g a t h e r i n g s

You Asked For It: Keep Friendships Healthy

All relationships need to be updated from time to time. This is true for relationships that seem to have become tense or somehow uncomfortable and it is true for those that continue to feel easy and light.

In the first instance, it is usually that too many things have gone unspoken for too long so that where once the friendship may have been a place of freedom, now it feels more like a small room with too little air and no door.

Here’s one scenario: it may be that the relationship was built on ground that has shifted over time. For example, many connections are forged around a specific dynamic. Perhaps a friendship was formed when one person was vulnerable – emotionally, financially, physically – and the other had the wherewithal and desire to help. If the vulnerable one becomes stabilized, will the friendship sustain? Often both people have this question, even if out of awareness. The previously vulnerable one may be shy about stepping into her strength for fear of making the friend feel suddenly dispensible. Indeed, he may be. Or, the other may feel demoted in significance and so withdraw to protect his ego. Perhaps both will become angry “out of the blue” as a way to escape. There are many variations on this theme. The good news is that while the old roles are suffocating, if updated the friendship might actually continue to blossom and with a more active and creative give and take.

Another scenario: sometimes when one friend finds something new that really has meaning, the status quo of interaction becomes strained. Perhaps the person discovers a passion for a sport or an art or a philsophy that the other is not drawn to. The time formerly spent in shared ways may be eclipsed by the new interest, and the friendship might slowly slip away if not attended to. If updated, however, the friendship might actually expand to encompass not only the developing layer of this person’s explorations but also the twists in the road sure to come for the other. If each person steps into more, perhaps the friendship can grow to hold that more.

Still one more: certain relationships – intimate ones especially – are forged from a powerful feeling of you and me against the world. This is the bubble effect where the partners are primarily wedded through their dislike of or discomfort with the bigger world. Anger or depression or cynicism or judgment are the field in which these two find comfort and companionship. And when one falls in love, whether with a person or some aspect of life, what happens to the friendship? Predicated on shared isolation, it may fall apart. Still, if the two can figure out how to move from “you and me against the world” to “you and me in the world,” perhaps the friendship can be enriched and enlivened as new energies are added.

In the first three examples, updating begins with the internal sentence: I am grateful for the time we have had. I take responsibility for my part. I was fortunate to have had company at that juncture. It is complete as it is. Now is the time to decide how we go on – side by side , or alone, never having not known each other.

In the case of relationships that feel generous and affirming, what kind of updating could possibly be necessary? Well, it’s the same updating that every relationship benefits from: an expression of gratitude. Here too it is a deep inner expression, neither showy nor expectant. It is a moment of thanks out of which loving gestures irresistibly flow.