2011 Challenge: friends

There are many ways your resources – energy, time and money – can be drained. Sadly, sometimes it’s not your car payments draining you but a friend.

My circle of friends is really circles: groupings of people I’ve connected with over life events like university and my national team rowing days. Many live in other cities and, while we haven’t been roommates in 15 years, when we see each other it’s as if no time has passed. They’re still the same kind, generous and hilarious souls they were long ago. When I visit with these friends I feel renewed and invigorated. They know me well and are positive influences on me, always cheering me on. I like to think I do the same for them.

Then I have a few assorted friends of a different variety. They don’t return phone calls and we often can’t make a simple coffee date or walk on the sea wall happen. We do a lot of ‘we should really get together’ but never end up pulling the trigger.

If I’m not getting much out of the relationship, they aren’t either. Instead of being a dark ‘I feel bad we aren’t connecting’ thought weighing on me, I’ve decided to let these friends go. Sure, relationships require effort but they should reward in return.

So I’m giving up a few friends in 2011. Time is my most precious commodity and I want to spend it on people that value it: me, my family and good friends.

What if your bad friends are family?

That’s tough. I’m a big proponent of strong family ties. This is hugely influenced by the fact that my immediate family and my in-laws are all great people.

You can’t cut family out (unless they are really heinous people – then go ahead) but your sister that makes snide remarks about your lasagna or your brother-in-law that keeps borrowing money could use an honest conversation. I believe family ties should be salvaged whenever possible.

So tell them the truth. Their comments hurt. You’re not an ATM. You want a better relationship with them. Engage in a positive activity together or go for a walk. Exercise improves everyone’s mood.

Check out Angela Wilson on Suite101’s post about the types of friends to end a relationship with if you’re having trouble figuring out who’s phone calls to block.

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  • This is a wise and timely post for me . . . I just spent 3 days with my mom and two sisters and it was mostly strained for me and probably for them too. I am a very different person in a very different place in my life. My sister I am closest to in age (11 mos. apart) and in what we have in common (yoga, kids, hiking) have always had some sort of competition thing going on. This weekend I expended (most) of my negative energy cooking for everyone and washing the dishes. One sister refused to join in on any activity and at 51 years old still plays the spoiled baby sister routine. My mom continues to bring up our past boyfriends and old memories (bless her heart) and my middle sister jostles with the all-knowing ‘big sister’ role (I am the oldest). I’m just tired of not having a truly loving relationship with them. I am the most expressive and demonstrative of my family and do not hold back praise or appreciation . . . nor do I always hold my tongue when outlandish statements are announced as truth. I suppose I should adopt what Dr. Joy Browne recommends as the; “stupid and cheerful” means of dealing with edgy circumstances. I grew up in an alcoholic home (dad) and was in a 26 year abusive marriage. I am remarried to a loving, supportive husband and we live life exactly the way we want. I have been working to ‘undo’ a lot of the past learned behaviors of living with abuse and playing the victim but when it comes to family it’s much more challenging. Your post has helped me to realize that telling my family the truth may be the biggest and most impactful step through my learning journey of releasing the past. Thank you for the nudge . . . .

    • Thanks for commenting.
      I have four sisters. I think at some point or another we have all been at each other’s throats or BFFs. Gotta love family!
      Family is challenging, so hard to change patterning built up over the years. Sounds like you have made a lot of progress =)

  • I decided a while ago to just let friendships die natural deaths… not put a whole lot of thought into “giving up” on them or being guilty about not keeping in touch. I find that I have no trouble making an effort for friendships that I get a lot from and that I hope the other person does too. The other ones, either the ones where I am dragging my feet about returning that phone call or email or the ones where they never get back to me, will fade (and reappear!) as things change. At stages in my graduate career I have gone MIA and I am sure that some friends gave up on me, temporarily or for good. I am increasingly willing to cut the other people slack – with careers, marriages, divorces (!!), babies, moves, etc. If it works for them when things are calmer in their lives, I would be happy to re-engage, assuming things are calm enough in mine.

    • Good reminder. I have a couple of friends that are in a very different life stage than me. I’m trying not to feel bad that we aren’t connecting, but you’re right, down the road we may both be in different places. Maybe our friendships will bloom again in a later stage.

      • Actually, this has also pertained to family, in my situation. Although I believe in close-knit families as ideal, they aren’t always a reality because of many, many factors, and as the youngest of 5 children my relationships with my siblings has waxed and waned as we entered and exited different stages of life at different times. Over time I have become more and more comfortable in accepting that. Although I will always Love them, sometimes our life situations make it harder and harder to enjoy spending time together. But inevitably our lives change again and for some unknown reason we treasure time spent together.

  • You touched on something very touchy… when family is draining, or worst seems to be cutting ties – but nobody knows why! It has happened in my family and I’m at a loss… In this case, it’s the cold shoulder and lack of response that hurts.

  • I’d have to confess that you’d have probably let me go by now. For a long, long time I was not good at calling on the phone, and my closest friends were. I am fortunate that they’ve stuck with me through the years, and it is because of those years that I think they didn’t let me go. I’ve pulled the same not-calling thing with more recent budding friendships that never blossomed, if you will. But then again, there wasn’t any deep connection, and I hadn’t done anything to foster its development. So, lesson learned. And I now take much better care of the friends that I’ve chosen to keep.
    Regarding family: I agree with everything that you’ve said here. Honesty is the best policy, even when it’s difficult!

    • Some great comments here and they’ve made me think. Maybe it’s not about cutting ties but just letting ourselves drift away. When the timing is right for a friendship to renew we’ll find that person again.
      Honesty + love, right?
      Need to go log in, read the first sections of your book and vote. How exciting, Rayna!

      • That does make sense.
        My long time best friend kind of just stopped talking to me some time ago. I’m not real sure what happened, and because we go to the same church and playgroup I didn’t really notice for a long time that I couldn’t even remember the last time she’d invited me somewhere – it had all been up to me – or we’d had much of a conversation at the places we were mutually together.
        I can’t cut ties, but have ‘untied’ them for now. Godwilling our friendship will renew itself in the coming years.

        • Thanks for your comment, Susan. The comments here have given me a lot to think about. I do hope that some of my friendships that have fallen dormant will some day wake up again.

  • I have a sister-in-law who I had to stop talking to because I had enough of every single conversation involves manipulation and one-upmanship. But I haven’t cut ties because she is family, and we make every effort to visit them when we are in their town, and send them birthday presents and show them that we love them. After all they are family.

    Friends are easier to cut ties with because I’m terrible at keeping in touch with people when one of us has moved away!

  • well…in that case we’d better meet for drinks tonight…
    I’m free anytime after 6. It’s my night off, so I’m setting up in a coffee shop to get some writing done. Call me and I’ll tear away and throw back some much needed beer.
    xo m

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