Archive | December, 2012

What’s in a Name? Exploring Adult Friendships: Part 2

28 Dec

Last week, I put friends into buckets. Today, I explore what makes up that coveted top-tier: the BFFs.

As previously discussed, adult BFFs are much different from your younger years. As a kid (I’m talking ages 5-12, give or take), BFFs are your posse on the playground. These are the same people who always get half your Twinkie (awww…RIP Twinkies). These are also the people who get invited to your birthday parties, sleepovers, and playdates.

In high school, BFFs were a tad different. High school was made for groups…the jocks, geeks, goths, populars, etc. It was easy to find BFFs in high school because you rolled with those most like-minded to you. This may seem obvious, as the goal of most high schoolers is to fit in. Why wouldn’t you want to hang with those who brought out the best in you? Otherwise, fitting a square peg into a round hole is pretty awkward (I can say this from experience, as I tried to fit myself into just about every group in high school. The benefit was I got along with everyone. The detriment? at 29, I still have no idea where I fit in).

As an adult, BFFs are more complicated. The unfortunate part of this statement is that the term “BFF” is static. It’s us (as humans) that get more complicated as we get older, thus, we inadvertently complicate friendships. It’s not our fault – as we mature and our lives change, our chemical makeup of things important to us changes. Instead of caring about who we share our snacks with, we want to know whose shoulder we can cry on or who we can trust when we need to vent. Additionally – and yes, I’m calling everyone out – as we age, we get more egotistical and hedonistic. It’s more about “me” and less about “you.” If you don’t believe me, think about it this way: as a kid, how many times did you get upset when someone didn’t ask about your day? Never, right? Or, what about be annoyed when a playdate changed? That’s pretty laughable, correct? I thought so.

All this preamble leads me to a list I like to call “BFF Mandatories.” Combine these mandatories with my buckets from last week and I’m pretty positive you’ll be looking at your friends in a different light.

Empathy: Empathy is the cornerstone of adult friendships. Your 20s and 30s are filled with unexpected events and you need friends willing to put themselves in your shoes, regardless if they’ve had the same experiences.

Support: Breakups. Moves. Job changes. Deaths. Adulthood kinda sucks, doesn’t it? That being said, when things go wrong, you need dependable people to help you pick up the pieces. You need people to sit with you while you cry, listen to you while you complain, or even simply smile and nod when you decide clown college is finally for you (it could happen).

Trust: As a kid, you gossiped about everything. The game of he said/she said was amazingly fun and made you feel super cool. As an adult, gossiping makes you pretty lame and in the eyes of others, untrustworthy. I truly believe you can’t get through life without at least a handful of people you can 100 percent trust. I’m not just talking secret-keeping, either. I’m talking about life’s most rock-bottom moments they’ve seen, yet will never reveal. Instead of judging you, they coach you through it. They either help you avoid making the same mistake twice or encourage you to follow your heart. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Loyalty: This factor is the one stand-out that carries over from childhood. Remember how you use to choose sides during a playground fight? Same rules apply here: as an adult, you must choose sides. Playing neutral doesn’t fly anymore. Before you all think I sound harsh, hear me out: How often are you angry with your friends that are wishy-washy or play politician? Or, how often are you upset when your now-enemy was invited to party of a (now) mutual friend? There is comfort in knowing someone will always be on your side and as adults, usually these sides are pretty clear-cut. Your BFFs will never waiver from your side.

Flexibility: Between jobs, families, events, exercise, and other responsibilities, life is pretty unpredictable. Making plans is great because it means you have a set date on the calendar. It also means that person is important enough to you to plan something in advance. However, sometimes life get in the way of these plans and cancellations are necessary. Further – and let’s be really honest – sometimes we have 100 percent intention of being somewhere, but are so tired/sick/whatever, we won’t be our best if we go. Therefore, we opt to reschedule. Those closest to us – that know us well – understand and don’t make a huge deal out of it. In turn, we understand when they cancel on us at the last-minute. HUGE disclaimer – if this happens all the time, you may want to reexamine the friendship…once in awhile is OK, but if it’s a consistent problem, it needs to be addressed.

Respect: Your time. Your feelings. Your beliefs. Your good days. Your bad days. Your differences. Your opinions. Your advice. Your efforts. Other people in your life. Did I mention feelings? If your supposed BFFs break any of the above, you need to make a friendship 911 call. Stat.

What other qualities make up an adult BFF? Do you agree with this list? I’d love to hear from you. Comment away.

