots. Leaves are there for a time, but they will eventually fall off and wither which makes room for the next season of relationships. Branches can be sturdy for a time, but sometimes they break off unexpectedly. Let it fall, don’t go grab the duck tape to fix it. Roots are those sturdy friendships, many of us don’t really have this but it’s beneficial to build. You both are there for each other, even if you don’t talk for ages. It’s foundational, real, neither of you have to question your place in each other’s lives. Those friendships are legit. But, sometimes they can become uprooted, although it’ll be tough. I mean, have you seen a root on a tree?
Really, all I’m saying is that you should let life flow. Things happen. Relationships die off, even ‘best friends’ become more like associates. That is all okay, as long as you understand who you are, what you bring to the table, and how you are intentionally showing up in your friendships, that’s all that matters.
Eventually, you’ll find your tribe, your rooted friends. But you won’t find it if you keep trying to go back and duck tape those fallen branches and leaves to your tree.