When Friendships Come and Go

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As they mature, infants and toddlers begin to understand two things: just because something cannot be seen or experienced does not mean it has ceased to exist, and key people in their lives will eventually return.

I, on the other hand, have not come to this understanding, especially regarding friendships. For me, friendships are like games in the Colosseum. If I cannot feel a tangible connection, I must fight to reestablish it.

And ultimately, I am disposable. A throw-away when the next big sensation comes.

Few people in this life have told me they will always be there, and even fewer actually have.

Because I’ve often been left for a better option, I’ve begun performing a series of gymnastics, mentally and emotionally distancing myself from friends, bracing for the inevitable letdown. Somehow, I always allow myself to be put into these situations, recklessly diving into friendships.

The promise of a “forever friend” is too seductive, and so I go for it. I dare to believe that they won’t leave me. Soon, I discover my foolishness and begin to question whether those months of bliss were worth it.

Like radar detecting changes in the atmosphere, I pick up on small changes in friendships. Messages that relay to me that I am in trouble, yet again.

Conversations change, scheduled hangouts change, mutual interests change.

So, I try to reestablish or reassess my standing in the friendship. What can I do to show my importance, my value? Who can I become to liven up the friendship? What can I do when my friendship begins to disappear?

Ultimately, I can do nothing. When something I love becomes less tangible, I weep, for I know what is coming.

To minimize the pain to come, I pull away. I put myself in the background so that when I am put there relationally, I feel nothing. It is difficult to be present with people you know will — sooner or later — grow uninterested in you.

It is difficult to develop friendships knowing your value is temporary.

But like a fool who returns to his folly, I still want it. I want friendship, community. A best friend.

Is it too much to ask to be someone’s numero uno, a right-hand man? Is it cliché to ask for a David and Jonathan relationship? How do you feel about the temporality/longevity of friendship?

* Photo courtesy infomastern, Creative Commons.

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  • Eddie

    Relationships can be quite relative. To be someone’s “numero uno” may happen, but it may not. For me, I am complacent to simply be someone’s friend. I tend to find it works out better for everyone as it mitigates potential emotional dependency. I spread myself out so I can enjoy the company of a variety of people, not just a single person. I don’t think it is cliché to ask for a David & Jonathan relationship as I’m sure it is possible. I just think that is a “tall order.” Again possible, but a tall order. What I mean by this is a lot of factors have to synchronize to make it happen. Some of which is being a part of a team or army that have to face a common or series of adversaries over time. This kind of male bonding takes time and effort. I only experienced a hint of it when I was playing junior high football. I bonded with my teammates as we suffered exercises, practices and games together, good and bad. Sadly it was all temporary and longed for long-term brotherhood. I came relationships change and I have to vigilant is looking for new relationships with people. Something might take root or might not. Gotta keep looking.

    • Bradley

      Change is not something that I handle well,especially in an emotional environment such as friendships

  • mike

    “In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

    I would agree with Lewis regarding God’s Providence even in friendships :). See how YOB has been that Bradley for many here :). Yes friendships are fleeting for a specific season and time moves them on. Even for David his Jonathan friendship didn’t last long. I think it’s healthier as Lewis describes that God wants us to see the “beauties of others” rather than just the beauty of one and so He moves us on…

  • excusemydust

    Excellent article, Bradley, and an astute point on the way in which we approach friendships: guarded, bracing for the impact of the inevitable fall. Is it possible that we ultimately doom these relationships by not allowing ourselves to be more open and accessible in relation to each other? We think we are too much for the other. We diminish ourselves, dole out what we are in small, bite-sized, digestible pieces. We conceal our flaws; we mask our vulnerabilities. We build a wall to protect ourselves, but end up trapped behind it. Your statement regarding importance/value resonates in particular: do we cheapen relationships by viewing them as transactions?

    • Bradley

      Good questions! I think it is the act of being vulnerable,that opens me up to pain. A heart can only do so much before it collapses.

  • Michael Raftery

    “What can I do to show my importance, my value? Who can I become to liven up the friendship? What can I do when my friendship begins to disappear?”

    It was refreshing and heartbreaking to see that I am not alone in the wrestle of these questions. I walk through the constant back and forth of trying to be “worthy” of the friendships in my life. I’ll admit, I have great friends. But, the ebb and flow of relationship is a daunting pain and I am continuously bracing myself for impact either consciously or subconsciously. The changing seasons of life can take what was once a tight nit union and stretch it to a mere exchange of pleasantries. That lingering question of “why am I so easy to leave?” dangles in the back of my mind through each disappointment.

    But, I’ve had to resolved myself to the notion that even though it doesn’t make sense to me, that sometimes winter comes and the leaves die and fall to the ground to make room for new life. And, sometimes, that happens in our relationships. The hardest part is that new life doesn’t always spring up when or how we’d like it. But, I hold out hope that where certain things have passed, other, richer things are coming.

    Thanks for this raw and honest post. It’s encouraging to know that even in the feelings of isolation and abandonment, I am actually not alone. Grace to you as you continue sharing your journey.

    • mistaken identity

      beautiful response