When we can no longer change a situation, we must change ourselves.” ~Victor Frankl
There are a million reasons why a friendship may change over time. You grow older, relocate for a job, have a fight, or start having kids.
It is an inevitable fact that life takes people in new directions; growing apart from old friends becomes a part of our lives. But, somehow I thought that I was immune, that this was someone else’s story.
My friends would be there with me forever.
We celebrated every single New Year’s together. We survived college, breakups—you name it. Our bond was unbreakable, and we had loads of photo albums to prove it.
But after all these years I found myself feeling disconnected, and discovering that my best girlfriends did not really know me at all.
As we made summer plans and played catch up during our routine get-togethers, I had run out of things to share. I was irritated by the same old conversations. I felt like we couldn’t relate.
A few years earlier, I relocated for a job in a city away from home and found a new rhythm for myself. With a fresh interest in yoga and spiritual practice, I was the best version of myself, but I spent my time on hobbies and in places that were unfamiliar for them. Our passions were no longer the same.
I waited it out for a while. “Maybe it’s just me,” I thought. I needed to try harder, call more often, and be more available.
It was on a vacation to the Grand Canyon that I knew I wouldn’t shake this feeling. Amidst the giant open landscapes in front of me, I felt a deep loneliness and sense of obligation about these important relationships.
My best girlfriends, the ones who had known me deeply and longer than anyone else, couldn’t relate to me anymore. Our lives were too different. We had grown apart and I felt incredibly sad.
It was hard for me to accept that we might move forward, planning our weddings and living our lives without the bond we had as teenagers. It kept me up at night with anxiety, and I did not want to let go so easily. I found it difficult to understand how I had let this happen to my friendships.
This was not our first road bump. Of course, there had been fights and disagreements along the way, but we’d always hugged, made up, and moved on. I worked hard to find a solution. I contemplated talking it out over wine or writing long letters.
I found it hard to move on for months. I thought about my old friendships with a great sense of loss, and spent a lot of time consulting family and friends. I could not just forget about all we had shared for the decades before, could I?
My mind was heavy with anxiety. One evening after a busy week at work, I turned to my yoga practice for some much needed clarity.
During the class my instructor repeated a phrase she had said often, but it hit me with a deep profoundness, providing me with a completely new perspective on my situation.
“Take what you need, give what you can, and forgive the rest.” For the first time in six months, I realized that our friendship was not over. I didn’t have to feel a loss at all.
I loved my friends and all we had shared. I could take something from those memories and forgive the natural ebbs and flows of life that had moved us apart. Foremost, I could forgive myself.
There was a new view that I could adopt in order to make sense of the changes and loss I experienced in seeing my old friendships fade.
I realized that there were three basic understandings that could guide me toward acceptance and happiness for all my relationships.
1. Take what people have to offer and forgive the rest.
Sometimes we expect individuals to be all things to us at once or know exactly how we feel. Each of us faces challenges, all of which are not apparent, even to the best of friends.
I learned to see each friendship for the unique quality it offered me. Some friends were great for deep conversations, some were great for a night on the town, and others offered a funny banter.
My situation taught me to value what people had to give, even when it wasn’t all encompassing, and seek out anything else I needed in other places. We have to forgive one another and seek fullness from within.
2. Give only what you can.
If a friendship starts to feel like an obligation, or if you feel guilt, you may be trying to give too much. We all need to be realistic about the ways we can engage with others and remember that friendships are best when they’re mutually beneficial.
You have amazing things to give, and your best friends should want what you are able to share, and not expect more.
3. Keep the memories close.
The good times you shared with a friend don’t have to fade if your connection does. Think of your friend often, laugh about old times, and share great stories.
Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting all of the meaningful ways you and your friend connected in the past. You can continue to love your friend and experience your friendship long beyond the times of late night phone calls and regular get-togethers.
This new perspective offered me a whole new way of looking at all my relationships. I discovered that I could find a deeper fullness and quality in others by putting things into this view.
People come into our lives for particular reasons, and things are likely to change.
If we can give to those around us, and take from them only what we’re able, then we have a much better chance of looking back fondly, and with gratitude.