I had a great conversation with some friends recently about our perspectives on friendships. We debated everything from what makes a true friendship, to how to know when a friendship has run its course and it’s time to move on. This second topic is one that I’ve wrestled with before in my life, and I think it’s worth considering a little more deeply.
I used to think that friendships are supposed to be forever. You make a friend, you keep a friend, and that’s how it went. If it didn’t go that way, it meant you failed in some aspect of your friendship. It may sound ridiculous to some of you, and it does to me now too, but at the time that’s how I viewed the world. As an introvert, I valued my individual friendships very deeply – too deeply, maybe.
I once had to cut off a friendship because the relationship had become toxic – I was constantly being one-upped, undermined, and put down – and yet, it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It was 100% the right move in hindsight, but I felt like a failure at the time. I felt like I failed to get through to him, failed to communicate my position to him properly. Obviously that wasn’t the case.
Since then, what I’ve learned is that, for me, friendships are transient. They will come and go in life as part of the natural flow of things. And that’s okay. A friendship may last for months, years, decades, or even longer. Some might last a lifetime, but some may not. The important lesson for me is that just because a friendship runs its course, doesn’t mean that there was no value in that friendship, and it doesn’t mean that either party failed as a friend. It’s not a sad event, just an event.
Taking this mindset has opened me up to allowing people into my life that I might not have otherwise, and it’s brought me great joy. It’s also brought a sense of self-sufficiency that I didn’t have before; when you recognize that the only person you will be with forever guaranteed is yourself, you have two choices: you can despair at the thought, or you can be fortified by it. It doesn’t have to be a sad thing – it doesn’t mean I’m distrustful or people, or cynical, or jaded, or anything like that. All it means is that you don’t expect anything from people that may not come – you’re just open to relationships unfolding as they may.
Wrapping it Up
This mindset shift was important to me – it’s made me happier, on average. Where before, my happiness was tied to acceptance by others, today it isn’t. It’s more focused internally, and though my journey continues, that shift was an important early step in the search for true happiness. It has to start with you – not with other people, and not with things. Remember: when looking outside fails, look in.