Let’s face it. We’re social creatures.
While technology helps us in so many ways, there’s no substitute for that face-to-face human contact.
Since last Sunday was National Friends Day (who knew it rated its own holiday?), that got me thinking about the importance of friendships.
Recent studies have shown they can be as important in our lives as family — and, in some cases, more so.
Hospice nurse Bronnie Ware, author of “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” ranks friendships among the most important elements in terms of quality of life. One of the things her dying patients cited as a major regret was not maintaining their friendships.
Those of you who are fans of the television show “Grey’s Anatomy” will recall the bond between Dr. Meredith Grey and Dr. Christina Yang. “You are my person,” became their soul tagline.
You probably have lots of acquaintances, although I’ll bet you can count on one hand (and maybe a few fingers) those friends who have your back — no matter what.
It’s been said that a good friend will help you move, but a really good friend will help you move a body!
Life gets in the way
Your intentions are good. But then week after week goes by, and you lose contact.
Work, kids, caretaking, health issues and other responsibilities get in the way. Before you know it, those awkward pauses have given way to a void. And you’re just not sure how to get that vibe back.
New ground rules or boundaries may need to be set. There’s the rub, though. Often, those involved don’t acknowledge this — resulting in confusion and hurt feelings.
Your friend may withdraw, and you’re left wondering why. It may have nothing to do with you, yet it’s hard not to wonder. You’ve heard the cliches.
“It’s not about me; it’s about her.” Or, “Maybe he’s just not that into you.”
Looking in the mirror
Which is not to say you don’t need to examine your own accountability in any situation that’s puzzling. If it’s not immediately apparent, dig deeper to find out. If you’re satisfied this is not the case, then don’t give the situation more energy than it deserves.
I’d venture to say many of you go to the other extreme, though, and beat yourself up about your role in any misunderstanding.
The simple fact is relationships take work. While it doesn’t take a lot, it takes frequency. If you’re feeling this void, take some baby steps to reach out. Send a text, an email or a card, or make a phone call. Just open with a phrase like “I know it’s been a while since we’ve connected ...” and go from there.
A wise woman once told me, “Dear, there’s never a need to explain or complain.” You may feel guilty for letting the void go on and creating the distance. Just start with a clean slate in the present moment.
Is there a reason?
When someone comes into your life for a reason, it’s usually to meet a need. They’ve come to assist you. They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they withdraw. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
You can attempt to restore the relationship or accept “the new normal.” Or you may realize your need has been met. Their work in your life — and yours in theirs — has been done. And now it’s time to move on.
Change of seasons
Relationships go through seasons, just like the cycles of nature. People come into your life for various purposes. When you figure out which one it is, you’ll know what to do with each person.
Some people come into your life for a season — to share, learn or grow with you. Maybe you work together or have common interests. They may bring you an experience or teach you something you’ve never known. They usually give you an incredible amount of joy.
Believe it. It’s real. But only for a season.
Lifetime relationships teach you life lessons. These can be formed during childhood or later in life — with a significant other or a close friend who has helped you through a crisis.
Relationships all have a purpose. And they take investment — from both sides.
Over time, a friend may have become so needy they suck the living daylight out of you. Maybe it’s time to take stock and evaluate whether your collective purpose has been fulfilled. Or, maybe it’s time to double down and make the time to energize this relationship.
That’s where honest communication comes in — even if it’s easier to sweep things under the rug. You need to decide what’s healthy for you. Sometimes there’s just not enough bandwidth, regardless of your good intentions.
Then there’s the cleanup. This can be the most awkward of all. How do you put the toothpaste back in the tube?
You can either let the relationship wane naturally and die a slow death, or get some clarity around the situation and address it.
All of this is OK. The important thing is that you recognize which friendships are most important to you now.
If they’re worth the investment, start making some deposits.