We all have them. The friendships that are hanging on by a thin thread, held together only by a fond memory or a sense of obligation. The issue with these relationships is not so much categorizing the person as a friend, but it's the lack of authenticity associated with it. Sadly, what happens in virtually every situation is that the conversation, the camaraderie, the connection, becomes forced.
There are a myriad of reasons why friendships get to this place. The most common and generic explanation is, "we have just grown apart", when really it could be something deeper. For the sake of this piece, let's assume that the generic explanation is sufficient. Now that we have identified the cause, let's examine the effect.
You see your "old friend" at a party and you have that awkward moment of re-connection where you basically dismiss the fact that you haven't spoken in 2 years and you ask the open-ended, "so what's up in your world?" The conversation then leads to a surface level recitation of the last few years, kids and families are discussed, maybe divorces, a funeral, a memorable trip to Dubai. And that's it. Emotions are rarely shared. Opinions are not divulged. It's just a moment between two people devoid of depth but simultaneously filled with so much more. Guilt. Embarrassment. Confusion.
I have been in these situations where you hear the person giving you their 13 minute update but you are secretly thinking, "how did we ever get here? How can I get out of this conversation and go back to being indifferent." Stop me if I am not making sense....you know this is real...
Beyond the cause and effect, there is the "so what now?" In many - no, most - cases people will hold onto these forced friendships. A healthier way to handle them, I've found, is to admit to yourself what it is and act accordingly.
Since I turned 30, I have slowly come to terms with the fact that many of my "friendships" were and now are, truly just acquaintances. I am 100 percent sure that I have similarly been cast as an acquaintance by others who I was once friends with. And that's OK.
Here's the thing. Life happens. Sometimes overnight, sometimes over some years. I don't know about you, but my sensibilities have shifted the older I've gotten. I have less tolerance for things. Specifically, I have less tolerance for dairy products and noise. So just like I have cut back on eating brie, I have cut back on the noise. The "noise" for me happens to be the sound of my own voice obsessing and justifying why I should or should not do something. In the context of this piece, it's the sound of my internal voice justifying why I should keep a friend around when the truth is - if you have to justify giving someone else space in your life, they probably shouldn't be there in the first place. So I acknowledged that and have stopped mindlessly inviting anxiety and the things that drain me into my space. I just don't have the capacity for it anymore.
So how can you tell if you are engaged in a forced relationship? It's simple: if before you see or talk to that person, you feel exhausted just thinking about spending time with them, then yep, you are in the midst of a forced relationship. I can't tell you what to do, but take it from me: do something. Take stock of what's really going on, and don't be afraid to use the proverbial "unfriend" button.
What do you think? Have you "un-friended" anyone lately? Have you been un-friended?
Photo Credit: Shamim Nakhai