Cutting Ties And Burning Bridges

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I'm not good at writing smooth intros to posts, and this one is proving to be even more difficult because I'm digging up a draft from six months ago, so I'll just get right to the point: This post is about friendship. I've written about this a few times before.

This post is about friendships and how sometimes they can be tricky. One argument, one disagreement, one conflict can feel more substantial than it is. But I don't really worry about cutting ties or burning bridges anymore. One bad thing doesn't mean a bad friendship. It's not that black and white.

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Months ago, one of Laura Jane Williams' #AskTheQuestion emails proposed the question, What are you thinking about in black and white when shades of grey will help you more?

The answer? Friendship.

Friendship isn't black and white. Certainly not, though I used to view it that way. I used to put too much pressure on them, as if they had to be completely untroubled to be good. If someone did something to hurt me, friendship over. Because friends don't hurt friends, right?

Well, that's true; not intentionally. But sometimes things happen. Friendships can go through bumps in the road and still be good.

Because it isn't black and white.
It's not one end of the spectrum or the other.
It's not perfect or horrible.
It's not best friends or nothing.
It's not talking every day or not at all, seeing each other often or not at all.

I don't really believe in putting an official end to friendships anymore. I don't believe in cutting ties unless it's really necessary, because people are capable of change. A relationship that's damaged can be healed. If you drift away from someone (which is not only okay, it's normal), who knows, maybe one day you'll drift back. There's no need to burn the bridges behind you.

Let things happen how they happen, and enjoy those shades of grey. Those friends who you don't talk to all that often but when you meet up you have a great time laughing and catching up that it's like nothing's changed? Those are the shades of grey, and there's nothing wrong with them.

Let things happen, because forcing something out of a friendship will never be beneficial.

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In an episode of the Plz Advise podcast with Kelly Oxford (originally posted in 2014, but listened to by me a few months ago), a girl called in for advice explaining that she felt like she was putting more into a friendship than the other person.

Kelly's advice was simply to let it go. If The Caller brought the issue up to her friend, she wouldn't get the true resolution she was seeking – her friend would just say what The Caller wanted to hear. If the friend ended up proposing dates to hang out, it would be more out of obligation than genuine interest. And who wants that?

What stuck with me the most was Kelly pointing out that the whole thing had more to do with The Caller's own expectations rather than the actual friendship. (It's always our expectations that screw us over, isn't it?)

The key isn't lowering your expectations, it's being realistic. I don't think it's fair to expect people to give you 100 percent all the time. They'll have other things going on outside of your friendship, their own shit to deal with, and that's fair.

Not everyone is the same type of friend either. Some are low-maintenance – they don't need to talk/text all that often, and they're okay with shorter replies or conversations. Others are higher maintenance – they need more frequent connection and reassurance. Neither are right or wrong; they're just different, and you can't change which category a person falls in to.

Be flexible, be understanding.

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Friendships can be tricky. Don't overthink them. Don't compare them to the #friendshipgoals duos on TV. Accept your differences. In fact, relish them. I think about it all a lot (and probably therefore write about it a lot) not because I feel I have a ton of wisdom to share, but because I know I can be better. Ultimately, all we can do is do our best.

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