The Evolution of Friendship

 The past couple years have been interesting.  Its like there is a revolving door with some people entering while others exit.  My husband and I have been married for almost five years.  In the early years of our marriage we often had friends over for barbecues in the backyard.  These were rather large affairs with our last guests sometimes departing at 3am or later (or earlier, depending on how you look at it).  

We’ve both been through so many changes between our work life during the past two years.  I was always the girl that had to be doing something.  Hubby likes to stay in.  I like to go out.  I used to always be the one to plan the office get togethers.  It had even earned me the title ‘Queen Bee’.  People actually  started coming to me to find out what was going on after work at one point.

As my husband and I entered our 40s, something definitely changed.  There seems to be more of a craving for solitude these days than anything else.  I do believe the change came when the economy took a downturn.  Our efforts went from ‘who will we have over for drinks this weekend’ to ‘lets develop a game plan on how we’ll pay the mortgage this month.’  I don’t think I realized how dependent I was, or how whole I felt when I was surrounded by people.  Little did I realize then that time alone was really was what I needed –not necessarily wanted.

Lately though I’ve been in really deep thought about how friendships evolve.  I have a few best friends from childhood that I know we will always be a part of each other’s lives for as long as we live.  Then there are those that you meet randomly through other friends or through a job.  These seem to be the friends that are only there for a season.  I still have a framed picture of myself with two girlfriends on a trip to Mexico during the summer of 2002.  That was one of the last times I had seen either.  Then, new job and new friends.  The cycle repeats.  Looking back makes me feel like an archeologist excavating layers of my life and friendships.  I don’t know why some stay while others go.  And yet it works both ways; why do I hold onto some while others I let float away? 

I have a friend who is generous and kind.  She really has helped out with some kind words and advice and just all around good deeds the past year while my husband was laid off from work several times.  However, now that things are getting better, I noticed that the distance between she and I seems to be growing.  We used to email each other several times during the day and now I’m lucky if I get a response.  I have found a few times when I talk about something positive that’s happened then she retorts with something negative.   I don’t get that.  Is it possible that my vulnerability in the first place is what made me seem like an attractive friend to her?  Or is it that people come into our lives for a reason and for a season?  Maybe this season is turning.

In my late 20s I met a man named Robert.  Robert and I became instant best friends.  It was a strictly plutonic relationship.  He still lives in Boston, where I’m from originally, too, and although we hadn’t talked like we used to, we are the type of friends that can pick up where we left off.  My husband met Robert a few years ago over Guinesses on a visit back east.  Much to my happiness, they hit it off like they too were old friends.  Last Friday Robert called while I was at work.  We started in on a conversation that we both were quite familiar with; his love life.  There was a deju vu to this conversation.  A different woman but the same problem.  Suddenly I am back in that three-decker Boston apartment, haunted as all get out, with my feet propped up against the old farmer’s chair.  The familiarity, the whole volley of our speech, is like it is engrained to every thread of my being.  These friends are the types of people that hold lives together.  

Last week I went into my Facebook account and took inventory.  Anyone local who I had not spoken to outside of a computer in more than a year I cut lose.  It was beginning to get a bit awkward.  So do I still comment on their status even if we don’t talk?  I just cut the cord.  It took a long time to do because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in the end it just felt right.  I was beginning to feel like a stranger observing the lives of others I used to know who were now becoming strangers themselves.

Tuesday evening Robert called again.  He was actually crying this time.  Another old friend of ours has been battling cancer.  Although I hadn’t seen this friend as well in years, I still could never bring myself to delete his number out of my cell.  I broke down and cried, too.  “Why is it we let go of a good friend,” Robert cried.  “Why do we let this happen and lose touch?  Can’t we just pick up the phone?” 

“You’re right,” I said, through my tears.  “We are all guilty of it.” 

