A year ago, my best friend since childhood and I had a falling out. We haven’t spoken since, and have cut off all other lines of communication (Facebook, etc.). Do I believe I had a valid complaint and every reason to call her out? Yes. I do wish it had been dealt with differently in some ways (more talking, less emailing, for example) and I do believe that neither of us was in our best emotional/mental place when it happened.
I have to remind myself, however, that none of those factors invalidate my feelings. I am not good at dealing with change, nor am I someone who is very socially confident, so I don’t seamlessly replace old friends with new ones. That leaves me vulnerable to feelings of guilt, and ultimately, grief, at losing the longest lasting friendship I have ever had – the one I thought would be intact forever.
When that happens, I try to force myself to see our former relationship as impartially and completely as possible. It’s easy for me to look at situations through rose-colored glasses when I’m feeling guilty or lonely. The truth is, our relationship was far from perfect. As much as I wish things were different, I can certainly say that I have learned a lot about myself as a friend, and what I need from a friendship.
I’ve learned that I need equality in my friendships. It takes me a while to place an acquaintance into the category of “friend”, but when I do, I am loyal and devoted. I will help and support that person as much as is physically possible. I will make sacrifices for that person’s benefit. I will keep my word. I will allow myself to be emotionally invested in their well-being. I now realize that I must receive the same in return. For a long time I didn’t feel deserving of such attention – I thought it meant I was overly needy. Now I am willing to accept that it is my right to ask that my friends give me the same respect and dedication that I give to them, because I don’t deserve to waste my time investing that deeply in someone who is not equally invested in me.
I’ve also learned that I need friends who accept me at face value. I am a sensitive person, so anyone who wants to be my friend will have to be accepting of that. I don’t deserve to have to alter my personality to suit others. My friends shouldn’t pressure me to be something I’m not, whether it’s trying to convince me not to vaccinate my kids or asking me to try a new diet with them. My friends shouldn’t talk me into doing things that make me uncomfortable.
I need to be enough for my friends. I want my friends to appreciate me enough to want to spend time with me one-on-one. My friends shouldn’t have to bring supplemental people along to enjoy themselves with me. I shouldn’t have to befriend THEIR friends in order to be included in their social plans. I deserve to have the full attention of my friends sometimes, and I deserve the freedom t0 choose the people I want to get close to. I shouldn’t have to feel that my friendship with one person will be compromised if I don’t connect with other members of their social circle as much as they do.
I want a friendship, not a competition. I don’t want to be friends with someone who measures their success or self-worth by comparing their life to mine. I don’t want to feel guilty about sharing an accomplishment or bit of good fortune with my friends, for fear they will be depressed or jealous. I don’t want to question my instincts because they differ from my friends’. I want to be able to respect each others’ choices, support each others’ achievements, and enjoy the fact that we are not carbon copies of one another.
I realize this is an intensive list, and I accept that the result might be my having fewer real friends than I wish I did. What I have learned, however, is that friends become such an integral part of who I am that a superficial, toxic friendship is far worse than no friendships at all.