Jan 162015 13 Responses

Accept the Temporary Nature of Friendships

I’m sorry to break the news to you, but friends come and go. I wish it wasn’t the case. I know it can be painful, but it is the nature of life. Siblings last for a lifetime. Spouses come with vows expecting long relationships. And a few friends endure from first grade to the nursing home.

But most friendships are not long-lasting. They come and they go and there is little we can, or should, do about it.

It’s often said half of all your friendships will be different in seven years. This isn’t a statistic like childhood obesity rates where the stat should scare us into action. This is a statistic of reality which should cause us to give grace to ourselves and to others as some friendships slowly drift apart.

Friendship is founded on shared experience. (See: Drama Addicts–why your best friend is always stressed)

Chances are, most people can remember their friend from first grade. Within a day or two of enduring the new experience of school desks, lunchroom policies, and recess, we naturally gravitate toward people who are like us and experiencing the same things as us. Through the shared experience, friendships are formed.

Yet as those experiences change, so do our relationships. The other day I saw where one of my earliest friends became a father. As I looked at the pictures on social media, I felt a warm sense of gratitude for him and his family. Yet I didn’t write a note. I didn’t make a phone call. I watched online, felt good for him, and did nothing. I don’t remember the last time we spoke. I doubt it has been since high school and may not have been since elementary school. We were close friends for a few years, but as we grew and were in different classes and then different schools, the friendship began to fade. It’s neither his fault nor mine. It’s life.

While some friendships endure the changes and become life-long relationships, most do not. And that is more than acceptable. There is no moral obligation to stay in close contact with every person we become friends with. It would be impossible to do so. While we should always love one another and do the best for and towards others, we should not feel guilt because a best friend becomes just another friend or just another friend becomes someone we used to know. It’s simply the way things happen. (See: You Don’t Know Me)

However, some people who do not understand the ebb and flow of relationships, wrongly conclude that when friendships fade, someone has done wrong. They believe a fading friendship is the sign of selfishness, or a lack of caring, or a rejection of thoughtfulness. While it could be any of those things, far more often it is simply a change in life setting.

An inseparable group of friends are separable when one person in the group gets a boyfriend.

Couples who vacation together every summer probably stop when one of them has a child.

Friendships born in the stands tend to last for as long as the kids keep playing the sport.

No one consciously chooses to end the friendship. And the friendship doesn’t actually end, but it does change. Circumstances which brought us close together then separate us and most of the time the separation changes the closeness of the friendship. (See: Discernment–A Forgotten Sign of Adulthood)

We must embrace this reality. It’s difficult. Especially whenever we feel very close to another person, it is painful to watch a friendship drift away. Yet there is no need to guilt another person or question our own loyalty when life causes us to drift way.

Some relationships must be maintained. We promise to keep our spouses close throughout the changes of life. We hope to keep a healthy relationship with parents, children, and siblings as life changes. With all of these demands, we must give ourselves and others permission to allow some friendships to come and go.

Recognizing this will cause us to have a deeper gratitude for lifelong friendships. It will allow us to look back on past friendships with a sincere fondness. And it will give us a greater appreciation for those who are in our lives today, realizing that they may not be there tomorrow. (See: Love Your Friends, Don’t Listen to Them)

Most friendships are temporary. Enjoy the time, but accept that the relationship will likely change.

 

13 Responses to Accept the Temporary Nature of Friendships
  1. Todd Reply

    This is incredibly true, wise and reassuring insight – thanks for unpacking! it also makes me realize the preciousness of those friendships while they are happening.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you Todd. It’s very true–we should have deep gratitude for our friends.

  2. Bradley Clark Reply

    I wish I had this four years ago to help me through a challenging time when I dealt with these issues. I was unexpectedly let go from my pastoral position after 14 years. Some “close” friends stabbed me in the back; others just stopped calling; some acquaintances stepped up to become new friends, and a couple relationships both changed & strengthened. It took my wife and me a couple years to come to grips with the truth this article puts forth. Well done!

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  4. Yulonda Reply

    Thanks Kevin, John and I needed this. 2 sets of very close friends went thru divorces last year and it was like a death to us, we struggled with how to hold onto to something or someone in these relationships. Reaching mid life is a difficult stage. First empty nest and then this…..

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  8. Misty Reply

    Mr. Thompson, I am a little shocked to wake up and get on my email first of all, then to read a email that wasn’t the one I was after is another thing out of order for me. My normal morning always starts with my bible study and scripture. My son needed me to email his school so he could leave for senior day. After doing so I opened your email. I don’t know why.. I have never read anything from you. I don’t honestly know why you emailed me. I did just wake up so it’s possible my brain isn’t firing all sparks lol
    What I do know is I am very glad I did read your email. Just yesterday I was praying and I asked God for His will to be done. I asked God to give me knowledge and direction how to handle a very fragile relationship between a daughter that was raised by her father. My daughter and I had to wait for her to be grown before we could try to build a normal relationship. Needless to say her father still is causing havoc on our relationship.
    I believe your message was for me and I plan to read further on what you say about relationships. I have so many relationships I can hardly keep up but the hardest ones for me is the one is my family. I can’t keep the people that were my world growing up happy with who God has created me to be. I hurts so bad to be shunned by so many people you love. Thanks be to God that His love is greater then all.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you Misty. The only way for you to receive an email from me is if you subscribed.

  9. Misty Reply

    Well then I am so glad I subscribed~! Thanks.. I read a couple more of your articles. Good stuff~!

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