The next day I texted Robert to see how he was.  He had a date scheduled with a girl he just met and promised to let me know how things work out.  I started thinking again about how some friends were moving out and some were now moving in, and I felt this hole that was beginning to form in the fabric of my friendships close again.  When I opened up Facebook that afternoon, I saw that Robert had joined and had sent me a ‘Friend Request.’ 

I gladly accepted.

26 thoughts on “The Evolution of Friendship

  1. […] The Evolution of Friendship November 2010 25 comments and 4 Likes on 5 […]

  2. I enjoyed reading this today! Having moved around a lot I have had a lot of friendships that came and went and come and go. What I find surprising is how some that you think would never expire do and then the ones you thought would be based simply on work or something like that, tend to flourish…..
    and Facebook….great for keeping in touch if used for that, but also gives the impression of being connected when in fact we really may not be!

    • Those are very interesting points you make about the friendships you think will last that don’t, and the ones you don’t expect to last, do. I have seen that happen as well.

      That is also a very good point about Facebook. It’s almost like holding onto someone’s phone number because you might just call them someday. Facebook can be along the same precept.

  3. This is a very thought provoking post. My “best” friend is one that I made in kindergarten (48 years ago) and even though we live on the other side of the world from each other we just pick up right where we left off. I have some fabulous friends and they are people that I have collected from each phase or job in my life. For example I have two great friends from university days who are godmothers to 2 of my kids; from my first job I have a great friend; from my second job I have one really good friend etc. These are people that I have developmentally grown with, who have seen me in every emotional state and I really value their friendship and I work hard at keeping in touch given the distance apart we live.

    When I moved to the United States I left all those friends behind and found it really hard to form similar friendships here – mostly because everyone already had friends here and it’s hard to break into an already formed group. I also think my age and just the fact that people are more insular/isolated than when we were younger and more social contributed. I have made friends here now (I’d want to have or I’d be pretty lonely after 10 years! 🙂 ) but those old friends are still the ones that get me through really tough times.

    I think in my case it is more “acquaintances” that come and go rather than true friends. I don’t do FaceBook as I figure I’m already in touch with the people that I want to be in touch with.

    • That is so great to have had the same best friend since kindergarten! My best friend and I have known each other for 35 years now. She at one point actually worked with Robert which is kind of a neat coincidence.

      It definitely is harder to make friends as we age but maybe a few good life long friends are better than a 100 casual ones that leave almost as fast as they came in. Anyways, thanks for your input. This was something that had been on my mind lately so it was great to see so many comments on the subject.

  4. This is an interesting post, and one that’s worth a read. Many individuals will cross your path, some will stay, and some will go. So enjoy the people around you, when they are closed and let them free easily. Have a beautiful day!:)

  5. Interesting, how friendship and one’s relationship to others can be affected by the economy. I’m glad you’re making a conscious effort to keep yourself active and social. It’s really important.

  6. Great post i enjoied reading every word on it, i’am glad to have a friend like you, thanks for sharing your feeling with us.

  7. “There seems to be more of a craving for solitude these days than anything else” with my husband and I, that is very much the case too. For us it is that we had both been through so much before we met, and we want some peace, and we give each other peace too.
    Maybe it is as such for you and yours?
    How sad about your friend with cancer, but you found Robert again, which is nice.

    • Very true. I crave the solitude now. There has been much craziness over the past couple of years and I’m so grateful to have the solitude. We were both definitely ready for it! 🙂

  8. Yes, a life lesson I’ve learned very early in life. Friends come and friends go. Just be thankful for the time you’ve had them. I feel that the right person come at the time you “need” him or her. Or vice versa for that matter. But it takes some – well for the lack of words – ‘wisdom’ to know when to let them go too. We humans tend to cling. Onto people and stuff.
    I used to be the type of person who subconsciously thought that I can “save the world”. And of course I hope I had a good influence on my friends and was able to help them with their struggles and giving them great memories about the things we’ve done together. But I also learned with the years, that I gave way more then there ever will be returned. So the day I move to a different place – I am sure there are a few friendships that will fizzle out. Unless the other part shows me that they are still truly interested to keep the friendship alive by putting effort into it.
    (I also decided about a year – year and half ago, that I will no longer tolerate negativity in my life. If you only complain and don’t do anything about the things you are complaining about – we don’t have anything to say to each other any more. These are the friends I will lose for sure, or will never make)

  9. Very well-written. I have friends who I have kept in touch with, even from opposite ends of the planet. Others just drift away, despite your best efforts. I think friendships have a natural life cycle and evolution of their own. I try not to force it.

