How Our Circle of Friends Changes Over Time

Image credit:  Cee R /Blogspot

Image credit: Cee R /Blogspot

Today is Thursday, August 8, 2013.

People my age (60s)  are no longer surprised that their circle of friends has changed over the years, but it’s a jarring concept for many young people.  Because we are such a mobile population in the United States, many of us haven’t had the opportunity to maintain a friendship with a person who lives in the same town, who went to the same school, who goes to the same church, and who has had the same sort of life experiences that we have had (e.g. college, career, marriage, parenthood, etc.).   In fact, these days, people move around so much that very few of our kids get to have the experience of keeping one particular friend throughout their elementary and high school days.

With the use of email and social media on the Internet, it’s easier than ever to stay in contact with a friend from bygone days, and it’s fun to “catch up” with people every so often.  Those long, newsy Christmas letters are another way to stay in touch, but I suspect that they are going the way of the dinosaur.

At various points in our lives, we start to feel uncomfortable about the circle of friends that surrounds us, and we realize that there’s no longer a good fit between ourselves and certain people within the circle, or perhaps there is no longer a strong connection between ourselves and the entire circle.   That’s when we think about how to change who we hang out with.  The main thing to realize is that this is a normal process, and there’s nothing wrong with you if you find that you need to let certain friendships go and find new people to surround yourself with.   It takes guts and openness to meet new people, and time to get to know them.  Think of it as an investment in your future.

It’s true that people seem to drift in and out of our lives as we change, and there’s often no need to make a big production out of it.  If someone has drifted out, the main point is to stop feeling guilty for not keeping up with the person and just let the relationship go.  Other times, there does need to be some closure, even if the closure is achieved only on our side.

According to Irene S. Levine, PhD, freelance writer and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Break Up With Your Best Friend, there are different types of friendships.  An acquaintance is someone you don’t see that often, and when you do, it’s generally in a group setting.  If you no longer have anything in common, it’s OK to let the friendship lapse naturally.   A public friend is a work mate, classmate, or someone you see every day.  It’s OK to drift apart if the drifting is mutual, but if it is not, this type of friendship needs to have some closure.  Because you will continue to see the person at work or school, you do need to be careful how you say good-bye.   Just be sure the breakup is not over a simple miscommunication that could have been cleared up with a little honest communication.  The good friend gone bad is someone you used to get along with but for some reason you have started to disagree a lot.  Sometimes this sort of friendship can be healed with a little time out for both of you.  Other times, you just have to realize that one or both of you have changed, and you need to travel separate roads now.   However you decide to end the association, be sure to tell your friend what you have gained from the relationship and wish him or her well on their journey.

Many people exchange one circle of friends for another when they go through life changes.  This doesn’t happen all at once, but gradually, over time.  When you move to a new location, graduate from high school, graduate from trade school or college, change jobs, get a promotion, get married, or have a baby, the one constant is that some old friends will leave your circle of friends, while others will enter.   Some of these life changes – marriage and childbearing, in particular – seem more traumatic for women than for men.  Even in this day and age, women’s lives change more when they get married or when they have a child than their husbands’ lives do.  A few generations ago, women would quit their jobs when they got married, or if not then, at least when they got pregnant.  Nowadays, some women still quit their outside job when they have a child, but many others simply take a leave of absence for childbirth.  However, there are still social consequences of marriage and childbearing.  Once married, people tend to cultivate friends who are couples so that they can socialize as a couple.  Single friends become a lower priority.   Once a woman has a child, her social set also includes other mothers so that her child can have play dates, and she tends to meet other mothers at her child’s dance lessons, concerts, karate lessons, sports events, and other school events.  Once again, single friends without children become a lower priority.

Three other life changes that sometimes take people by surprise with respect to friends are getting a divorcee, having a spouse die, and retiring from your job.  A person who suddenly becomes single through divorce gets treated the same as the single friend who never married.  Many of your couple friends will feel that they have to choose to remain friends either with you or your ex, but not both.  Unless you have an escort to a social event, you will be regarded as a fifth wheel.  It can be a very uncomfortable social transition.  People going through a divorce need friendship and support, not rejection.

Becoming suddenly single through the death of your spouse often works like divorce.  I will never forget talking to a church friend, an older lady in her late 60s (when I was in my mid-30s), who had just suffered the sudden death of her spouse.  She had been associating mostly with married couples, and suddenly, her married woman friends no longer wished to associate with her.  She sensed that the married women were “guarding” their husbands from her, and that they considered her an odd man out, socially.  Some of them were very judgmental about the fact that her husband had committed suicide.  At a time when she desperately needed the support of friends, she was losing hers, and it was very traumatic for her.  She began to associate with me more often simply because I was single (divorced), and I knew what it was like to fly solo.  As well, I did not express judgment of her husband for killing himself.

