The Heartbreak of Changing Adult Friendships

“My friends have made the story of my life.  In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation.” -Helen Keller

“Intimacies between women often go backwards, beginning in revelations and ending in small talk.” -Elizabeth Bowenpexels-photo-110440.jpeg

I have never been the quickest to make friends.  I approach friendship cautiously, tip-toeing into intimacy until I can be sure I can trust someone.  But then, after a shy, guarded, initial few times hanging out, I decide to take the leap and put myself out there.  It is probably a good method; I can judge whether the friendship has the necessary staying power: things in common, similar values, someone I can talk to without worrying I’m being judged.

That being said, I feel like I have and maintain a small group of really excellent women friends.  I feel lucky to have found people I can really be myself around.  We have been there for each other, in the midst of dealing with sleepless postpartum nights and toddler meltdowns.  We get together to wax poetic on the trials of potty-training and discuss our future career goals and what our hopes and dreams for our children are.  We attend plays and symphonies together because our husbands don’t desire to be as cultured as we do.  We complain about our parents, we vent about the idiotic things our better halves do.  I can honestly say, as someone who battles clinical depression on a daily basis, they are as vital to my mental health as my antidepressants are.

But sometimes, things change.  People grow apart.  Life stages change, and you suddenly find out you have less in common than you previously assumed.  What then?

This has been a rough year for one of my previously close friendships.  I met my friend, “Melanie” shortly after she moved to town several years ago with her young family.  She attended our church moms’ group and we became friends because we had children the same ages, our husbands were employed at the same company, and we had many other things in common.  I was enthralled by her calm demeanor and seemingly effortless wrangling of her many children.   I wasn’t sure what her secret was, but I knew that I wanted to be her friend and possibly learn from her!  She was a mentor of sorts, not really older than me but I was pretty sure wiser since she obviously had it all together.

She and our other friends formed a Bible study and met regularly while our children played, usually at her house.  The kids were all really great friends with each other, which was awesome.  I felt like all of us bonded in ways that strengthened both our faith and our friendships.  We shared our anxieties about parenting and our feelings about God and his plan.  We talked about everything.  We were all so close.

Our families hung out often.  We went camping together.  Our husbands were all friends.  I had visions of us being like a real-life Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood group of friends.

Then, last year, out of nowhere (from our estimation, anyway), Melanie and her husband suddenly split in a huge, contentious, acrimonious divorce.  It through all of us for a loop.

Many things transpired with the friendship of Melanie and me, but to make a long story short, I was trying to be supportive of her.  My husband and I were also trying to be supportive and friendly to her ex, who was good friends with Hubby.  Ultimately, it proved impossible to be friends with them both, as each one felt it was disloyal on our part to be friends with the spouse they now hated.  We now no longer have a relationship with either of the estranged spouses, since it proved too difficult (and confusing) to be friends with either.

I grieve for the loss of my friendship with Melanie.  I still love her and care about her very much.  I know she is going through something very difficult that I don’t understand.  It doesn’t mean I don’t still wish to be friends with her.  I just think that her life has changed so much that it is not feasible for us to be in each other’s lives any more.

But it is awkward.  I still see her at church and around town.  I know she thinks I betrayed her somehow.  I believe she doesn’t like me anymore.  Any kind of apology would make no difference, since I am not even really sure what to apologize for anyway.

Friendships do change.  Even without the divorce, Melanie and I may have grown apart anyway.  She had recently gone back to work, creating a difference between us that wasn’t there before: SAHM vs. working mom.  I didn’t see her that much after she made that transition.  Perhaps we would have just drifted apart due to our lack of seeing each other.

A stay-at-home mom might find her mom friends leaving her in droves to return to work.  A single girl might suddenly feel alienated once her best friend gets married.  Young couples who did everything together suddenly find they are not as important to their friends who have a baby.  It’s hard to accept the change and not to grieve over it.

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So, what can you do?  How do you navigate these changing adult friendships that seem to be for the worse instead of the better?

