What is friendship?
I am by no means an expert on friends. I don’t actually have a TON of friends, I have enough so I never feel lonely. But I don’t have so many friends that I can’t keep track of them all. We live in a strange world with Facebook because we can keep in touch with people we may never have cared to see again. Those people are our “friends” but they really aren’t’ I try to periodically delete people. If I notice someone I haven’t seen in person in years posting depressing quotes or profane sports junk or hateful political things, I may unfriend them. You should really try to keep your Facebook friends list to less than 100 people, seriously. We all have the extraneous family we want to keep in touch with. Or our kindergarten best friend, but your Facebook should be a tool to connect in real life, not an excuse to spy on people you half care about. Maybe that is just me. Your friends should be people you rely on, that you care about. I have a lot of good friends that come and go, and a circle of really close friends that I try to talk to every week. What got me thinking about friendship in general was a friendship that ended this week. I feel like friendship is a topic that we take for granted, we know it’s there. We assume it’s there, but its like pornography in that we never define it, we just know it when we see it. I recently ended a toxic relationship and it made me feel strange inside. I wanted to post about it.
Are you involved in a relationship that doesn’t do any good for you?
Sometimes we become friends out of necessity. Sometimes it is for convenience. If you see someone every day, sometimes you become friends out of habit. Have you ever seen friendships fall apart because you no longer work with that person, have class with that person, etc? Sometimes you realize you were never friends at all. This can be a hard process and simultaneously a freeing process. I am going to give you a very short yet detailed story of the death of my toxic relationship.
I was friends with a girl who married into my boyfriends family. We weren’t friends before the marriage really, we met because of the relationship. We honestly had nothing in common. She was super into makeup and name brand designer purses and clothes. She is gorgeous and has amazing hair all the time. And she was a clean freak. If you know me, I have only recently starting getting into makeup and I think name brand things are usually a rip off. Also I am pretty much a slob. (I really need to clean speaking of which…). We had hung out a bunch, mostly in the capacity of drinking on a double date. It was maybe like once month, I have a busy life, so I always have something going on. Everything seemed fine until they got engaged. She was marrying pretty much my boyfriends little brother ( well his cousin but they are basically brothers). I always felt like she was competing with me. This sounds crazy now, she never overtly did anything to make it seem like that but she always gave me this feeling with her words. She would make accusations with her comments like ” You guys aren’t in that serious of a relationship obviously, not like us.” because my boyfriend had not proposed to me we are somehow less real or serious? (for the record my boyfriend and I only started dating a couple of months after them, and we are ridiculously happy together, neither of us are in any rush to get married) or after the wedding “Someday you may become real family like me” because I wasn’t married in the family I am not a part of it? (again why do we have to be married, this is like some assumption in our society that I think simply leads to divorce, We are super happy, isn’t that enough?) This sounds so dumb now, but her words always hurt me. It was little slide remarks she would say, comparing how much better she was. She would sneak them into a conversation, like a cold knife in your back. Maybe I am too sensitive or maybe she wasn’t doing it on purpose. But every time we hung out I would be down about something that she had said. But the thing was she acted like a sweetie and would be so nice, and act like we were best friends. But the more I got to know her, I realized she was doing just that, acting. She would act like your best friend, with everyone. This should have been a red flag to me, I am the opposite of that, unless you prove yourself to me you are not my “bestie;” I always need solid actionable proof. She never gave me any to prove that she was a real friend, at least by my standards. I was a bridesmaid in the wedding, at first I thought it was to be nice because my boyfriend was one of the groomsmen, because I didn’t feel we were close enough to be at that point in our friendship for me to actually be in her wedding. But I realize now it’s because she has no girlfriends. Be wary of a girlfriend who has no friends. (Do not get me wrong, she would throw huge parties and lots of people would come, but those are the kind of people you only want to be with drunk.) The whole wedding was very nice and pretty, but a ton of drama with the maid of honor. I am still glad it’s over, it was such a stressful day. I cried so much. (This is a story for another day.) Time passed, I tried to distance myself from her, we hung out less and less. I would start to be more me when we would hang out, I got tired of keeping up the act of “bestie” and just be myself. But every time I wasn’t fake when we hang out, we would have a fight. The fights were pretty nasty and they made me feel awful. I think the last straw for me was my 25th birthday party when she tried to sell all my friends this pyramid scheme diet thing, and she spent the whole night fighting with her husband, complaining and pulling my dress down, like exposing my bra, in front of everyone. All my guests left early. I just cried, it was such an awful night. She called me later to say she was having problems with her husband, and ultimately after only a year of being married they filled for a divorce. I don’t know if there was cheating, she denies it, I don’t know. The divorce hasn’t been finalized and she is dating someone else, I don’t know. It’s still raw and sticky. And the public forum is not the place to dish on that…
