As we get older, we get wiser–at least that’s the assumption. So it makes perfect sense that as we get older, we stop trying to keep friendships that don’t work all that well going. Sometimes it’s easy because you interests change, and you just don’t see each other. But sometimes, you have to step up and decide. When you know it’s not working for you anymore, you waste precious time and energy continuing with it. And even if the other person is benefitting, it’s not a friendship if you both aren’t working at being friends.
So what are the clues that tell you when to say “Enough!” (or to just mutter it under your breath and stop trying)?
- How do you feel after you’ve spent time with this person? Are you energized? Or do you need a nap–or a hot fudge sundae–to overcome what you just went through?
- What did you talk about when you were together? Is that something you are interested in? Did you feel like an equal in the conversation?
- Was it “all about me” for the other person? Were you listening to his/her problems, conquests, projects, and/or glory for most of the time together? How much interest did he/she show in what was going on in your life when you tried to talk about it? (If you are choosing not to talk about yourself, that’s a different issue.)
- What are you getting out of being friends with this person? Does he/she provide something you need? Or are you just going along for the sake of avoiding conflict?
We need friends. But they have to be real to meet that need. Is that what you have going?
The reasons we make friends vary all over the map. And having friends does require tolerance and acceptance of the fact that we are all different. But different and balanced are two very different things. If you don’t feel good about having spent time with that person after you do, dig down to find out why. Is the friendship going both ways?
Is she/he helping you become a better person? Sometimes, the dis-ease you feel is because the person reminds you of what you want to be but aren’t working on. In that case, much as there’s a bad feeling after you part, there’s also an “I want to do better” echoing in your head.. That’s a true friend.
On the other hand, if you come home feeling invisible, it may be because the person you were with didn’t really put effort into seeing you. No one needs that. Spending time with that kind of person is a waste of timne. Don’t go there!
What’s in a good friendship?
- People you enjoy being around. Life’s too short to hang around with Grumpy Gus, Negative Nellie, or All-About-Me Al.
- No worries about “what people will think.” In the first place, nobody cares who you hang out with except you (unless you are 12–then your parents care and they are right to do that). Age, skin color, social background, etc. make no difference in whether you can be friends.
- Diversity–but not as a way to be politically correct. A wide range of friends is part of living a big life. That casts a wider net for new experience and knowledge. Be friends with kids, with the very elderly, with CEO’s, with janitors. Be open to friendship whenever you meet someone new.
- FUN! That’s the bottom line. If a person is fun to be with, he or she is good friend material. Authentic playmates aren’t always about fun. They are the ones who will be with you in thick and thin.
Dead-end friends are not fun. And they are not good for you. It’s okay to let them go (even if they insist you are a selfish, mean, intolerant person because you are no longer their captive audience and/or slave).