Friendships are the ties that bind.
We make them throughout nearly every stage of our lives, from the moment we share our sand bucket with another toddler in the sandpit to way down the track when we meet our new lawn bowls partner as septuagenarians in the retirement village.
Some friendships are forged in cauldrons of intensity and feel as though they will last forever — others are more fleeting, but not necessarily any less satisfying.
And then there are those friendships that start off strong, peak and finally taper off…but which we still maintain, even as we know they are fraying at the edges.
At which point, we need to decide — should I stay or should I go?
Playing the friendship game
Most friendships are born out of the moment.
There you are, first year at university in a class that’s boring the bejesus out of you, and you catch the eye of a classmate who has just woken up from a quick snooze, put to sleep by the endless drone of the professor.
You exchange a faint smile, roll your eyes and try to tune back in. Bumping into them after the class, you share a laugh about it.
Fast forward a month, and your BFFs.
Fast forward five years, and you’ve travelled to Europe together, carved up any number of dancefloors, consoled each other over broken hearts, watched a lot of movies etc etc
And then…you get a new job.
Your focus changes a bit as you start to meet new people and are exposed to different ideas and things. You and your BFF are still tight but don’t have as much time as you used to, especially because she is dating someone pretty seriously and…oh wow, she is pregnant!
Fast forward another five years…and things are changing even more. Your lives are diverging. You spend less time together, talk on the phone or through text a lot less and more broadly don’t have so much in common.
But you still feel the past, faint warmth of those amazing years where so much fun was had, where the friendship was your world, where you grew into the person you are. Years you would or could never replace. Years that will always mean something to you.
So, you hang on longer, even as the threads are fraying.
It’s not that you dislike them, or they you, it’s just…
The “best by” date on the friendship has arrived.
The “best by” friendship date dilemma
It’s a sensitive moment, right?
There is no concrete reason to end the friendship or let it go, but neither is there a compelling reason to hang onto it.
On the one hand, you can just let it go and, even if it doesn’t take up that much space in your life anymore, and in doing so, create space for another to fill. Or, you can let it continue to inhabit its patch of friendship real estate because humans do change and grow and what’s not to say the friendship won’t fire up again someday?
Which way do you go?
As with everything in life, there is no right or wrong, there just is.
The positive pragmatist in me means I tend to hang on more often than not. My friendship map is wide and broad and seemingly endless in terms of the real estate on offer. I’m something of a collector of souls, even at an age when many of my friends aren’t looking to expand their social circles much and rather lock in those already within them.
Occasionally, however, I do let go. Sometimes the distance between me and someone grows so vast that it’s hard to ignore the potentially long overdue “best-by” date, and so I let the river of life take me along a different channel away from them.
It may sound harsh to use that kind of language when it comes to other humans, but it’s not a reflection on them or their worth. It’s just an observation that the best of the friendship appears to have passed and being able to assess that is a good thing.
It’s not unlike some great TV show that goes a couple of seasons too long. The West Wing, for example. They should have wound it up at the end of Season 5 but no, they pushed it out to Season 7 and it lost what made it so good.
Maybe that’s an unfair comparison, but you get the point.
Whichever way you go, it’s OK.
Some friendships should be hung onto, others not.
But don’t ever just hang onto a friendship because you feel “you should”…and yet definitely hang onto a friendship when your gut feeling tells you to.
Honestly appraising the relationship and acting accordingly is the key, as is having faith in yourself in your decision.
You know what’s best…for you…and maybe for them.