When an Adult Friendship Is No Longer What It Used to Be

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I, like so many of us lately, have had a rough go of it. There’s been a lot going on in my family and I’ve been pretty tightly wrapped up in that. Also, there is still a global pandemic happening. Which, even though we’ve stayed healthy and our kids have been in school, is stressful. Someone coughs and you can hear a pin drop. Thoughts of quarantine and isolation, and how will we figure all that out. It’s just a lot right now, and so many things are suffering – us, the kids, our friendships, our marriages.

I’ve been very inwardly focused, really putting most of the energy I can muster up into myself and my family. I haven’t been a great friend lately. I’m doing the bare minimum – a lot of times I’m phoning it in. Intentionally, yes; maliciously, no. It’s just where I am right now.

Recently, a dear friend (who, honestly, has had it harder than I do), called me out on it. She wasn’t ugly about it at all – she acted like a grown woman who values our friendship so much she wanted to let me know it feels a little wobbly to her right now. And I, as a grown woman who also values our friendship so much, had to listen to her and believe her. If that’s how she feels, that is how she feels. If it feels wobbly to her, then it’s wobbly to her.

Y’all. It wasn’t easy to hear.

Of course, my first reaction was to get defensive. I mean, who is she to come at me like that? (And again, she didn’t come at me at all – I just had my knickers in a twist.) I can make an argument that nobody should expect anything from me right now. But you know what? We can probably ALL make that argument right now. But really, I think my feelings were hurt and I was disappointed in myself.

I love her and would never intentionally hurt her. At first, it felt like one more thing I was screwing up. And things are hard right now, but I hate that I made her feel this way – like I was pulling away or wasn’t prioritizing our friendship in a way that lets her know how important she and our friendship are to me.

So I took a breath.

And then I took another one.

I trust her. I trust our friendship. And if she’s willing to have that uncomfortable conversation, then I need to be willing to sit in that discomfort with her. I know she wasn’t trying to make me feel bad – she didn’t have malicious intent.

She was simply telling me how she feels. It was up to me to decide how I was going to respond.

We have two teenage girls and guess what? Their friendships wobble a lot right now. This has been a great example of what we’re trying to teach our girls: relationships take work. The most important relationships will take the most work because the stakes are so high – your relationship with your spouse, your parents, your friends, your sister, your brother. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes it hurts.

Honesty can be hard. Sometimes it’s hard to say honest things and a lot of times it’s even harder to hear honest things. But honesty is a critically important component of good, healthy, genuine relationships.

If I want to be able to tell someone the truth about how I feel (and I do), and I want to have genuine relationships built on truth, then I need to be willing to hear the truth about how they feel. Even if it doesn’t feel good to me.

I recently heard a gem of a quote:

“Pain and discomfort are inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

So yes, you may hear something that hurts – and it probably hurts because there’s an element of truth to it. But how you respond is up to you. What you do with that information is up to you. Will you throw a tantrum because you don’t like it? Or will you really listen, sit with it for a minute, and think about the truth in it?

So good luck to all of us as we do the hard work of being a good friend – and the hard work of confronting our own shortcomings. We can do this and we’ll be better for it.

How have you reacted when someone has told you something you didn’t want to hear? Do you think that was the right reaction?

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Wildly in love with her perfectly imperfect life, Kathy’s been married to her most favorite person in the world, “The Professor,” for 14 years. They moved to Columbia from Atlanta seven years ago and are enjoying raising their two girls, Gracie (12½) and Tate (10) here. After undergrad and her MBA, Kathy worked in Corporate America for 10 years before retiring to work full-time for the girls. Most recently, she was a grant writer at a college here in town, but had to leave that job when her family moved to New Zealand for six months for The Professor’s sabbatical. She started her blog, kathygoeskiwi.com, to document that amazing adventure, but now she’s home and trying to figure out what to do with her life. Again. Probably the loudest and most foul-mouthed introvert you’ll ever meet, she can usually be found curled up with a trashy romance novel, on the tennis court, at her awesome gym, or drinking wine with people she loves.

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