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Having had many emails from people concerned with the issues about friendship, I thought I’d share some with you and my responses. here’s one of many…
Dear Dr. Kissel
I’m 34 years old and I still don’t know how to be a good friend. It’s been hard to make and keep friends for me. Should I tell the person how I really feel about things, should I keep my mouth shut when I don’t agree with someone? Should I be honest about our differences? Should I reveal my innermost thoughts and
feelings? What is a friend, anyway?
Dear Brenda, one of the most gratifying elements of friendship is being comfortable in being real, not to try to be someone or something you aren’t. It’s being open and honest; being true to your self when with that person. A true friend will welcome your point of view and respect it even if it’s different from his or her own, providing it’s offered respectfully and not in a critical challenging manner. Of course you need to have a sense of the persons’ openness to hear your ideas. Being yourself and being accepted for who you are is an important attribute of friendship. If you don’t feel at ease sharing your own thoughts and feelings because you sense the other person might take offence, something isn’t quite right there. And Brenda, you need to know that we can have several types of friendships, everything from a very close and intimate relationship to a more casual one, sometimes based solely on socializing in the same groups. Friendship is about valuing the individual, his or her honesty and compassion and even disagreeing agreeably; sometimes its intimacy united with affection and esteem, mutual interest in each other, attachment and goodwill. A good friend is a person we know well, are fond of, and like, and one who’s supportive of our doing our best and what’s best for us. Friends are our allies in life. Although I believe a good friend would not support anything you might say or do that isn’t in your best interest. We owe our friends our honesty, duplicity to keep a relationship in tact will never work. If you can’t disagree without resentments flaring you either avoid those subjects and enjoy what you do have in common, or avoid the person.
My mother, always wise and witty, often reminded us that religion and politics are like mine fields in social intercourse. Those are indeed subjects that can evoke serious offence and conflict because they are loaded with passion and conviction.
However, if you feel you are walking on eggs with someone to avoid a disagreement or an argument, rethink the relationship. Friends really listen to each other, they care, and they show their caring. They are interested in their friends are interested in. To maintain a friendship we need to respect and appreciate who that person is as an individual, as different as they may be from ourselves in many respects, although we need to be able relate very well to them. Enjoying his or her company… sharing life experiences, including laughing and crying together. Genuine friendship requires being non critical non judgmental, and of course mutual trust. Those attributes apply to all relationships, don’t you think?
It’s always a good idea when developing a friendship (or any close relationship) to ask the other person what he or she expects from you, and/ or their definition of friendship, that will be a useful guideline. Ask if you can be open and honest when you disagree. And it’s very important for you to express your own expectations of the other person. (It’s one of the ground rules I set for couples when I’m working with them to improve their relationship). If you expect things from the other person that he or she has no idea about, and that person doesn’t meet those expectations you are likely to be disappointed, resentful and angry, and that leads to serious trouble in the relationship.
Friendships are bonds created between people, founded on many factors. Sometimes people have grown up together or shared life experiences in places or circumstances that brought them together. Long term friendships are tested when changes in location make it difficult to get together. Some people find it too difficult to maintain friendships from a distance, especially if they have developed new relationships in their new locale; they grow as far apart in more ways than geography. Life styles and sometimes financial inequality
can cause a rift. Keeping up with the Jones’s is something too many people are willing to try to do; some do to the extent they put themselves in extreme debt and difficulty.
One client told me that she felt out-of-place in her long time friends new home (they had recently become quite wealthy) since it was so palatial and made her own home seem poor in comparison. When I asked if her friend did all she could to make her feel at home she said, “Yes, but I can’t entertain as richly as she does so I don’t feel I can reciprocate her hospitality. I try sometimes but it’s a strain on our budget “Does she still enjoy being with you at your home? I asked “Yes, she seems to,” she answered. “Does she visit your home as often as you visit hers? “I asked. “Yes,” she replied. I asked if she was happy for her friend’s success, and she said, “Of course.” “Do you feel she expects you to reciprocate in kind? I asked. “I guess, “she said hesitantly, “she always says she enjoyed everything I made for lunch or dinner, and thanks me.”
This told me that her friend is satisfied with simply enjoying being with her, and not expecting any more than what she has received past and present. My client needed to let go of comparing status and income and to continue to be the friend in the ways she s was. There was obviously no discrepancy in the relationship, only a difference in their income brackets. You don’t have to be financial equal to be a good friend. It’s not about the house you live in or your income that brings you together, its more than that.
Personally enjoy many friends from all walks of life, and with varied interests, from all kinds of backgrounds, race, religion and politics; I find it rewarding in every respect. You too can enjoy a variety of people in your life with whom u have friendships, if you have an open mind and heart.
One client of mine admitted that she was jealous of her friend since she was still struggling to get her career off the ground and her friend often reported her successes. To be envious or jealous of a friend’s success is a sign that you have not grown up with the friendship.