Another change that sometimes takes people by surprise is when one person steps onto a path of conscious spiritual growth or when one of the friends leaves a church or changes religions.  We may tell ourselves that we’re open-minded enough to remain friends with someone who has changed in this way, but open-mindedness is not always enough.   What is happening, on an energetic level, is that our vibrations simply change frequency, and they no longer match those of certain of our old friends, and this is true of all our changes, not just stepping on the spiritual path.  When you’ve started a job, it’s harder to stay friends with those who are still in college.  When you’ve just got married, it’s harder to stay friends with people who are still single, unless you have other things in common.  When you divorce or become single through the death of a spouse, the same thing happens – your vibrations simply no longer match those of your friends.  They may not understand that this is what is happening, but they feel it, just the same.   Recognizing that your vibrations have changed seems to take some of the bitterness out of losing friends.  It’s actually an impersonal process, and no one person’s “fault.”  It’s necessary at this point to evaluate relationships to decide whether it’s worth it to hang on to them or whether it’s better to let go.

The main thing when evaluating a friendship is to recall what brought you together in the first place and go from there.  If the glue that held your friendship together (attendance at the same school, working for the same company, etc.)  is no longer there, it is obvious that it would be a mistake to force the friendship to continue.  Another thing to consider is how you feel about the friendship.  Do you feel pressured to conform to the other person’s ideas or behavior?  Do you feel that you have to walk on eggshells in order to avoid the other person’s anger?  Do you feel put down by the person (or the group), or do you feel that you are negatively judged because of your association with the person?  Does your friend fail to recognize your birthday or other important things in your life?  Do you feel like an option in your friend’s life?   Do you feel that you just have nothing in common anymore?  Do you seem to argue about every little thing?   If the answer to any one of these questions is “yes,” then you need to think about walking away from the friendship or association with the group.

An important point to consider is whether the relationship triggers old emotional wounds within you that need to be healed.  Ask yourself whether there is an opportunity for growth in healing old wounds, and whether the friendship can survive the healing.

Sometimes a friendship simply needs to be downgraded.  A “best friend” may be downgraded to the level of an acquaintance, for example.  You may wish to stop associating with the person on a regular basis, but continue to sent them a yearly holiday message.  You may choose to have no social contact with the person, but remain on civil terms when you meet them in public.

When a friendship needs to be ended, the best way is to do so consciously, rather than letting things drift.  It’s best if you can do this face-to-face, but if that’s uncomfortable or physically impossible, then a letter or even an email can be OK.  Try to leave anger and bitterness out of it.  Remember to tell the person what you gained from your association with them or share a memory that will remain precious to you.  Wish the person well in the future.  You may find it necessary to get rid of objects or photos that remind you of your association, unless they are happy memories.

If the friendship has already been spoiled by arguments, set aside some time to meditate and go within to have a Soul-to-Soul communication with the person.  Tell them exactly what you would tell them if you were writing them a letter.  Listen carefully to what they have to tell you.  Wish them well at the end.   With friendships that have ended badly, it may be especially important to get rid of objects and photos that remind you of the association.

Whether you decide to downgrade a relationship or end it, remember that there is energy in it that has to be dealt with.  In meditation, you can imagine holding an object that represents the relationship.  If you sense that the energy of the relationship is not something you want to be connected with, then consciously withdraw your energy from it and notice what happens.  It may darken, fade away, get smaller and smaller, or suddenly disappear – “poof”!  You can also visualize a cord stretched between you and the other person.  Cut the cord with a pair of scissors or ask your spiritual guide to help you cut it, if necessary.  Watch the cord disappear and wish the person well as he or she drifts away.  Another way to handle it is to surrender the friendship to a Higher Power and ask that the outcome be for the highest good of all concerned.  The other person may be guided to re-connect with you, or you may be able to heal whatever stood in the way of the friendship.  The association may wither away naturally, or you may be guided in the best way to handle the break-up.

The older we get, the more we realize that it is easy to re-connect with our best friends.  Even when years have gone by since the last time we met, we can continue the friendship from where we left off, as if nothing has happened.  These are the friendships worth keeping.  These are the precious ones worth the effort of re-connecting with.   🙂

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