You know that old saying – “We have three types of friends in life: Friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime.”
Friendships come and go, even as adults. Sure, everyone wants to have the BFF — the forever friend. I think most people genuinely start a friendship because they share a common connection and hope to make that friendship last, possibly blossom into something beautiful, like a flower in the spring. However, the thing with flowers is that they eventually die and wither away. Some regenerate from time to time, but many do not.
When not rooted in a solid foundation, relationships, like flowers, will not last long. As military spouses must replant themselves in new places constantly, the likelihood that friendships will thrive is diminished with each change of station. Just as you might expect, moving a flower from one pot to another can either prove to be beneficial or detrimental to its growth. Cutting it will only ensure its eventual demise.
Sometimes the end of a friendship, like the death of a flower, is inevitable and essential. Sound dramatic? Sometimes it is. Sometimes a failed friendship can lead to personal growth. It also can feel like a true loss, especially if you have invested a lot of time and tender-loving care into it. As a military spouse, it often feels like people come in and out of your life like a rotating door. You know you can’t be best friends with everyone who comes through that door. With frequent moves, you need to be realistic when it comes to how much time you devote to a friendship and sometimes be aware of when it is time to cut your losses and move on.
Perennial flowers are wonderful. They blossom time and again, and sometimes with so little effort. Sometimes a friendship requires more work but is worth the extra effort. So what if a friendship needs to be plucked? Appreciate that friendship in the moment. While beautiful for a time, a cut flower can be enjoyable, but at some point needs to be thrown away. I’ve had my fair share of these friendships, so I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about when to cut your losses and move on.
Address the issues head on. Though I’m typically not a confrontational person, if I am concerned about a friendship, then I will call attention to it. If you have a problem with someone or you sense they have a problem with you, simply talk to her or write her a heartfelt letter. Perhaps you can work out your differences. Both parties should be open to one another’s concerns and willing to improve behaviors or actions that are off-putting. If that’s not the case, it may be over.
Once I had a friend who cut me out of her life — de-friending me from social media without ever having spoken to me. Even after consulting her, I still don’t know what I said or did that offended her. Perhaps we could have worked out our differences. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding. Perhaps she just didn’t want to be my friend. That’s fine, too, I suppose. Regardless, it was time to move on.
Avoid the drama. As a woman with four kids, I don’t have time for dramatic nonsense from faux friends. We all have enough going on in our lives that we need friends who make life easier, not more stressful.
Sure, we all need someone who can listen to our problems, but it is exhausting when ‘listening’ is your only contribution to the friendship. Friendship should be a mutual give and take.
Seriously, we cannot be friends if you gossip, lie or bully me, our acquaintances, or other people for that matter. We cannot be friends if you refuse to address real issues before hitting the “delete” button. We cannot be friends if you do not show me the same respect as I show you. We cannot be friends if you are not supportive of my hopes and dreams. We cannot be friends if you do not stick up for me or put me in my place when I’m wrong. We cannot be friends if you do not celebrate my wins or comfort me in my losses. We cannot be friends if you would rather kick me when I am down, rather than lift me to my feet. We cannot be friends if we cannot agree to disagree. We cannot be friends if you talk about me, rather than to me. Who has time for that?
My friendship does come with contingencies, and I make no apologies about it. I once had someone say to me that friendships shouldn’t come with “contingencies.” I thought about that. I really did. It seems true, right? It seems childish to think, “We can’t be friends, if…”
But is it?
Is it childish to want mutual respect from our friends? Is it childish to expect our friends to hear us out before coming to judgment? Is it childish to expect a friend to stand up for another when that person is being bullied or harassed in some way? Is it childish to expect our friends to talk to us about their aspirations, concerns or viewpoints even if they differ from ours?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then all we have is a superficial friendship, like a cut flower – good for putting on display in a vase for a brief moment in time, but then tossed in the trash when the stems are soft and moldy and the petals are dry and crumpled. That flower is not going to live forever. It’s just a fact of life- not to dwell on, but rather to accept and move on.
Military friendships can stand the test of time (and distance). I can tell you right now that just because you move frequently does not mean you have to miss out on forever friends. The true friendships, like flowers deeply rooted in hearty soil or that transplant easily, will continue to thrive, no matter where life, or the military, takes you. They do not always have to be in full bloom for you to appreciate or to see they exist. Nurture these friendships. Cherish these friendships eternally. These friendship are often the most appealing and rewarding, after all.