  1.  ACCEPT THAT IT MIGHT NOT BE ALL ABOUT YOU.  It is most likely not your fault.  You can’t help that life circumstances for your friend (or you) have changed.  If you had a huge argument with a friend and have now fallen out, remember that it takes two to tango.  If an apology is warranted on your end, apologize.  But realize that the ball is now in their court.  What they choose to do from here is not up to you.
  2. IF THE FRIENDSHIP IS WORTH SAVING, VOCALIZE IT.  Your best friend just had a baby and now she has no time for you.  Call her up and tell her that you miss her.  Tell her you value her friendship and want to come up with a plan to make time for each other.  The baby is her main focus right now, so make it easy for her.  Bring her a coffee while the baby is napping and catch up.  Be creative.  It is worth it to keep this friendship going.  Plus, she will be a great resource when you find yourself in a similar stage of life.
  3. IF THE FRIENDSHIP IS FLOUNDERING, YOU MIGHT NEED TO LET IT GO.  Don’t feel guilty.  Sometimes relationships just run their course, and you need to let it be.  Not all friends are friends for life.  People move away, circumstances change, and people can be fickle.  It is what it is.  And if you aren’t “feeling it” anymore, don’t be afraid to end the friendship.  It can either die a slow, unremarked-upon death by fading into the sunset or you can compose a gentle “break up” speech.  Either way,  friendship shouldn’t be work.  If you feel exhausted or always unhappy after you’ve spent time with a friend, it may be time to sever ties.
  4. PRAY FOR YOUR FRIENDS.  Sometimes nothing can be done to save or improve a friendship.  You can always pray for your friends.  For example, with my friend Melanie, I just say something along the lines of, “God, I don’t know what she needs right now, but please help her with whatever that is and let her know she is loved.”  I may not be able to change our friendship/ lack of friendship, but I leave it to God to figure out how to move forward.
  5. SEEK OUT NEW OPPORTUNITIES.  Most of my good friends have kids that are older, namely at the same ages as Junior and Bellie.  I met them when I was a young mom and we were in the exact same stage of life.  I love and treasure these friendships but can’t always talk to them about the rigors of having younger kids.  They don’t really want to hear about my potty-training challenges.  (Well, they listen politely but I can see their eyes glazing over.  I don’t blame them!)  If we’re talking about elementary-school related things, ferrying kids from one activity to the next, or our fears about children soon entering puberty, they are my guys!  But the nitty-gritty-stay-at-home toddler stuff? I find that once you outgrow that stage with your kids, you forget a little.  And sometimes become less interested in having it as your main topic of conversation.  (I loved breastfeeding my kids, but now that they have outgrown that I don’t think I could spend an entire hour at moms’ group talking about it like I once did!)  The solution?  Seek out new kindred spirits.  You might have to travel out of your comfort zone to discover new friends, but they are out there!  Your group of friends are now married and want to stay home all the time?  Find a book club where you can find some new things to discuss and wine to drink.  You need someone to talk to about your 3-week-old because your other friends don’t have kids yet?  Join a MOPS group.  You’re going crazy because all your friends have gone back to work and you have no one to talk to during the day?  Take a Mommy and Me fitness class at the gym.  It might take a few tries, but you’re bound to come across some new opportunities for friendship.

How have your adult friendships challenged you and how have you navigated those challenges?    What are some tips you have for making new friends in adulthood?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol. 18

Greetings!  Welcome to another edition of Weekly mishmash.  Here’s what’s been going on around here lately:

ONE.

This has been a CRAZY week!  Bellie had the first of her two spring ballet performances on Friday (which followed a week of intense rehearsals).  They are doing Alice in Wonderland, which is really cute!  She gets to be a bunny and then one of the Queen of Hearts’s attendants.  I am constantly amazed by the creativity of her ballet director; the choreography is really neat.  My favorite is the “caterpillar” where they use several dancers outfitted with frilly green umbrellas to give the impression of a many-legged insect.  Fun to see!

TWO.

Junior had a karate tournament on Saturday.  He got two first-place medals and was really proud of himself!  His biggest brag was that he beat a really talented kid from his class who outranks him.  I thought that was pretty exciting!

THREE.

This evening I am being a friend’s daughter’s sponsor at her Confirmation.  I was really honored that she chose me.  I think she views me as something of a mentor, which I find flattering.  It’s kind-of fun because she and I share a passion for writing, French, and Hercule Poirot.  Also her confirmation name is St. Dymphna, who is a personal favorite of mine because of her association with mental health:-)

FOUR

My children somehow got interested in The Great British Baking Show.  I blame friends of ours, since I hate hate hate cooking shows.  Well, and cooking in general.  But the kids decided they would have their own “Cooking Challenge” and Hubby and I were to judge.  Here are the inspired creations:

Voted WINNER for Best Presentation:

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Bellie’s “Ice Cream Delight” with Chocolate morsels, jelly beans, and cherry.

