This has been heavy on my heart for quite sometime. One of those posts that just sit in my drafts and I could never really come up with the right words. Or any words, for that matter. But I knew it was something I wanted to keep close to my heart and thoughts to try and navigate it all with grace. Navigating grown up friendships. Why so tricky at times?
And then, when I least expected it, I got some guidance on the subject.
I was sitting in Beckett’s Kindergarten conference with his most lovely (older, read: wiser) teacher. She’s the kind of teacher you just sort of wanted a hug from, even as an adult. Near the end she asked me if there were any kids I would love to see stay with Beckett for first grade. And any kids who I would like to see him maybe separated from. Because and I quote ‘just like us adults, sometimes kids are just oil and water.’
My goodness did I need to hear that. So incredibly affirming for something I have been struggling with.
Of course we do everything we can to protect our kids and their friendships. We work hard as moms to build up ones that fill them up and make them better. Why on earth couldn’t I give myself that same grace with my own friendships? Chemistry is huge within a friendship! It’s not just for our love lives. Think about your dearest girlfriends. I’m assuming, most of them just ‘get you’ right? You don’t need to explain yourself. You are understood exactly as you are.
Not getting along with everyone does not make you a bad person. You do not need to feel guilty. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for the choices you make in your friendships and the friends that really get you would never ask for one in the first place. And that was the lesson I really needed to learn.
I don’t have a wide social scene. Those who know me in ‘real life’ know that my circle is pretty small because I function best that way. I want to be able to give all I can to a friendship that matters to me so I often protect myself – and others – by not getting too close. The core circle I do devote my time to are the women that are filling me up. Because friendships should fill you up, make you want to be better, love better, serve better, inspire you, believe in you. That doesn’t mean everything is all sunshine and rainbows, by any means. I recall one of my closest friends coming to my home days after something very tragic happened. We sat real close and I let her talk and I listened so hard and we cried and I fed her good food and it was sad and emotional but it was, still, filling me up. Making me want to be an even better friend to her. Even though that day was all about her I did not in anyway feel drained. In fact, my heart felt full. Very full. That being said, I do not respond to everyone this way. It must go back to the chemistry thing and also, priorities. We have to be somewhat in line in order for things to seem important to me that are important to her. I either feel filled up by moments like this or I feel completely and utterly drained. I’m focusing on those who make me feel full.
Another thing I have been growing with in my thirties is authenticity within friendships. I think, at times, it can just be easier to fake things to keep the peace. And I think as women, we tend to be guilty of this more often than not. Yet as I’m getting older I’m finding that whole fake thing more and more difficult to do. I honestly don’t have the time or energy to devote to it anymore. I know what I need out of a friendship and I know what I have to offer one. A lot of this comes with the growth and confidence of your thirties. I want to focus on the friendships that balances me out the best. For both sides! Seems fair enough.
So where does this leave things. Do friendships break up? I think that, sometimes, they may. And that’s not to say they ever won’t come back together. And it’s not because anyone did anything necessarily wrong. Not because someone is mean or cruel. But sometimes, it just doesn’t feel right. Oil next to water. Different stages of life are a huge factor with this, huge. The transition that takes place when you first get married and have to navigate your single friends and of course when you then have a baby (or two, or three). You can go through a period where you just can’t mentally handle someone that doesn’t ‘get’ the stage you are in. Because motherhood can be completely overwhelming. And that’s ok, it truly is. So goes the popular saying, you just have to ‘do you.’ Or, as I like to think: do your family. Friendship breaks or even break ups are hard, but at the end of the day you have to protect your (precious!) time and your heart with who and what matters most to you. Doing this in a kind as respectful way as possible is not selfish. It is being an actual real mature grown up.
So how do you actually do it. That break. I’m still struggling with this one. Things can get so complicated when you throw in the same social scenes and, gulp, kids. Navigating this can be very tricky. Yet I do feel there is a way to sort of bow out gracefully. There are times things are better left unsaid and generally speaking most people can sense when things aren’t in line. Go with that. Have a friend that is constant drama? Just don’t feed it. Short answers – or no answer at all. Yes, you actually have the choice to not respond to texts. I’ve done it many times just because I. can. not. deal. This isn’t being cruel, this is protecting my day. Or hand holding relationships. Don’t hand hold. Let go. And see what happens. Many times these relationships then start to seek out others that will listen to the endless drama or will hold their hand in life and bam! You are suddenly off the hook. Another relationship that can be oh so tricky to navigate is one where you feel you are sort of their only support. I know how it can completely feel like your problem but this is not your problem. You are not responsible for anyone’s social circle or day to day life or feelings but your own. End of story.
And yes. I realize this is all way easier said than done. I know the layered emotions that go into it all. And I’m still growing, learning, messing up. But, deep down I know this: it is ok to protect yourself and what you need out of a friendship. Just like you would with your kid. Protect your heart and have confidence in the person you are that you deserve a really strong and uplifting girl tribe.
Zero explanation needed.
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Wonderful and weighty post. Friendships affect our families, our security, and our esteem in very real ways. I will always strive to be as intentional with my relationships and love as you. Give wholeheartedly and when necessary, detach with love.
Spot on, Court! It’s so hard when people we love drift away from us or we drift from them. I’ve struggled with that in my life and I’m trying to make a more focused effort. Thank you for this great post!
Yes. This is exactly what we discussed on the phone. Boundaries are SO. IMPORTANT. You and I are well versed in the whole taking a break and reconnecting thing. It happens. Life is complicated and sometimes people, like you said, are more like oil and water. I love that metaphor. But then sometimes they are like bread and butter and you just want to gobble it up!! Take care, Court!
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