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.13

Good day to you!  I am sitting at a local coffeeshop – by myself (doesn’t that sound scandalous?) – and I am happy to get my 7QTs in today!  See more at Kelly’s!

ONE

Hubby got back from a business trip yesterday.  I was really happy to get him back.  So were the kids.  He was only gone 5 days, but it was a LOOOONNNNNGGGG 5 days.  (See below Quick Take)

TWO

Stomach bugs while (temporarily) single parenting suck.  Stomach bugs while single parenting especially suck when they only hit said temporarily single parent while the children being parented are their own boisterous, exuberant, curious, and healthy selves.  I am glad that I was not having to parent sick kids while being sick myself, but….still.  I’m a complainer.  Edit: Bellie came home from school sick today….so….this might be the beginning of a fun weekend.  At least Hubby is home!

THREE

Six months to EUROPE!!!!!!!  I am feeling like everything is falling into place and can barely contain my excitement.  I need to work on the guilt feelings, though.  I mean, I can hardly sneak off to a coffee shop by myself on a Friday morning for an hour leaving Hubby with the two little ones without feeling like a complete worthless human being who is shirking her family responsibilities!  I will have to explore this idea more in future posts.

FOUR

Loving Victoria on Masterpiece.  I do think Jenna Coleman is a bit too pretty to play the illustrious queen, but oh well.  I am slightly obsessed with the Victorian Era, so the costumes and the hairstyles are completely thrilling to me.  Plus I think Victoria (who interestingly enough, was against women’s suffrage) was one of the most influential and fascinating women in the history of our modern world.

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Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria at her coronation.  (Courtesy pbs.org)

FIVE

My mom is doing better.  She came through her surgery (to repair her leg) just fine, and is currently on the mend.  Talking to her on the phone nowadays she seems to be back to her old self.  It will still be weeks before she is permitted to put weight on her leg, but she seems to be wheeling herself around her house just fine, and other than being confined to the ground floor of her home, is doing well.  I have taken the suggestion to call her often – and I have been touching base with her via text daily, calling every other day.  If nothing else, I hope that this whole experience has convinced her that her children really do care about her.  We were all forced to break out of our mental business to actually reach out and make an effort to keep in touch.

SIX

I’ve got a dear friend who is going through a divorce.

There has been a group of us who have been friends for a long time.  We did a Bible study about Catholic Apologetics several years back together; it was so enlightening and educational for us, plus it brought us closer together as friends.  It definitely ranks as one of the best experiences I’ve had, and I have always felt that those of us who participated share a special bond.

Our families have hung out often, our husbands have gone out for beers together and helped each other with home improvement projects.  Each year we go to Bear Lake, Utah camping as a group and traditionally spent Super Bowl Sunday together.  Our kids are all friends.

Over Christmas, one of the couples split up under tense circumstances.  We are friends with both of them.  We like and respect both of them and want what is best for their kids, and their family as a whole.    But my friends and I are having a hard time wishing them a DIVORCE.  Especially in light of Catholic teaching, which we studied together in detail all those years ago.  We are not privy to all the information about the circumstances of their separation, of course.  There seem to be some seemingly insurmountable obstacles for them to stay together.  But….still……ugh.

It’s a sad situation all around.  We have tried to be supportive of our friend without bashing her husband.  We have been praying for them.  A lot.  And I truly believe that God has a plan for their family.

Still, anyone have any words of wisdom about supporting a friend (couple?) who is going through a divorce?  What are our duties as Christian/ Catholic friends?  Friends who believe in and confess the sanctity of marriage, especially when both parties in a divorce proceeding are convinced there is no hope for their marriage?  I am struggling here!

SEVEN

Well, as I type this, I can’t avoid the obvious:  my cuticles are a horror.  Winter wreaks havoc on my hands!  The air is so dry here in Idaho that dry skin is a matter of fact, but in winter it takes it up a notch!  My poor kids have inherited my problem; Bellie’s hands are dry and red ALL WINTER LONG unless she remembers to always always wear gloves when she goes outside (which doesn’t usually happen).   All of my kids seem to suffer from excema (particularly on their cheeks) during the winter.  My solution: Eucerin is my friend.  I buy an industrial size of the tub at the beginning of the winter.

 

 

I hope all of you are keeping warm and protecting your skin this winter!  Have a delightful weekend!

That darn perfection illusion

I apologize for my long hiatus…it has been insanely busy!  Between a post-election trip to Washington D.C., Thanksgiving, Bellie’s third annual round of Nutcracker performances, Christmas preparations and the like, I have been swamped.  But I promise to fill you in on all those adventures in due course.  Life has been good, I have been staying upbeat, but wouldn’t you know it…once the kids finished school for the year and I was finally allowed a break I came down with the flu (flu shot notwithstanding!).  It has been a fun three days of that but I think I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Right when I start feeling better I am sure the rest of the family will follow suit and get sick.  Right around Christmas day, I’m sure:-)  Oh well, c’est la vie.