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Stuck in the Middle? Exploring Adult Friendships: Part 1

16 Dec

Friends. With so many definitions, how do you really define these people in your life? Sure, friends are people you call on bad days. In fact, they are the same people you call on good days. You laugh together, cry together, and tell each other things you don’t normally tell others. This sounds pretty simple, right? Someone either is your friend, or they’re not.

Unfortunately, as adults, friendships are not so simple. Why? Because the above definition is truly made for friends under the age of 12.

In your 20s and 30s, friendships change. Sometimes they change for the better and sometimes they don’t. If a friendship falls into the latter category, it’s probably not because you got into a physical or verbal fight (both more common during our younger years). Instead, it’s usually life’s fault, throwing roadblocks, challenges, or changes into the friendship neither of you anticipated. Some of these factors include boyfriends/girlfriends, getting married, babies, job changes, moving away, etc. All of these changes sound natural and logical, so why are we consistently disappointed when friendships change? Why can’t we accept the fact people change and thus, subsequent relationships change too?

If only this rationale was so easy to accept.

A wise friend once told me adult friendships fall into three buckets. First, you have your best friends. These people fall in the top-tier of your existence. These are the people you simply can’t live without. Second, you have a middle bucket. This middle bucket includes everyday acquaintances or people who dropped from best friendship bucket. In the latter situation, you may have grown apart, but you like person and sometimes enjoy their company (the happy hour/sometimes dinner friend, if you will). Finally, there is the “non-friend” category. This category includes all “other” people, the people to whom you are – at best – consistently polite (because you aren’t mean) or simply don’t like at all.

In 29 years, I’ve never used these buckets. Honestly, I think everyone is my best friend (I recognize how unrealistic this is, trust me). In fact, I have less than a handful in the “non-friend” category (if I don’t like you, it’s probably because you/I/we were hurt in some way. Thus, you/I/we couldn’t get over it). You could say I thought I was immune to the friend buckets…until recently, as I became increasingly upset over a few (seemling) misconstrued text messages, emails, or phone/in-person conversations.

Low and behold, the problem wasn’t them – it was me…and my all-or-nothing system.

Over the past year, I’ve had many friends move away, get married, have babies, etc. It’s amazing watching all these life changes happen and truly be happy for them in the process. However, as lives change and communication becomes less frequent, some friendships I use to consider “best” don’t feel as “best” anymore. I’m sure many of you are familiar with these feelings: only one person is putting in the effort, one-sided conversation, self-absorption, consistent plan-cancelling, not listening, missing big events, hurt involved, and the list goes on. I’ve been on both sides and neither is fun. You leave these conversations feeling unsatisfied and helpless, trying to understand what went wrong and how to get things back to where they use to be.

Excuse the cheesy winter analogy for a moment, but adult friendships are like snowflakes. They are individual in nature (and very fragile) but if you find the good ones (equal and reciprocal), it’s amazing how beautiful, strong, and powerful they are. However, – without care, tending, and effort – snowflakes are many, fleeting, disheartening, and forgettable. Further, they disintegrate quickly. No matter how many more snowflakes fall, they are unique in nature. You’ll never get the same one twice.

Let us return to this mysterious middle bucket, the bucket housing the acquaintance friends. It is this bucket I have difficulty accepting. Why? Truth be told, if I adopt this bucket into my social set, my friendships are no longer black and white. Instead, these friendships fall into a place of ambiguity and I can no longer hold them to “best friendship” expectations. You guessed it – that also means I need to stop being hurt or disappointed when expectations aren’t met.

I challenge you all to take a long, hard look at your friends. Who are the people you call with exciting news? Who are the people you’d do anything for? Which friendships are equal in effort and appeal? These people are probably your best friends. If you are struggling with a particular friendship, ask yourself why. Is it because you no longer like them? Cut your losses and place them in the “non-friend” bucket. Does your friend never ask about your life? Do they never call you back and/or are always too busy? It may be time to move the friendship to the middle bucket. Are you hurt by something they said or did or, did you hurt them? Ask yourself if you both can get past it. If yes, work it out and forget about it (grudges are toxic). If not, you have two other buckets to work with.

Adult friendships are complicated. The best ones make you feel happy, complete, and supported no matter where life takes you. The others – if not properly managed – can suck the life right out of you. Figure out who you want in your life and put your efforts into these relationships. Carefully scrutinize the others and understand what benefits they bring to the table. If the negatives outweigh the benefits, you need to stop trying and let the relationship take its natural path to another bucket.

What are your thoughts on adult friendships?

Look for Part 2 next week, when I explore what elements make up a fabulous adult best friend. Happy Holidays!