A dear friend tells me how she counsels her daughters on the approach toward those first high voltage years of peer interaction. It’s simple stuff.
Do your friends make you feel happy and positive?
Do you come away from being with them feeling great about yourself?
If the answer is no you might want to rethink your friendships. I am impressed with her early interventionism and wish I’d adopted the same approach back when D1 and 2 were small.
Instead, we now have regular discussions about the need to divest oneself of toxic friendships; vestigial hangovers from the fringes of middle school. Those ghastly years bobbing about from clique to clique trying to find your place.
Let’s be honest, the transition from school friend to adult dynamic can prove problematic.
D1 has been on the fringe of a small group since high school and the power balance has remained the same. She is realising that really effective friendships involve work on both sides and as she is the only one doing the chasing, it might be time to cull.
D2 found that a few kids from her school days may not have been quite as accepting of her adult lifestyle decisions as true friendship would dictate. It’s probably time for her to move on from them too. Recognising the use by date can be tricky, but ultimately everyone’s better off.
So many of us continue to invest in relationships predicated on some type of balance sheet. A series of emotional debits and credits that require a degree in advanced accounting to negotiate.
And look, maths was never my strong point.
At a certain juncture we learn the value of a solid friendship. That isn’t to say that these are always going to be for life, and that’s ok. Sometimes we just need someone to get us through the next chapter.
Today my coterie of true friends is small. A mere handful of people who make me smile long after I’ve left them; who bolster my self worth and value my opinion.
I count myself incredibly *fortunate.
This social litmus test applies equally to all relationships. D1 had recently broken up with her boyfriend of six years, the emotional fallout resonating throughout the house.
While it was obvious to all and sundry that this pairing was unsuitable, D1 had valiantly battled on, certain in her ability to make it work. While it’s true he was arrogant, unfaithful and had values diametrically opposed to her own, actively applying the question does he make you feel good about yourself? would have obviated a great deal of unnecessary angst.
Instead of unalloyed sympathy and understanding, however, I railed at her for being so short sighted. I did this in the full knowledge that I had spent an entire three years blinded by misplaced passion. I’d been at the mercy of a man who had liberated me from the slow death of an unfulfilled marriage and existed solely on lust and adrenaline. Nothing mattered beyond making sure he stayed with me. Every time he walked out another fragment of self esteem was chipped away.
Eventually the madness of obsession was replaced with a bruising realisation that I had ignored all the warning signs. When the pit of your stomach is constantly roiling with fear and nausea and all previous joys are replaced by anxiety, you’re no longer there for the right reasons. The highs can never counter the lows.
I don’t recognise the person I became back then and after I apologise to D1 for my weary anger, I tell her that she too will be at this point much sooner than she realises.
She is planning a long term stint in the UK. There is an element of escape involved in this mooted relocation, but she’s not alone there. Isolating yourself from all the emotional triggers and creating some space between the person you are and the person you want to be can require distance – geographic or otherwise.
It took some running away to America for D2 to recognise her own inherent value. She had left oblivious to how wonderful she was and returned with blistering confidence and self belief.
Dispensing my middle aged wisdom (Learning The Hard Way) I say to both girls, we’re not here for ever, so let’s pepper our lives with heart warming and life affirming connections and politely decline the rest.