Well I invite her to go to a Pilates class with me this week. It was all far from my house and my absolute favorite instructor was teaching it and I invite her. I didn’t want to go alone, I hadn’t taken a Pilates class before, I wanted to go with a friend. And I always want to give my girl Rita new students, because she is an amazing instructor, and honestly a great person. So I invite this girl. I think part of me wanted to make all the time I had spent with this girl prior to the divorce filling, worth it. Friendship takes a lot of effort. You put a lot of time into it. I think a part of me wanted to validate that our friendship wasn’t a fake act like it was starting to feel. Apparently a huge mistake inviting her, or maybe a good lesson. She insists I come to her house and in usual fashion she is on her phone the whole time seeming to ignore me, (pretty par for the course hanging out with her) we talk for a little bit and then the questions start. Since she told me about the divorce all she does is ask if the family asked about her. The family I am still connected to through my boyfriend, who is still very related to her soon to be Ex Husband. So she asks about Christmas. I have already dodged many of these questions from her, every time I see her she asks. Not just about her Ex Husband, about Aunts, cousins, etc. Did they ask about her? Did they miss her? Was it sad without her?
l very much love my boyfriends family. They have really taken me in, made me feel welcome. They have been involved in my life. I should write another post about them. Anyway I avoid these questions from her. Divorces can get ugly and people take sides. So I answer I don’t know, and change the subject. Well it turns into this huge fight. Like screaming. I am so uncomfortable at this point. What does she want me to say? The whole family fell apart without her, that everyone was miserable? She tells me how important she is, and how marriage is different than just dating. And again puts down my relationship with my boyfriend.. I say let’s not talk about this anymore, I am uncomfortable, so we go to Pilates, it seems fine. WRONG. I get a flood of texts the next day about how inconsiderate I am, how insensitive I am. How terrible of a friend I am and I should just tell her about the family because it is so hard on her. I try to apologize. I didn’t mean to make her feel bad, I just don’t want to be like an informant, or spy or messenger. She choose to end her marriage and let the marital ties dissolve, so she can’t end her marriage and keep his family through me. That isn’t fair to anyone. I ask her what this drama about, assuming that she has something else bothering her… and she calls me a bitch.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it all clicked into place for me. I would never insult one of my friends. Women in our society are constantly called names and put down, I don’t want to add anything to the trash pile. In all my fights I have never insulted a girlfriend. I think there is an assumption there, when you care about someone you never beat them down for convenience. I did an inventory of my relationship with this girl. What benefits were we giving each other. We took great selfies together? But thinking about it. We offered each other nothing. She doesn’t like who I am, and I don’t like who she is. She lives her live as though everyone orbits her. She is basically Regina George from Mean Girls, but without the friends. I do some soul searching. I talk to women I respect, My Boyfriends mom, my Pilates teacher, my friends… and I decide to shake the bad apple out of my tree. And rid my life of her. There are times when you have to shake your tree and rid yourself of bad apples, that is what My boyfriends mom told me. So I blocked her on all social media, deleted her number, erased the pictures of us from Facebook, my computer and phone. I don’t know if that seems brash. I don’t really care. I spent so long trying to make her happy. And she did nothing for me. Also I was hurting my boyfriends family by spending time with her. I may have inadvertently hurt my boyfriends cousin, who I care deeply about. Her calling me a bitch was totally the wake up I needed.
Friends are not obligations. Friends are not something you bully. Friends shouldn’t be obligated to give your life anything, but they should give you joy. This girl never gave me joy. She made me feel small, stupid, ugly, unimportant, and fat. Seriously. My boyfriend has been telling me this for months. He said every time I hang out with her, I come back sad and insecure. That is not what friendship is.
What makes someone a good friend?
I think about my best friends… Mia, Danielle, Heather , Clarissa… What do these women have in common? Actually not much. They are all so different, but the main thing is I can be myself around them. Friends fight obviously but they are there. And this toxic friend often accused me of not being there. and maybe I wasn’t so I try to think about it. Maybe I was just as terrible to this toxic girl as she was to me. This makes me sad. I don’t wish any harm to her. I just need to wash my life of toxins. I hope I am not toxic for anyone and they let me know if I am. I could be a better friend. I could be there more, what ever that means. I want to be there. It is hard we are all adults. We live different lives. We do different things. I hope I bring joy to my friends lives. I am so grateful to have them.
