In your early 20’s, you’re likely to do a lot of growing up. Friendships from high school and college change and you may find your drifting apart from people you were once close with. You may be the one pulling away. We often feel guilty and scared when faced with the realization that our current friendships aren’t working. While being scared is normal—because lets be honest making new friends is scary—you should never feel guilty for taking care of yourself.
Our culture functions on the idea of give and take relationships and on the surface it makes sense; no one wants to be bled dry. In reality, it creates the assumption that we are indebted to people. Give and take suggests that we should be doing things for those we love on the basis of exchange: you do one for me and I’ll do one for you.
The idea of giving is not the problem. Nor is fearing a one-sided friendship. The toxic part is the assumption that there is a certain level of required giving, and that we will in turn receive a certain amount.
The problem is that we focus on giving and getting, not the actual values of a friendship. I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship that functions off a scoreboard of loving acts, so why should my friendships be any different? I’ve always been aware that I am, at times, different than my college friends. I prefer intimate conversations over drinks to partying it up at campus bars, a night of yoga, reading and Netflix frequently sounds better than being social after a stressful day, my favorite weekends are spent—often with my family— at the local flee market, art classes, community events, shows, or cleaning my apartment. I have different hobbies and interests. I have different priorities. Most friends differ in these ways, in fact it can make for interesting relationships. But as we get older, I am often caught between feeling obligated to spend that time with them rather than doing what makes me happy. I find myself in a constant string of excuses and apologies–but why?
It is hard to transition a group of friends who once lived together and saw each other daily to a group of independent adult friends without a few road bumps. While I have no doubt the kinks will be worked out in time, the hard truth is we’re never going to make it through our twenties as friends if we continue to operate on the idea that we owe one another our time.
We don’t owe one anyone anything.
I came across an article this morning that said the worst thing to have in a friendship is pride. The author argued the best friendships operate on humility and the recognition of human fallibility. It is normal to at first feel hurt, betrayed, annoyed, jealous, etc., when a friend is spending less time with you. Whether it’s a new S/O, job, workout routine, or just a change in interests to blame, it can be hard to not feel replaced or of lesser value. The idea of humility here is the key. This is not say that you need to constantly operate on the idea that you are not important but more so that everything is not about you. (Ugh, but why not?)
The truth is that the best friendships are those that are loose: they allow for growth, exploration and change. There is no tit for tat. The challenge is recognizing when that has fallen to the wayside, if there are opportunities to correct it, or if it is time to walk away.