We’ve made friends. But what makes our friendship last? How do we maintain our friendship?
Just as there are many ways of making friends and many personalities that form those friendships, I suspect maintaining friendships has no simple template either. But even if you have a plant which needs very little watering and can cope with times of huge neglect and still survive, it will suffer, and even the strongest can eventually die.
Friendships need maintaining if they are to continue influencing our lives.
We need to put certain elements to work: time, consideration, expressions of value and kindness. We need to communicate, to have a certain amount of availability, to be seen to care. Because if we do not care about our friends, they will certainly feel it.
Some friendships can go months and years and have that lovely habit of ‘picking up where we left off’ as if no time had past. Such is the bond and the understanding that both parties know this is the case, and rest in the knowledge of a constant friend. Some friendships are not like this – without careful upkeep they disintegrate and become awkward, unable to maintain previous intimacies. And if you mistake the latter for the former, it can be a shock to realise that you have lost something – that your friend is no longer ‘there’ in the way they were previously, that you should have been more careful if you wanted to keep them.
I find this difficult to reflect on as it is all very personal – my experience may well be entirely different to yours. Even within my hypotheses there are paradoxes – I can think of two individuals who hardly ever keep in touch with me. With one, this does not impact our friendship at all; when I think of her I feel a great rush of loyalty and love. When I think of the other, I feel hurt. I suppose with the former it is different in that I know she wants my friendship and time simply runs away with her; with the other it feels like the ball has always been in my court and no effort is really made on her part at all.
There needs to be a form of mutual maintaining.
I quietly regret the friendships I have let slide – those when I come to pick them back up find myself scrabbling at mere pieces of what we once had. Grief roars then; as someone who forms strong attachments and feels deeply, I find such realisations painful. My life is full of stinging memories where I have not maintained what I honestly valued – but did not show it. I assumed it would always be as it had been – and that was my mistake.
We cannot assume a friendship will maintain itself.
There are friends I cannot easily see and I deliberately programme in – this is not always easy but even the effort shows that I want to – where our plans are foiled by circumstances we both know that we had plans to see each other.
We appreciate the effort made by our friends to keep up with us.
Distance is a great test – and we do not deliberately back away from our friends but our lives can move in different directions. Change in friendships is inevitable, and if we have lots of close friends it can be a challenge to keep that ‘closeness’ with all of them, even if we want to.
I think there is, in friendship, an instant recognition – a kind of loving. It needs only a word in passing, the touch of a hand – yet parting is loss, and the tiny ache of regret stays with us always. – Helen M Exley
When a friend does not try, does not bother with us, or respond to us, we feel hurt, frozen and rejected. But that’s a topic for another post…