Question of the Day: “What determines friendship?”

Friendship is a term that is often difficult to define. There are so many different ways a friendship can develop. It can evolve from working in the same space, a love of the same things, a failing on the part of sexual tension.

Then there are the different levels: acquaintance, old friend, best friend, soul-mate friend.

Various friends and friendships have veered sharply in and out of my life. The breaks were never clear. The phone calls and plans to meet stopped. Texts went unanswered. The Facebook friendship was dropped or blocked with only my own speculation to try and determine the reason why. So my question is what determines a healthy friendship?

Yesterday, my BF and I met one of my oldest friends and her new boyfriend at the park. They have been dating a year. Due to the events of the past year and our own busy schedules, we have been unable to meet recently. We still talk weekly or whenever we need each other for support or to update each other on major events in our lives. Every time we see each other, I am reminded of the million reasons we’ve stayed such close friends over the last 25 years.

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This post is not about that friendship. It is about one I lost.

I met Mel when we both started teaching at the same school. We had so much in common. We were both new, we both loved to read and write. We were both newly married and teaching full-time for the first time. Despite her social anxiety issues, she was able to maintain a friendship with me. I watched her make and lose friends all of the time. They would make her feel uncomfortable in some way, and she would drop them. Secretly, I acknowledged her idiosyncrasies when it came to friendships, but I also relished the fact I avoided being a causality.

For almost fifteen years, we met for dinner, spoke on the phone, complained about our marriages, gave birth to children. She wrote a book. I divorced my husband. This, this right there, is where it all fell apart.

We were both in unhappy marriages. We both tried to look outside of our marriages for comfort in other men. We talked about our flirtations and miseries over wine and coffee, like some women talk about their book club memberships. I couldn’t stand to stay, so I left my marriage. She wanted to leave, but she felt as if she had to stay.

We never really talked about, and we tried to meet up a few times, but the vibe had changed. We had changed. My leaving my marriage changed it. She never said it to me directly, but she felt I had abandoned my ex and my responsibilities.

I didn’t know we were official over until she “unfriended” me on Facebook, which is slightly hilarious in a hurtful kind of way. Grown women using social media to cut final ties will always seem ridiculous to me, but it didn’t make it hurt any less. It hurt even more when I saw she did not “unfriend” my ex, and instead posted encouraging and uplifting messages on his page. Yeah, this hurt a bit, too.

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I watched her slink away from our friendship just liked I watched her slink away from other friendships over the years, and I was so hurt. I am still so unbelievably hurt. If our relationship was a bank, I felt her withdraws over the years of our friendship far exceeded mine: her constant cancelling on arranged meet ups; her need to create plans to follow our time together so she always had an “out” time; the times she left events in a moments notice (even if we had just arrived) because she felt uncomfortable with something someone said or did. She was so high maintenance and I prided myself on how well I cared for her.

And that is it…right there. Did you see it? I think I get it now. Wait, this was always about me, not about my divorce. Yes, yes, this is the reason she used to break ties, but the reason I am upset about losing her as a friend is because I think our friendship was based on my ability to keep her as a friend. Her acceptance of me. Her tolerance of our relationship was a source of pride for me. It helped me to feel like I was earning my caregiver stripes. Our relationship was an exotic plant and it took a ton of work to maintain. When I was going through my divorce, I had neither the time or care to maintain it. I could no longer make deposits in that bank. It was over.

We have not talked in five years. I know some people who know her and are still friends with her, and I wince a bit when I hear her name. After writing this, I don’t know. I feel a bit better, lighter, a little less angry.

When we start friendships, we never really know where they will end up. Will it continue to grow and develop? Will it last only as long as the need is there? Will it fall apart and leave me sad and confused? Just like any relationship, I guess friendships have a 50/50 chance of working out.

After we left the park yesterday from our meet up with my oldest friend, we jumped in the car just in time to avoid the huge thunderstorm that was headed our way. My BF turned to me and smiled.

“I really like your friend Sarah,” he said. I smiled back.

“Yeah,” I answered. “She is a good human. We really bonded during my divorce. She was awlays there for me.”

“You can tell. She’s a good friend.”

“Yep,” I said. “She is.”

Love and Light, my friends.

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