  10. Your post is so insightful. I have found that forming friendships has become harder and HARDER, and that makes me feel kind of ashamed and inadequate, like I forgot how to make a friend.

    Am I wrong to conclude that our online society contributes to the hardness of forming friendships? Like you said, I think people are kind of drawing back.

    I have a good friend at work, but that’s where I’ve been spending my life lately. When you work so much you don’t have much time or energy left to do fun things with people.

    I keep hoping it will get better so I don’t feel like something is broken.

    • It is harder, isn’t it? I’m starting to learn that although my friends may live in different states, they are the pillars in my life. Maybe thats all that is needed.

      Its good that you have a friend at work and I hope that provides some balance.

      I hope it gets better for you, too.

      • Yesterday was a tough day. I found out that my friend at work is leaving because the situation is too hard for her. It has been a really tough situation for both of us. We started within a month of each other and you know it’s got to be really tough if she’s walking away from a full time job to go work a short term contracting position. I wish her the very best and will do my best to keep in touch after she leaves. Good friends are hard to come by, so you do need to treasure them.

  11. I think you are right about the friend that you felt distance from when things improved. Sometimes, people are attracted to the lows and cannot handle when things start going well in their friends life.

    I see friends come and go as well. I don’t like it. It makes me sad and makes me feel lonely. When we moved to this mountain, people seemed to have friends, either because they grew up here together, or because they went to the college together, or because they were in the wealthy set and therefore had things in common such as the Garden Club or the Golf Club.

    I don’t mean it to have a pity party. It has been difficult to find close and deep friendships here. I have made a few and I have my online friends on the blog. I don’t know if it is me or if it is our society. Most women work, and I don’t, and people are so mobile and move.

    I am glad that you are back in touch with Robert and that your husband likes him too! Nice to have someone that has been and will be in your life for a very long time 🙂

    • Yes, its like the dynamics of the friendship have changed. I was trying to explain this to my mother yesterday and I could tell she had no idea what I was talking about. Although I’m sorry you’ve had this experience, too, I’m glad that you know what it is that I am talking about and can relate.

      I’m sorry to hear that you feel lonely and I don’t think you are having a pity party at all. I do think that everything does move in cycles. There are times that maybe we are meant to be alone and experience things that way and then there are other times that people just seem to arrive unexpectedly. Maybe we just have to enjoy the ride. Or just be patient with ourselves.

      I am really glad that Robert got in touch with me, too. I am blessed to have a few people in my life who are pillars. I’ll always know these people. Although I’m sad sometimes that there aren’t more around, I’m starting to come to the realization that maybe they are all I need.

  12. It was invited to -facebook- by the acquaintance of norway at the end of July.
    It came to be able to have the exchange in the ’92 ’95 ’98 again with people who got acquainted in Norway at the exhibition of the ceramic art works.
    “The evolution friendship”
    Child’s hand is beautiful and hope.
    I think friendship to be a life with the most important one.

    • Isn’t it nice that we are able to find old friends because of Facebook? I have also found childhood friends through it. It is wonderful to reconnect.

      Friendships are very important.

  13. This is a great post because you are so right that it is like a revolving door. People in, people out. I’ve been through it time and time again in my life time. To me, it’s just part of the life cycle that has so many variables to it, well, it actually gets scary sometimes. I go through periods of time that I get depressed because I don’t hear from anyone it seems like, and then turn around and go through times that I think, if that phone rings one more time today I’m going to scream. Life changes constantly and well, people are who they are.

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