When we are growing up and going through different stages of our lives, we meet friends along the way. What’s more, we think that we are going to be friends with each person forever! Sometimes that is the case, but sometimes you hold onto friendship for memory’s sake and the comfort of it being something familiar. It’s important we distinguish between nostalgia and true friendship, though, and understand when growth is still possible.
If you’re like me, you’re the type of person who is loyal to a fault. In other words, you hold onto friendships long after you should. For example, I have been friends with one person for 16 years. We met in high school and they have helped me through so much over the years. However, my closest friends don’t understand why I am still friends with this person because she hasn’t been the friend I have been to her in the past. Then, I realized why I was holding onto them for nostalgic reasons. They make me feel comfortable. That’s when I knew things needed to change in some way.
I then finally hit my breaking point. After I’d said what I wanted to say to this friend, we’d either grow in our friendship or it’d be over for good.
We were texting each other one day; I had reminded them to share a piece I had written because they had agreed to do it and had asked me to remind them. Hours later I did remind them, and the text I got back was one I had gotten for years. “Larissa, I am busy. I can’t do it right now.”
In years past, I would have just let it go. Not this time. I let it all out for the first time in 16 years. I let my feelings be known to this friend, unsure of what their response would be, not knowing if our friendship would be over after I let my feelings out the way I did. However, I got a reply I didn’t expect. “You’re right. I will try to be fair. Thank you for being so communicative.” What followed was a hard and honest conversation.
After that day, it’s been a work in progress. We are both willing to grow and learn and be supportive of each other’s lives now and not live in the past. Now, we have room to grow. I think as a society, we hold onto friendships that are good, bad, or toxic, whether we realize it or not. They make us remember a certain time in our lives when things were better for us in certain ways. The harsh reality is that people change and we outgrow friendships.
I recommend really sitting down and looking at your circle of friends, big or small. Whether it’s 15 years or 5 months of friendship, you need to ask yourself, “Am I keeping this friendship out of nostalgia just because it makes me comfortable or is there actually room to grow in some of these friendships?”
You should reflect on how they treat you as their friend as well as how they treat others. After all, they may be a fantastic friend to you but not the best person to other people, which might not be good enough for you. Way too often we make excuses for the behaviors of long-time friends. They’ve been in our lives for so long so we just accept that’s who they are and deal with it. Think of it this way, though: if you saw that being done to one of your friends you would say that wasn’t okay. They don’t deserve to have a friend like that, but it’s okay for you? That doesn’t make sense. Yet, you keep that friendship because of fear of losing that nostalgic feeling you have within it.
These aren’t necessarily a lost cause, though. If these long-term friendships are really that important to you and you think there is room to grow then you have to be willing to have the hard, honest conversation about what must change. You then have to see if they are willing to work on the issues together. If they are, then there is room to grow within the friendship. If neither of you is willing to talk or listen and work out your problems, then it’s time to let this friendship go.
As a society, if we didn’t hold onto nostalgic friendships just because of history, we would be more willing to have hard conversations or exit friendships that we have outgrown. It’s certainly not an easy task, but the first step is to reflect on how you’ve grown individually and how your friendships align with that.