Since my schooldays, friendships have proved to be challenging to me. I would have these wonderful close female friendships and slowly as life took us in different directions they would fall apart. This has happened innumerable times in my 40 plus years of life, and I am left wondering why I am unable to hang on to friendships long term.
I have the understanding that friendships are most often not meant to be forever, and I am lucky enough to have siblings and a couple of friends who will be with me long term (nursing home buddies); however, I find the separation of a group of close friends a very painful process. Each time the separation occurs, I find I handle it worse than I used to. It’s like my skin is getting thinner.
My first memory of this occurring was in high school, I attended a private school with small classes, mostly girls. Close friendships could not be avoided. We had huge sleepovers where all the girls were invited, had coffee talks and did almost everything together for those 4 years of high school. Following high school, those friendships fell apart quickly, and for me, the adjustment was challenging.
The next group of good friends was a group of new moms. We all met living in the same townhouse complex. Following 4 years of barbecues, coffee in the common area in between all the townhouses and hockey nights in the garage, we cemented (so I thought) our friendship trying to find our way through early parenthood. Then, one by one the families opted for homes instead of townhouses, marriages broke apart and kids lost interest in each other. When we had to move pretty far due to affordability, the friendships drifted away.
Shortly before our move, I had decided to home educate and found myself walking a very lonely road where I just did not feel like I fit in anywhere. In time through a homeschool book club, I connected with a group of moms who were just trying to figure it out like me in the midst of self-doubt and outside judgment.
Right now, this wonderful group of women who I was incredibly close to for at least 6 years are now drifting apart which I am finding incredibly painful. I find myself angry at them for abandoning me (I didn’t say my emotions were logical), and they all seem fine with it and I’m angry at them for that too. I have chosen to distance myself physically and emotionally because I do not enjoy the big group small talky thing.
The main thing I didn’t understand is why I take it so hard. Why can I not endure these friendships ending gracefully? What is wrong with me?
Then, this article came across my desk, Huffington Post – 10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently in the World.
I am an introvert. I love being with people, but I get my energy from my solitary pursuits and from deep conversations. As per the article “small talk stresses them (introverts) out, while deeper conversations make them feel alive.” Cue light bulb.
This is what I need to maintain close friendships:
Regular contact. Doesn’t matter if it’s email or face to face (don’t care for phone chats…read article for why), I need to feel connected so I don’t have to do the small talk conversations which are so draining for me. Infrequent contact is just an opportunity to catch up and not get below the surface…not satisfying to an introvert.
Dependability. I need friends who are reliable, not flaky. Flaky is fine for the small talk friends, but I can’t get to deep with my flaky friends. I need to know that I’m a priority of your time and energy because that is what I will give to you.
Authenticity. Authenticity builds trust. Introverts won’t open up to just anyone. We need true-blue friends.
Deep conversations. I want to cry with you when you find out your mother is sick or rejoice when something amazing happens to you in your career. I don’t want to talk about the weather unless it relates to how you got that mustard in your hair.
So right now, I’m in a place of anger and am starting to accept that process as natural when something dear is taken away. In time, I’ll move forward to gratitude for those wonderful friendships that filled a void when they were so needed and will love those strong women for pursuing their destinies. I will also move to a place where I will feel grateful for the one or two friendships that remain strong from each of those groups of women and know how fortunate I am.
But right now, I still feel sad and angry in my cocoon, and that’s okay.
Some friends are going to leave, but that’s not the end of your story. That’s the end of their part in your story. – Unknown