I’ve been noticing lately on social media, conversations and memes about cutting ties with friends who don’t reciprocate the effort you feel you put into friendships. Not so long ago, while catching up, an old friend was updating me on all the hardships she’s been going through since the pandemic hit. She lost two of her closest friends because they felt she had neglected them during this period. For them, it wasn’t enough that she was going through stuff, and as much as she tried to communicate her struggles, they just weren’t having it. It’s a pity that many years of friendship can just end overnight, and that you suddenly have to stop being friends with someone who probably played a major part in the person you are today; people who feature in most of your memories as far back as you can remember.
Yes, I agree, we should never let ourselves be taken for granted in any of our relationships, and if someone is no longer contributing to our lives for the better, then maybe they don’t deserve that space. However, it’s easy at times to forget all the different ways our friends have been there for us.
We tend to define even lifelong relationships by seemingly isolated incidents, and that is a tragedy. Relationships are a two-way street. They require effort from both parties in order to thrive. It is never the responsibility of one to always reach out, nor keep the friendship intact. If it goes silent on both ends, both parties are to blame. We also have to keep in mind that our friends can’t always be there for us in the same ways we have been for them, and vice versa. We’re different people, and how we show love and communicate is different.
However, we can always make an effort to show our friends we care, and that even when we can’t offer them the help they need, we’re here. If you don’t see your friend reciprocating your efforts, communicate your needs, and let your friend know how their actions make you feel.
It gives them the opportunity for introspection and a chance for them to remedy the situation or, at the very least, explain themselves. I understand the frustration of a one-sided friendship, but distinguish between someone not caring, and someone truly just drowning in their own life’s issues. Many times, we never really know what our friends are dealing with, apart from what they choose to show us, and trust me, everyone keeps at least some things to themselves. When caught up in one’s problems, it’s easy to almost disconnect with people and lose sight of everything going on with everyone else.
By now we know adulting is not an easy journey. Some of us may handle adversity much better than others, or just differently. Be considerate of others’ circumstances when reaching out, because not everyone will be able to lend a hand this time, even if they really want to, and that should be OK.
Of course, there is comfort in knowing you have someone always available when you need them, and who periodically checks in on you just because, but that person will at some point have their own issues to resolve and as much as you need them, they may be needing you even more. Next time some time passes by without word from a friend, text them, even if you were the last one to check in.
You might find that the pit they’re in makes yours look like a baby pool.
*Paula Christoph’s column concentrates on positive and inspirational write-ups every second Friday in the New Era newspaper.