You never actually lose real friends

I RECEIVED an email from someone who claims that most of her relationships are falling apart and that she does not even know who is at fault or why anymore.
This one I took quite personally as I’ve recently been through some similar circumstances. So, I’ve been in the business lately of relating to the wise music of Drake, specifically a line in “Fair Trade” in which he sings “I been losing friends and finding peace but honestly that sounds like a fair trade to me.” But then again, haven’t we all?

I decided to write this piece to help her and the countless others in this similar situation who may not be handling it well. I want you all to clearly understand that there are a few certain things in life that you never, ever lose; your education, opportunities meant for you and true, real friends.

I feel like it’s normal- the older we become, the harder life becomes, so it seems like common sense that that’s when we need our friends the most, but it also seems like the hardest time to keep them. People change, go down different paths, judge one another if you’re not on the same path, associate you with their own bad decisions, project their own regrets and insecurities onto you and so on and so forth and vice versa. They may have been one of your best friends and one of very few confidants, but anyone, who leaves your life, especially out of ego or just basic willingness, has already served their purpose in your life; they taught you a lesson, and their chapter is done.

It seems like there lacks a proper script for ending friendships, but I can say, they are often just as dramatic or closure-less as a romantic relationship. Sometimes people call you out of the blue and tell you that you are no longer beneficial to their life, while others make mistakes that their ego just cannot own up to, so you simply never hear from them again. I’ve lost many friends in the past few years that I genuinely thought I would never lose. The challenges we have faced have revealed unseemly truths about who they were and who I am when faced with difficult situations. Those losses can be brutal but, believe me, they are also a good thing. It’s not as sad or cyclical as it sounds. It is the natural order of things, including personal growth and development. I’ve aged and grown out of many friendships and I have had people grow out of me.

This is stemmed from the fact that we lose friends to many things – big changes in lifestyle, hectic schedules, success, failure, envy, meaning you lose friends based on good or bad things happening in your life. I know how fragile friendships really are simply because of individualistic choices. Life seems to be a race and we’re all at the starting line, but the finish line happens to be in many different directions; some run towards a career, others a family, others adventure.

Just like a romantic relationship, it’s better to be a little lonely than have the wrong people around. These friends that you miss- were they allowing you to grow? Were you able to be honest about your feelings without upsetting them? Would they even tell you, their feelings? I’ve had more fun spending weekends with complete strangers, with the excitement of possibly keeping them around or the fact that I’ll never see them again, than I did with those who I thought were true friends, where I was completely vulnerable to them.

Again, like an intimate relationship, we tend to romanticise what was happening rather than see the truth of the situation, the convenience of the friendship.
Now, if you’re like me and science helps, there are facts and statistics to support what I’m saying.

First in 2003, psychologist Julianne Lunstad discovered that time spent with “problem friends” causes more physical distress than time spent with people who we do not like at all. Problem friends are ones we all have where the relationship is volatile. She monitored the blood pressure and stress levels of her participants and found that these levels rise during time spent with our problem friends than with people we actively dislike; it did not matter even whether the interaction was pleasant or not. She recommends that the first step toward coming closer to focusing on what you want and need in life is realising that friendships with these people are toxic and letting go of these types of “friendships” isn’t a loss but rather a gain.

Another study conducted at MIT in 2016 actually found that only half of your friends truly like you. The study analysed the friendship of 84 individuals and discovered that only 53% of people reciprocated when another person called someone a true or good friend.

If you think you are alone in this process, two other studies disagree. A Dutch sociologist, Gerald Mollenhorst, published a study in 2009 that determined we replace half of our close friends over the course of seven years. He claimed that “modern life conspires against friendship, even as it requires the bonds of friendship all the more.”

Finally, another 2016 study in England determined that, after 25, we tend to lose friends rapidly. They found that the average 25-year-old woman contacts about 17 people per month, while a man contacts 19 people, and by age 30, the average man was contacting 12 people while women contacted 15 people each month, and this decline continues for the rest of our lives. Their theory for this is that, as we age, we determine who is most important and valuable in our lives, and we tend to continue to only nurture those relationships.

Now, I’m definitely not saying to give up all your friends. I think you should trust your intuition on who is here to stay. Although, to be fair, mine was quite wrong a few times, but that’s okay too. We act only on the knowledge we currently have. However, there is no dispute that healthy relationships are vital for a happy life. If you feel that some are unhealthy but are worth fixing, there are things you can do; just make sure it’s for the right reasons. I know people who keep friends due to fear as close friends are often the custodians of our secrets and who knows what they will do with those. Many people also feel that they must keep friendships because they have lasted a long time, but the truth is that a friendship’s length does not define its quality. Just like romantic relationships which have become toxic, these are not valid enough reasons to remain in a friendship.

What you can do is explain your feelings to them and set boundaries to ensure whatever hurt you (or them) does not happen again. Please remember that if you set clear boundaries and people choose not to respect them, you’re not losing loved ones, you are losing abusers, manipulators and narcissists.

The bottom line is, yes, losing a friend is difficult. But take some time and wonder if it’s truly a loss?
Remember, you can never lose a true friend. You can, however, get rid of meaningless relationships. You get one life, live it surrounded by love and happiness- and people who bring only that.
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