A little less than a year ago I wrote about the loss of an important friendship in the post Until It is Gone. That story generated a lot of intensely personal comments. In many of us there is a place of real pain from losing an important relationship with a friend whether we are living a satisfying retirement or are working. That deep hurt really doesn't go away, especially if the relationship ended for reasons that are left unclear or unresolved. There are feelings of rejection and betrayal that linger for years. There is the constant desire to know what went wrong.
That friendship I wrote about in that post did re-start a few months later and developed into an even stronger bond than before. My story had a happy ending. But, that isn't always the case. People come in and out of our lives. Some are just passing through while others linger long enough for us to begin to feel a connection. Then, there are those special times when two people find a bond that deepens to the point where it is an important part of their lives.
Almost four years ago, blogger Lorraine Cohen wrote this:
"I believe people come into our lives to serve us to grow and evolve through the experiences we mutually create. We are all teachers for each other and student of life at the same time. Even in those times of conflict and discomfort, the invitation to discover the hidden blessings and gifts is always there if we are willing to look."
That is an excellent way to look at the place friends, of varying degrees of importance, have in our life. Any experience has teachable moments if we are open to receive them, and friendship maybe more than most. She continued to note that nothing stays the same forever. Change is the only constant in life. Holding onto others to keep us happy is a failing strategy, for both us and them. Losing a meaningful friendship puts us thorough a form of grieving that must be allowed to happen. Just like losing anyone, we might feel anger, depression, denial…all the normal emotions of grieving. But, there is finally acceptance and moving on.
I read somewhere that over a seven year period, roughly half of a person's friendships will change. At first that sounded like crazy talk. But, in reflecting back over my life certainly it is true over the past several years for me. Friendships have changed depth. Some have gone from being close to more of an acquaintance relationship. Others have deepened while a few have remained constant. Some of that was simply due to lack of contact. Schedules or places where we would normally interact changed so opportunities diminished. And, I believe it is quite true that if you don't feed a friendship with attention and time it will eventually wither away.
I have decided that some friendships that I had several years ago were really for one of two reasons: convenience or proximity. There was never a deepening or a sense that we really understood each other. It is just we kind of drifted into friendship that helped us in that stage of our life. But, when fractures appeared it didn't really affect either of us in a painful way to allow nature to take its course.
But, what if there is a friendship that is important to you, and you think for the other person as well? How do you heal the rift and move forward together? Obviously, both parties must still want the relationship to continue. One-sided friendships don't work. But, assuming you are both willing to work at a fix what to do?
Not being a relationship expert, I turned to what most folks do now: The Internet. On Livestrong.com I found an excellent article on how to reconcile a broken friendship. While specifically written for women, the steps that author Anna-Sofie Hickson recommends are not gender-exclusive:
- Admit your part in the deterioration of the friendship. Apologize for failing to be there in times of need and accept your responsibility.
- Fight for your friendship.
- Make amends. Initiate the opportunity to heal the relationship. Put your pride aside.
- Leave the past behind you.
- Give the person time to re-evaluate the situation, if that's what is requested. Allow him or her space to work on your friendship.
Friendship is a blessing. Nurture it, protect it, and pray for it. Your satisfying retirement lifestyle will be so much sweeter.