Girlfriends are the best. Seriously, my girlfriends are the main reason I have half an ab (from all the laughing).
I’ve had the same group of girlfriends since junior high and/or high school… so over half my life. I can’t imagine my life without them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes want to strangle them with my curling iron (and I’m sure they’ve plotted my death once or twice too).
Over the past couple years, there has been a few fights, a couple miscommunications and more than one case of hurt feelings, but our individual bonds and relationships have remained pretty damn strong. The thing is, the timeline of our friendships have been peppered with more girls trips/nights, laughing fits, group chats and memes than bad feelings, and despite the changes in our lives, we remain committed to making this girl gang (ride or die) work. As we grow up, and our lives changes, there is simply no way to keep the relationships the exact same. The only constant in life is change, so we need to figure out how to adapt, or risk losing the people who know us inside and out.
The key, in my opinion, is a sense of understanding that just because your friend may think in a way that is not inherent to you, or reacts differently to situations, does not mean they are wrong, or bad friend, or that you have a right to be upset with them. Just because it’s not necessarily your way, does not mean you should boot them callously to the highway. It’s simple compassion. And who better to be on the receiving end of our love, compassion and understanding then our best friends?
A real life example from my own experience: I have one friend in particular who is a part of my core group of girlfriends. We have been friends since 2002, and have been through it all, both highs and lows. Over the last year, we’ve had a couple miscommunications. The way her thought process operates is so foreign to me – she is analytical, black and white, decisive and extremely strong in her beliefs. I’m a bit more scatterbrained, less firm in my beliefs, and a bit more…loose, shall we say. What she expected from our friendship had evolved over the years, and I had remained static, believing everything was fine as it was … which cause some tension between us.
After a bit of frustration, we had a talk to work things out. Afterward, I really thought hard about our relationship. Of course, it is easy to become defensive; someone is telling you they don’t “like” certain facets to your personality. But my friendship with this person means so much more than me getting butt-hurt about being called out – so I committed myself to trying to see things from her perspective. Although I didn’t agree with her 100%, I could absolutely appreciate where she was coming from and understood how her thought process had brought her to certain conclusions. With a new appreciation for what was important to her, it was now my responsibility to step up and make some changes. In return, I asked her to try and understand how I saw things, and not take it as a personal offence and communicate to me right away if I did something that upset her.
The thing was, despite it being a really frustrating and distressing time in our friendship, in the end we came out much stronger. I was reminded as to how fortunate I was to have a person in my life who could help me see situations in a way that was alien to me – do you know how valuable that is? She can provide me insight to a kind of thinking that I would never be able to attempt to wrap my head around without her guiding me and is a constant reminder that there are a million other ways of viewing, processing acting on a situation outside of my own.
As we get older, our time seems to become more and more sacred. I remember when I was little, my mom would constantly say that there were “never enough hours in the day!”, and man, do I get that now. Work, obligations and the overwhelming responsibilities of that come with adulting all seem to eat up huge parts of our day, so when we do get the odd spare hour or two, we want to spend it with people who are important to us. And as we grow and enter different stages of our lives at varying ages, the amount of time starts to not add up as it once did. All of the sudden, your best friend that you used to spend 90% of your time with has a husband, different priorities and is only able to squeeze you in for a lighting-fast coffee, one time a month (if you book it 2 months in advance).
I get it – and I’ve been there. How can you not have hurt feelings at first? The changes to your important friendships are a hard fucking pill to swallow, but being aware that they are normal is going to help you wash the intial tarteness of change down with a little more ease. The saying is as cliche as it comes: things change, people change… but it’s okay. All you need to do is learn how to navigate you friendships in this new, grown-up, normal. And if the friendships is important to you, you will put in the work to figure it out and make it work.
Like any relationship, friendships take a little elbow grease from time to time. In my opinion, maintaining open lines of communication is imperative. Oftentimes, what seems obvious (ie. why you are upset with a friend) to you is completely not to the other party. Dealing with the issue in a passive-aggressive manner, or expecting them to come to you (when they are likely completely oblivious to the problem) is as ludicrous as expecting your boyfriend to read your mind. If you have an issue, speak your piece, and work with your friend to get it resolved. If they value your friendship like you do, they will do their part to correct what has cause you grief.
Here’s the thing: we’re often hardest on the people that mean the most to us. That means that sometimes our friendships become bogged down with expectations and a sense of entitlement, which can contaminate even the best of relationships. Recognize that your friends, contrary to our belief, are only human. They make mistakes, they can hurt you and they can act in ways that can completely blow your mind… and that’s okay. Keep in mind the 5 million other times they pulled through for you, had an awesome time with you, or were there for you the 5th time you made the same mistake.
The reality is that no one person is going to be able to provide absolutely everything to us. You may have a friend who is always there for you if you need a good phone chat and some solid advice but who is probably not ever going to pull on her best LBD and turn up with you when you need a crazy night out to forget that crazy ex. Alternately, you might also have that fun-as-F friend who is always down to party with you, but you probably can’t count on her to put down her vodka bottle on a Saturday night if you really need a chill night in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either one of those friends, it’s just up to you to recognize them for the unique value they add to your life, appreciate them for that and keep t moving. No expectations, no trying to force them to be someone they’re not… just be grateful you have vodka friend on a Friday and phone friend when you need a good cry. And when/if vodka friend eventually grows out of turning up 24/7, don’t get mad at her for not being as “fun” as she used to… reevaluate and appreciate the fact that she is now likely going to be able to add something new to your life…. and go out and find yourself a new vodka friend.
As we evolve, we become more set in our ways, have a better sense of our own personal beliefs and values, and may become less willing to compromise on certain things, which can lead to conflict. The overarching question you should be asking yourself when you are examining the merit of any friendship (or relationship, for that matter) is whether that person injects more good, positive energy into your life than it does poisoning it with negativity. If that person is constantly causing strife in your life, or dragging you down, and they are uninterested in putting their own efforts in to fixing it, it may be time to let go. Like any relationship, once the initial heartache of losing that person from your life has worn off, you will feel like a weight has been lifted. As the fog of distress that has been plaguing you clears, you will see that both of your lives are likely much better lived separately… and that’s okay.
The last thing I ever want is for these blogs to come out preachy; all of my opinions here are just that – opinions – and they were born from the bajillions of mistakes I have made in my friendships over the years. Luckily, I have such a bomb group of besties that we have all been willing to work with each other to keep our relationships as strong, functional and positive as we can.
In conclusion: chill the fuck out, speak your mind if you have a problem, and remember that your friend is your friend for a reason, and they are probably a pretty bomb human being if you’ve been friends with them for X number of years. If they’re important to you, focus on their numerous amazing qualities, not the one or two times they might have messed up or hurt your feelings. You are responsible for your own happiness. Your relationships should contribute to that happiness but not be the be-all-end-all. And if all else fails, there’s always dogs.