I am a loyal person. When I become good friends with someone, I am essentially forever in their corner. I think the world of them and will defend them. I want to consistently spend time with them and keep up with their life. I pray for them and try to help out when possible.
When a relationship changes or ends, as is bound to happen multiple times throughout a person’s life, it is hard for me. I often try to maintain the previous level of commitment and intimacy for a period of time until I get worn down or realize it’s futile. I feel sad and wonder whether the break down was due to something I did. I often hold on to the belief that things can stay the same for far too long.
Atlanta is a transitional area for many people. People move in, out, and around quite frequently. I have lived here for eleven years and have gained and lost a good number of friends in that time span. Some left the area, making it hard to keep up regularly as there is no longer any overlap in our lives. Other relationships changed when we entered new life stages such as having children or starting new jobs.
I wrestle with these changes, sometimes handling them better than others. To help me through these transitions and become healthier in dealing with everything, I have read several books on friendship and relationships. I process, learn, and heal often through words I read. It’s one way God is able to pierce my heart and speak truth to me in the midst of turmoil and struggle.
I want to share some things that have encouraged and helped me as I have worked to grow in my relationship skills and my ability to not hold so tight to friendships. The book that helped me the most was Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness by Shasta Nelson. I heard about her work and her book listening to a Jen Hatmaker podcast. It was a very informative and encouraging interview. Below are some quotes from the book that spoke me. If they ring true to you and are something you needed to hear, consider reading the book as well.
It’s no one’s fault that as our lives change our friendships must shift as well.
Research suggests that most of us replace half our closest friends every seven years; at that rate, basically anyone experiencing life change will experience some friendship losses and transitions, many times over.
If we are willing to admit feeling hungry for greater connection, then we’re better able to choose the actions that will lead to more meaningful friendships. So, ultimately and ideally, our gaps invite our growth.
When we’re under stress – which disappointment and frustration certainly fall under – our human temptation is to fight or to flee, to go big or to go home. Intimacy requires a third path: lean in.
It’s your job to ask for what you need. And honestly, to have the chance to share about your life doesn’t require them to ask about it – it only requires that they receive it when you decide to share.
Our goal is time together; it doesn’t really matter who initiates to get us there. If we’re the ones who see the need, it might as well be us.
Anytime there is a fight, an unmet need, a slow-boiling frustration, or a repeated judgment in one of our friendships, we have the sacred opportunity to try to repair it, develop it, enhance it, and grow it – before we end it. To walk away from gaps without trying to close them just leaves a bunch of gaping holes in what could have been full, nurtured hearts.
Trust that no connection is a waste of time. Letting go of the need to categorize every person as either all or nothing reminds us that each encounter can be life-changing, each conversation potentially meaningful, each person some kind of teacher, and each relationship a gift – even if the person doesn’t end up in our inner circle.
Which of the above quotes did you relate to most? Do you handle relationship changes well?