I recently had to grapple with the uneasy fact that a few of my college friends and I were no longer really friends. Somewhere in the years since college we had taken very different paths in life. Their paths led them to marriage soon after graduation, (I was a bridesmaid for one of them) starting families and steadily moving up the ranks in their careers (they both work in education).
It took me a long time to accept the fact that our friendships no longer held the same meaning they once did. Looking back I have probably known for years that we were headed down this path, but I remained loyal to the idea of the friendships long after they no longer served to be viable on either side.
Maybe it was hard to let go because I felt so invested, not just in years- over two decades- but in thought and effort. I’d gone to countless showers and children’s birthday parties. I had spent many frustrating phone calls trying to hold conversations with my girls while they simultaneously held conversations with their spouses and children. I made efforts to stay in touch leaving messages where calls were seldom if ever returned and suffered through numerous uncomfortable sent straight to voice mail calls.
For a long time I wondered if it was me. Was I not supportive enough? Was I not considerate enough of their new lifestyles as mommies, wives and career women? I thought eventually when I got married and had my own family, all would be made right when we could bond over the stresses of motherhood and work balance. Yet it became increasingly clear that my old friendships couldn’t wait for me to catch up. Simply put, these friendships ended out of neglect.
And so a vital lesson had to be learned. A true relationship of any kind requires consistency. Both parties, be it in a romantic relationship or friendship, both have to be willing to put in some effort consistently in order for the relationship to endure. Sometimes you’ll find one putting in more work then the other as relationships are often hard to keep balanced. But the best way to have any sense of keeping a long term relationship going, is for both parties to be consistent in their efforts to maintain the relationship. It’s far too easy for resentment and animosity to build when one person feels as though they are doing the heavy lifting for their relationship on a sustained basis.
I know my friends have not intentionally slighted me or tried to be hurtful by not being equally invested in our relationship. Things for them simply changed and I no longer held a strong position in their lives after the changes took place. Part of the reason I surmise is that they couldn’t or wouldn’t consistently commit to the friendship. Instead of recognizing this earlier on, I allowed these lopsided relationships to go on for far too long. Despite these sad loses, I have relationships with friends made in the early years of my career fresh out of college and those friendships are still in tack. The big difference, consistency.
Perhaps it’s the best part of getting older that allows me to see the greater lessons in having long standing friendships come to an end. People can either serve to help break you down or build you up, it’s all based on how you choose to look at it. I choose to recognize that in having stronger standards for all my relationships, expecting consistency is a basic requirement of friendship that will fortify the relationship regardless of how divergent the roads those relationships travel. I deserve nothing less, and neither do you.