Monday, September 22, 2008

Facts for a Real Friendship

Facts for a Real Friendship

Understand that all friendships should be give-and-take relationships. Sometimes that means the give-and-take is unevenly distributed. It's just a fact of life, and if you want to continue relationships with friends who just don't have much to give at this time, you will need to accept it. Sometimes, it really is all on you - sometimes it's you giving 100% while they give 0%, while other times, it seems to be a more equitable balance of 50/50. That's life, and it's normal.

Let them know you welcome all contact with them. Sometimes, friends shy away from calling - they don't want to "bug you," or they think they need a "reason" to call and catch up, or to reach out to you. By making sure your voice is welcoming, or that you respond as soon as possible to emails, etc., you will let them know they don't need any reason to make contact; they can call just to talk, and you'll be glad to hear from them.

Use humor to lighten the situation when you mention it. Going up to your friend as if you are a jealous lover, yelling at him or her, acting all depressed because you feel left out, etc. will not make your friend leap to call more often. It will make him or her run like the wind - who needs the drama? Instead, affect some sort of goofy accent or use some other method of clearly joking - do not be pointed about it, insulting, petulant, etc. Above all, know when to quit - make a quick joke: "Oy, Brandon, you nevah call, you nevah write - what am I to think? That you don't love me, that's what!" And then chuckle, say, "I know you're so busy - but I love to hear from you, I miss you." And drop it. Don't keep it going, just let it go.

Realize that you may be the "needier" friend at a time when your friend needs space. If this is the case, the most successful and best type of friend you can be is an understanding one. If you make repeated attempts to get your buddy to stay in touch, but s/he doesn't, it may be that life's pressures and demands are weighing heavier on your friend than on you. While you may have loads of time and disposable cash, your friend may be struggling financially, or under the load of classes, etc. Rather than burden you with his or her problems, your friend may simply withdraw for a little while, until circumstances ease. Be sensitive to this. It may be a time for you to probe a little ("I'm concerned about you - you've seemed to withdraw for a little bit. Is there a problem I could help with?") or to respect the unspoken request for distance. Just be open and friendly, letting your friend know that when s/he is ready to make contact, you will be there.

Back off. Once you're clear that your friend is not going to reach out or confide in you, but simply seems less into your friendship than you are, back away for the time being. Let your friend struggle through whatever is going on in his or her life without harassment. Let your friend know that you are there and still care for him or her by sending an email every week or two, texting something innocuous, or just calling and leaving a message occasionally. A text like "R u busy? Call me?" is fine. But if s/he doesn't answer, let it go - don't follow up. Or leave a message like "Hey, Jonah, this is Robin. I'm just calling to say hi - we hadn't chatted in a while and I had a few minutes free. I was just hoping to catch up a little. If you get a chance later, give me a call - otherwise, hope everything's okay, and just wanted to let you know I'm thinking of ya. Chat with ya soon." These are non-predatory, non-threatening attempts at contact, and have a sincere message that you care attached. But the caution here is, once you've called and left one message, let that be enough.

Accept reality. Sometimes, distancing Friends from you is your friend's way of letting you know that right now, the friendship just is not a priority to him. If it's tremendously important to you that all friendships be maintained daily, weekly, monthly, etc., then this is not the friend for you. Many friendships naturally drift - that is to say that, sometimes, you are very close to this person, and other times, you have no contact. Many friends of very long-standing have had the experience of falling out of touch with one another for years at a time. Eventually, one friend tracks the other one down, reaches out, and BANG! It's as if no time had passed at all - they resume their friendship. Other times, friends simply grow away, develop other interests, and make other friends, and we lose touch with them permanently.

The important thing to remember is that, once someone is important to you, it's rare that you would simply stop caring about him or her. But it is essential that you accept that all friendship is a two-way volunteer situation. If one no longer volunteers, there's very little the other can do about it. Let your friend go, and treasure what good memories of your friendship you have.

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