Voted WINNER for Most Intense Flavor and Name:

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Junior with his Pokemon-inspired “The Dark Cake” (we were a little limited to what we had on hand for frosting/cake decorations)

Voted WINNER for Most Creative Recipe Idea:

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Spike’s “Not Yo Mama’s Granola Bars” (made from scratch with his dad’s help and topped with vanilla ice cream and strawberries)

Evvie got an award too (she wasn’t so interested in the whole baking thing), for Best Performance of a Tantrum in the Kitchen.

FIVE.

While the Midwest has been struggling with nasty wintery weather still, that same front came through a couple of weeks ago. We had a tornado warning!  That never happens.  Basically, we just got a lot of damaging hail.  Then the next day or so it got really cold and we got snow.  It took a little while for it to melt again (at least half a day) and the kids got their boots out and snowmobiled around the yard.  Hubby and Spike built a snowman.  But by the next day he had melted and it looked like spring again!  Weather is weird.

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His ‘fro is dead weeds, his eyes and buttons are coal, his lovely smile is a bungee strap, and his nose is a parsnip (we were out of carrots). RIP Curly.

SIX.

I was able to meet the challenge from last year (50 books read in 50 weeks!) and got my sweet Extreme Book Nerd prize: a hoodie sweatshirt!  They just came in last week….it took a looooong time for them to come in at our library.  But I really like it.  I am trying to do the Extreme Book Nerd challenge again this year but it has been hard with how busy I am and all the teacher certification stuff I have to read.  But we shall see.

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SEVEN.

While sprucing up outside, I realized my front door wreath was not very spring-y.  I wanted to do something a little different than just a traditional wreath, so I went on Pinterest and got some ideas.  Ultimately, I really wanted to use an old bike tire and put flowers on it, but wasn’t having luck finding a suitable tire anywhere.  I did, however, find an old horse collar at an antique store and thought that might look interesting.  Added some spring-like floral and ribbon and Voila!   Country front door decor.  I am really pleased with how it turned out! What do you think?

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That’s all for now!  Enjoy your week!

{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol. 17

Welcome back to PPP after a bit of a hiatus!  Nothing major going on (as I mentioned last post), just the general business of life and constant other demands on my time.  Stuff has not calmed down in the least, but I realized that I need my writing time.  I function much better when I’m doing it regularly.  This blog is the closest thing I get to therapy, so I need to make an effort to keep it out of the backseat!

This is something of a Weekly mishmash “Catch-up”, plus with a few more recent goings-on.  So, what have we been up to over here?

1.  EASTER.  Here we are after mass.  We showed up 40 minutes early, got to sit in front, and the kids weren’t horrible.  It was an all-around win.

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2.  I took the kids on a day trip to The Museum of Clean.  They loved it!  There were toys and antique toilets!  Fun for all ages!

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3.  We got a new kitty in January.  We adopted her and did not change the name the rescue group had given her: Beatrice.  Once the kids got over the need to carry her around by the neck, it’s been good.  Beatrice keeps us young; she is really hyper.  Especially at 2am.

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4.  I stayed up late every night this week to declutter the basement.  In the ensuing time, I went through 6 Rubbermaid totes of “Keepsakes” that my mother had saved for me from childhood.  Here is what I learned:

First of all, I don’t advocate for throwing out all of your kid’s artwork, school projects, writing assignments, etc.  But you certainly don’t have to keep every. single. one.  I think my mom was sweet for doing so, most likely under the impression that someday…..someday….it may mean so so much to me that I have my junior high math tests and my preschool macaroni art, but I realized that I can really live without those things cluttering up my basement.  I filled an industrial-size garbage can.

However, I appreciate my mom keeping some of those things, because there were some gems.  Like all-caps handwritten notes from my grandmother for me when I was first learning to read.  And the cute little artwork from my younger brothers and sisters.  And the kitchen-table notes from my mom to my younger self that reveal, not only what kind of kid I was at a younger age, but what kind of mom she was (and looking at it with my mother-eyes now, I realize I totally get her in a way I didn’t at the time.)

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Well, thank you, Caity. I WILL have a hippy barsday!!

