When I was little I loved watching cartoons and cuddling with my stuffed animals with one of my childhood friends.
I don’t do that anymore. I haven’t for years.
Does that make me a bad person?
I don’t even see that friend anymore. They developed different interests and values over time and we drifted apart.
Does that make me a bad person?
As we evolve and learn, what we like vs don’t like changes over time.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our relationships change over the years also.
We do need tribe, but there is nothing that says that our tribe has to stay the same.
In fact, we are prone to feeling stuck in a rut and not feeling seen, heard or like we don’t matter more often in relationships we feel more “comfortable” in.
This happens in part because we begin to make assumptions about the other person, we also tend to default to old patterns of close relationships, some which may not be healthy. Patterns like taking people for granted or using them as our emotional trash can.
Part of why dating, whether romantically or as friends, is associated with more positive emotion is because we are actively learning, being curious, and constantly renegotiate our new found relationship with every bit of information we gather.
For example, in a new friendship, someone may share their inner struggles, take a chance and be vulnerable with us. That may encourage us to give that a try back!
More established relationships usually require conscious effort to override our brain’s tendency to create shortcuts and filters that tell us we already know what someone is going to say or do, or how they will react.
That said, sometimes even when we are consciously trying to breathe life into a relationship, the other person is just not meeting us where we are. They may not be in the same place on their journey, or they may be having a completely different journey and we stop being able to relate to one another. Sometimes it becomes an issue of values, where they become divergent or it may become one of setting and enforcing boundaries.
Drifting apart from friends is hard at the best of times. When the break up of a friendship is triggered by a disagreement it can get even uglier.
It is even harder when we don’t have a lot of other people in our life. In these cases the loss can be huge, yet sometimes it is still necessary if we are going to move forward.
Friends who share our most important values and goals can be stimulating and can propel us forward, and those who do not, can significantly thwart our progress, even bringing it to a halt in some cases. A clear example of this is when an addict quits and then goes back to their old group of friends who still use. Their chances of success in that context are extremely small, even if they share other common values or beliefs.
So as you can see, the important part here is as always, that we need to pay attention to whether we feel stronger or weaker in our friendships. We also need to be willing to release the parts of the friendship that we have outgrown in order to make room for new ones.
I wish I had an easy 1-2-3 guide to help with this, but it comes down to your WILLINGNESS to allow yourself to actually act as if YOU MATTER, even when it is uncomfortable or may be upsetting to others.