Maturity enables us to accept change and grow with it. We always wish the very best for those we care for, even if it takes them away from us.
By the same token I’ve known of many people whose newly elevated status, i.e. fame or fortune, or conversely, loss of status,
income and work etc. has caused them to neglect long time friends and even family. It’s a shame; however, we need to accept that friendship isn’t always going to withstand the vagaries of life. It’s always about the people within the relationship and what they are capable
of that determines whether or not a friendship will be the same, or even continue. Growing in different direction is natural. People change, they grow, or shrink from life experience; they move on, it’s natural. Here’s an example:
Dear Dr. Kissel,
My friend of more than 15 years suddenly won’t to talk to me. I’ve tried to reach her; she refuses my calls and doesn’t answer
my emails. I don’t know what I did, I’m really hurt. What do you suggest?
– Connie Lampton . AL.
Dear Connie, whatever
reason, it may not be about you or anything you said or did. If you’ve reviewed your communications with her and can’t find anything the she could take offence about, it may be that she is dealing with issues in her life that consume her energy and time and is unable or doesn’t want to talk about it. Talking about what’s going on in their lives is too painful for some people, to express it makes them feel vulnerable; it might
be embarrassment or shame about something. You could send her a lovely greeting card via snail mail that expresses your concerns about her, and her how you feel about not being able to connect with her, tell her that you still care and value your friendship. Don’t ask what’s wrong; just let her know that whenever she is willing and able, you are open to hearing from her. If you get no response, let her go.
Some friends are just not able to say goodbye when they feel they have outgrown the relationship, or their lives have diverted them from old relationships; whatever it is, you need to move forward and hold close to your heart the good memories you have of your friendship.
Here’s a really interesting relationship issue….
Dr. Kissel: my friend L just informed me that she feels we’ve become too close and wants to put some distance between us. I’m devastated. I was her confidant and she mine. I don’t understand her.
– Michelle B.
Dear Michelle, many who have revealed something in a moment of emotional stress, regret it later: Fearing their secrets might get spread around or they make themselves vulnerable, many people refuse to get close in the first place, keeping their inner most thoughts and feelings and difficult life circumstances to themselves. One of my clients whose confidence was betrayed by a friend cut off all friendships; her trust was severely damaged. She had to learn not to generalize her experiences with one person to all. She also needed to know that emotional hurts heal; I helped her do that. Fear of being hurt or losing a friendship hurts; however, to be bereft of friendship when it’s available is a loss that hurts too; one that never heals if you are one of those who need friends in your life.
Sometimes the reason people don’t confide is the fear that what they have shared will be used against them somehow or the person they shared with will think less of them, so they close themselves off to others. All you can do is assure her that her secrets are safe with you, and that if ever she wants to enjoy your friendship again you are open to that. Then move on.
And here is another challenge to friendship expressed….
Dear Elaine Kissel;
My friend told me something that I have a difficult time with. Knowing is giving me a lot of conflict. He told me of a crime he committed, and laughed about it, and thinks it’s so clever that he got away with it. I told him I wasn’t proud of him for doing that and he ought to own up and give the object back to its owners. It’s hard to enjoy his company now without thinking about it, and I’ve lost a lot of respect for him. I do care about him, hat you suggest.
– Arlene P.
Dear Arlene, being a friend doesn’t
obligate you to tolerate or accept things that go against your own principles and values. One of the best things about having a friend is being able to enjoy the person’s company and having respect as well as trust for him or her. It seems that all these qualities are now missing. If you want to still be friends, you could tell him that unless he does the right thing you cannot continue the relationship.However, trusting this person’s honesty might be a difficult task after this experience.You need to decide what’s most important to you, your own integrity or the
friendship. It’s when a relationship ceases to be mutual in very respect that it’s no longer a friendship. Let it go, accept the loss as graciously as you can and think about what you have gained from the relationship.
Also a relationship isn’t an entity that must be kept alive at all costs. It isn’t more important than the people in it.
Keep in mind friendships are bonds created between people, founded on many factors. Being aware of those factors helps you
recognize when they are no longer there. So if you were to meet a long time friend for the first time in the now, ask yourself, would you develop a friendship, a deep bond or reciprocally rewarding relationship with him or her? If not, it’s okay to keep in touch, if you both want to, to be there when called upon. Realize, too, keeping in touch might be a challenge for some with very busy life styles or when life
challenges, i.e. illness or other issues come up. Marriages and divorces can come between friends as well. And drifting apart happens, that’s life. As we change, so do relationships. We need to be flexible, and appreciate how our friends grow and grow with them
Your definition of friendship will always be a factor in how satisfying your relationships with others will be; sometimes we need to re think and redefine what friendship means to us. Most of all, it is important to be your own best friend.
TTFN and all the best from Elaine Kissel.