I also realized that as an adult, I am coming full-circle into what my likes and passions were at that young age.  Gretchen Rubin says in her books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home that we need to look back at what we enjoyed as children to figure out what we enjoy now.  Now, for some people this may be a “duh” moment – “I played matchbox cars as a child and now I love my job as a mechanic!” – but for others of us, myself included, our likes can sometimes be obscured by what we feel as adults we should do.  I graduated from high school thinking I should be a doctor.  Not necessarily because science was my strong point, or because I truly enjoyed all those labs in high school.  I just thought it was what I should do because my parents were in the medical profession and it was a good job.  I failed to consider that I was not really a people-person (not all doctors are, but doctors with the best bedside manner certainly are), nor was I ever good at handling stress (which can be a little bit of an occupational hazard in a stressful profession).  I also was never a science or math person and my grades reflected this.  So, when I finally conceded defeat as a pre-med student, I felt relief but also felt a great deal of self-hatred for “not being able to cut it”.  I wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t smart enough.  I might still be able to graduate from college with some sort of degree, but I would always consider myself a failure because I couldn’t follow through with my initial goal of being a doctor.

So I majored in history.  Which I loved.  Which didn’t guarantee me a job (as my mother constantly reminded me).  But I figured that if I chased my love, and something I was good at, eventually I would figure something out.

And I had to laugh as I went through those keepsake boxes.

There was a running theme through all of those papers and assignments:  History and writing.  I found an assignment I had to write in 5th grade – a letter to my parents about why I was excited for the beginning of the school year.  I wrote, “I am so excited for 5th grade because we finally get to learn history this year!”  I discovered a nightshirt I had craft-painted that had a picture of a boy and girl in colonial dress, and emblazoned above them in bold letters was “HISTORY”.  I found dozens of stories and plays I had written.  I found a note from my sister telling me that she always thought I would be a great historian or writer.  I understood that all throughout my childhood, I always knew my likes and my strengths.  I just thought that they were stupid and I should try to do something more “realistic” (and probably more lucrative monetarily) than writing or something with history.  Ha.  It would have taken less time and heartache if I had figured that out earlier!

And this super-long take leads to the next take….

5.  I’ve decided to become a middle school/high school history teacher.  I graduated with a history degree but opted not to do the teacher certification at the time because I didn’t think I wanted to teach.  This may have been another fallacy of thought; growing up I heard disparaging things about teachers – despite the fact my grandmothers and aunt were teachers – hmmmm…I’ll have to maybe analyze that in a future blog post….  At any rate, I didn’t think I would be a good teacher, plus I figured I’d hate it.

What changed my mind?  Volunteering at my children’s school.  I have been participating voluntarily for several years doing this program called FAME.  It stands for “Fine Art Mini Experience” and every month volunteer teachers present lessons on one work of art/artist and one musical piece/composer.  I have had so much fun with this!  The kids are always really interested and ask the best questions.  I love doing the research and I learn so much.  It is right up my alley because both art and music are closely aligned with history and I love helping kids make those connections.  The best part is how energized I feel after spending all day at the school teaching these lessons.  As a SAHM, that doesn’t happen very often at home, and I got to the point where I realized I wanted to have that experience more often.

Hubby was very supportive of this.  I am doing an online, accredited program where I can take the teacher certification test in Idaho and can be in a classroom within a year if I so desire.

My youngest, Evvie, is only three, so I have been dealing with some anxiety/guilt about possibly going to work full-time before she is in school full-time.  I haven’t worked out all the details yet, but my main concern is to get my teacher’s certification by next spring and then decide at that point if I want to begin looking for a job or wait a bit until Evvie is in 1st grade.

Ultimately, though, I am confident this is what I should be doing at this point in time.  It took a lot of prayer and soul-searching but I feel excited for this next phase in my life!

6.  We had an awful day on Monday where we had 50 mph winds.  It was terrible!  Power poles got knocked over and trees fell into buildings.  I am so grateful we rarely get tornadoes here but I am beginning to wonder if these high winds we’ve been having lately are not nearly as bad!

7.  I’ve been rocking out to Ed Sheeran.  When I was in Europe this summer, Galway Girl was on the radio a lot when we were tooling around northern France and pulling in British radio stations.  My kids, though, love Shape of You.  For the beat I think.  The lyrics aren’t the most G-rated which makes me a little leery when I listen to it.  There’s that part that goes, “Last night you were in my room/ And now my bedsheets smell like you”

Spike was in the car and yelled up to me, “Why does it say ‘my veggies smell like you’?”

I replied, “Yes, yes, that is what he’s saying, isn’t it?  I guess sometimes that happens.”

And now, every time it comes on my kids crack up because it is SUCH a SILLY SONG!!

Veggies.

Heehee.

 

 

Have a lovely week!