My boyfriend is obviously my ultimate friend. He is such a positive person in my life, he always reminds me I am special. And he is there for me in ways I didn’t know a person could be. He notices things that I don’t always notices. He catches the sadness at the corners of my mouth.
Mia has been a great friend, we actually knew each other in high school but weren’t friends. I borrowed her phone one day on the campus of our university and she asked me out to coffee, and I kind of fell in love with her. She has a kind of young Elizabeth Taylor personality about her. She seems like a movie star from the 50s. She has a sort of elegance to her I can’t really describe. She has a calming presence. She is glamorous and humble. But one thing she has done for me as a friend. Is she made me confront my bullshit. I have this habit of running away, of screaming blame on someone else. She made me confront my feelings and deal with things. We have had the entire roller coaster of experiences together. I lived with her for a while, and was a mess like I am. I borrowed so much money from her. She basically gave me my car. She really taught me how to be a lady. I have grown so much since we met, it’s fun watching each other grow up.
Danielle is like a rock. She doesn’t waiver. That sounds weird. But I mean her love can withstand all and move mountains. She is never fake. She is so honest and genuinely sweet. She is so smart too. She will build you up but wont bullshit you. I wish I had met her years ago. We have only been friends for two years but I feel like I have known her my whole life.
Heather was so hard to become friends with. I basically had to fight her. I stayed persistent though. and we will never not be friends. She has moved to another state but I still text her every day. I feel so connected with her. She is such a real person I have never met anyone like her. She is so resilient.
Clarissa and I were completely different people when we met. She is such a fighter. She has been through so much but she is so humble and will act like she is ordinary. She isn’t ordinary she is a fantastic person. She is so sweet and caring.
So from thinking about the qualities of my good friends, and thinking about the qualities in myself I would like to improve on I made a list of five things that can make you a better friend. Something I would like to work on in 2015.
5 ways you can be a better friend
The number one thing you can do to be a better friend is actually listening to them. That sounds so cliché, but I think it is really important! We get so caught up in our own lives and worlds and sometimes don’t hear those around us. We get plugged into our electronics and don’t look people in the eye. Show genuine interest. Nod frequently for encouragement Smile. Small words like “yes” and “right” will show that you’re engaged in the conversation, that you’re listening, and that you wish for your friend to continue. Too often, instead of listening, we like to wait for our turn to speak. Anticipating what the other person is going to say or preparing a rebuttal before they’re finished speaking means that you’re not actually having a conversation, you’re waiting for your turn. Wait to formulate a response until it’s appropriate to make one.
Simply asking how someone’s day is, can go a long way. People have stop asking “How are you?” When someone hasn’t been asked that in a while sometimes it’s really nice. Also don’t let the person say only, fine, good or ok, ask them about work, class whatever, make them tell you about how they are actually doing. It really shows you care. Ask about things your friends have told you about. Remind them that you have listened. If two weeks ago they told you about something ask about it. Also when you reach a pause in conversation, ask a question that clarifies a previous point or helps to dig deeper into the topic of conversation.
#3 Do the small stuff
Text your friends photos of stuff that remind you of them. For example one of my best friends Clarissa, she teaches elementary school and I found shoes that were pencils, so I sent her a picture of them! Reminding your friends you think about them is really important. I can’t tell you how much it brings me up when I am kind of having a bad day and I get a reminder from a friend even if it is a little hi, small things can make a big difference.
#4 Let them Rant
Often times our problems aren’t very large and we just want to complain. That can be such a therapeutic thing. don’t be down on your friend for wanting to be negative for a moment, often times that brief moment of negativity will lead to a more positive feeling after. no that’s not to say we should always be negative, I just mean when we have a bad experience sometimes it’s nice to let those negative feelings out. Listening is really the best thing you can go
#5 Be Honest.
If someone is really your friend all they want is honesty and they will appreciate who you are. You don’t want to be friends with someone who you don’t think is honest and you don’t want to be friends with someone who isn’t honestly being themselves. there’s an old Mark Twain quote that says something like, if you are always honest you will never have to remember anything. who wants to live that kind of life where they have to remember who they told what to. And the first step to becoming a better friend is being honest with yourself, if you aren’t truthful with yourself then what is the point?
Do you have your own ways you would like to improve as a friend?