I think I mentioned earlier that I have befriended a new-to-motherhood and new-to-the-area young lady who is married to a coworker of Hubby.  We’ve been hanging out every few weeks or so; I have been introducing her and her baby daughter to the various activities available in our town for family fun/child enrichment.  My younger kids get a kick out of hanging out with her baby, and I think she is genuinely appreciative to have the companionship.  It is fun for me, too, to experience, through her, how far I’ve come as a mom.  I mean, ten short years ago, I was that new, slightly uncertain and definitely appreciative for friendship – young mom.  Several years later, I don’t know if I would claim that I’m an expert or anything…but I am WAAAAAAAAY more laid back and more confident (sometimes) about my parenting skills.  Still, it made me dissolve in laughter when Hubby called me from work one day.

Hubby: [previously mentioned co-worker] told me his wife is super-jealous of you.

Me: What???!!!!  Why???? (silently thinking, “Did she SEE my four-year-old eat that gum off the bathroom floor at playgroup?”)

Hubby:  Yeah, she thinks you are like the perfect mom.  She thinks the kids are always so well-behaved and you discipline them so well.  And you always are on time and have your makeup and hair done when you guys get together.

Me: (Trying not to choke on my 8th cup of coffee that morning while the kids dump an entire box of cereal onto the floor)  !!!! Oh my gosh!!!  I have TOTALLY mislead her.  That was not my intention.

Thinking back, I really was only trying to not scare her off with my frumpy slovenliness.  Generally I am not on time, anywhere.  And I don’t usually do my hair, but I thought I should put forth a little more of an effort with someone I am getting to know. (It’s weird how friendship with other moms is sort-of like dating.  You want to put on your best face until you know you can relax a little around them in your own skin.)  I certainly did not mean to make her think I was…Perfect.

Hubby to the rescue:  It’s OK.  I set [previously mentioned co-worker] straight.  I told him that generally I come home to a house with cereal all over the floor and no one has gotten dressed for the day.

OK, that was once.  But if it serves to burst the perfection illusion my new-found friend has developed about me, so be it.  I don’t want to be seen as perfect!  That is a lot of pressure.

I think women, moms especially, are set up for failure with the perfectionism thing.  I mean, we start out young, unmarried and childless bombarded during our preteen and teen years with images on Cosmo and Vogue of these gorgeous supermodel/actresses and are convinced that is who we need to be (airbrushing be damned!).  Our images of perfection may also be tied up in being the smartest, getting into the best college, having the most prestigious (and lucrative) career.  We may spend hours on facebook and instagram looking at our friends’ “perfect lives”.  Then, we graduate to the competitive mom-ing.  Oh wow, that mom fits into her size-2 jeans and always looks like a million bucks, with her five beautiful children in tow who look like they stepped out of a Gymboree ad.   And that mom volunteers for Everything at school.  Isn’t she superwoman?  Plus she holds down a full-time job AND is going to grad school at the same time!  How is it possible this other mom keeps her home so immaculate with her two sets of multiples?  I have never seen her with a hair out of place, and she’s always cheery and friendly.  I’m sure her life is so charmed.

The danger in this “Projected perfectionism” thinking is that it tends to be a whole pack of bulls**tPeople, no matter how hard they try to make outsiders believe it is so, are not perfectionistic automatons.  There are happy, hard-working people who are living their best life, sure.  But they will be the first (often) to admit that their lives are not “perfect”.

Just yesterday, my little group of best girlfriends was blindsided out of the blue with some information that left us stunned and devastated.  A marriage we had always viewed as strong, a couple with a strong commitment to their family and community, had suddenly spiraled into a place none of us would have imagined.  Domestic violence, safe houses, and divorce proceedings.  The whole story is not immediately clear, but what an incredible shock for friends who have only ever seen the one face of their relationship.  How could we have missed if something so dangerous was going on with our friend?  Why didn’t she come to us for help before?  I always had (and still do) look up to her for mentoring with my parenting.  She was always so calm, so serene and so capable that I never would have imagined anything like this could happen to her.  And as a couple, they completed our little group that hung out camping and doing fancy dinners.  Our several families of combined children were good friends.  We were all so happy together.  I grieve for my friend and her family in this.  (Prayers greatly appreciated on her behalf)

The lesson?  Well, I could say “Try not to appear too perfect.”  But, in reality, it might be more prescient to say, “Don’t assume anyone’s life is perfect.”  Everyone has challenges.  Everyone has things they keep hidden.  If you suspect something with one of your friends that seems “off”, follow up.  They may not be ready to share, but they might be able to tell you how to help.

Meanwhile, next time I get together with my new-mom friend and her baby, I think I will put her more at ease by showing up 5 minutes late in my sweats, leaving that grape jelly smeared all over my kids’ faces and regale her with the tale of the “Floor Donuts” (that delightful time I let Spike carry the dozen-box of frosted donuts to the register at the grocery store.  He dumped them, the box came open, and all of them plopped juicily to the grubby floor, frosting side down.  And before I could begin cleaning them up, Spike wipes his hand over the frosting-smeared floor and begins eating it the delicious goo.)

Who’s a perfect mom, now?  🙂

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