I came upon an article last week about setting boundaries in friendships. It made me think about the friends that I have had in the past, as well as those I have now. It made me weigh in on the boundaries that I have set in the past, as well as the ones that I did not set. I thought of this being a possibility, as to why those friendships ended. Whereas, the ones that lasted, could be because those friends recognized and were able to adhere to the unspoken and naturally obvious boundaries of personal space that should exist between friends.
It can be an awkward conversation to have, no matter what that friend may say about being open and receptive to information as it relates to the friendship. It can easily become the elephant in the room, which is why some friends, like myself are timid about telling a friend that they are over stepping boundaries. When you have feelings about the reaction that you may get from a friend, and how it might affect the success of the relationship going forward, you may end up keeping it to yourself. It is because you don’t want to ruin the friendship, or cause your friend to “Feel some type of way” about you telling them that they need to back up.
Am I the only one who’s guilty of this? Have you refrained from telling a friend something because you feel that they are too fragile to accept it in the way that you intend? This can easily become the case. But what happens at that point is, it builds up inside of you. It can cause you to start backing away, just to fulfill your own need for personal space, which will then come across as standoffish. You won’t even realize that you’re doing it.
I’ve been told by friends of that past that I seem different or standoffish. Completely caught off guard by their observation, but at the same time, I was able to see where they were coming from. At that point, I was able to determine how I may have given that impression, but only I knew why. When only one person, in a two-person relationship knows where a potential problem with the friendship rests, it creates a separate problem all by itself.
Again, it’s very hard to tell a friend some of the things that are bothering you about the friendship, especially when you truly value the friendship and don’t want to loose the friend. But, by the same token, it should be easy if it’s a real friend. However, because that friend may currently be in a fragile state of mind, the fact that they are a real, friend can’t be determined or measured by their response. You can’t judge the authenticity of your friendship on their response in those times.
So you see, we end up caught in a loop. A loop that exist because something needs to be said, but it can’t be said. So you end up pulling back, even when you’re unconsciously aware that this is what’s happening. And when your friend mentions it, you feel stressed about trying to show them that you do still value the friendship, but your time with them does not come as easy anymore. You feel stressed because you are now trying to find ways to pacify the relationship with the friend
ON THE OTHER HAND, FRIENDS: Please recognize the changes that may have occurred in a persons life, which could be the overall reason, before you proceed further. I can’t let you off the hook, because this is something that you should do as a friend. Don’t create problems that shouldn’t be there. Don’t be the selfish friend who thinks it’s only about someone not wanting to be your friend. Give some thought as to why a person may be or seem to be more busy than usual – and get rid of the thoughts about them being standoffish. You may even want to try asking them about things that are going on in their life, so that you can get an understanding of what they are doing, before you assume that they are being standoffish over just being busy and not having a lot of extra free time.
I think it’s extra absurd for friends to demand of other friends, that they are to be put above children, significant others and/or career and things related to maintaining their livelihood- health included. Make sure that the problems you have with something or someone, or the problem you think they are having with you, is not just a problem you’ve created in your own head. As a persons responsibilities increase in life, not to mention personal growth that produce changes of its own, as it pertains to avenues and splits in the road that friends sometimes take, during their journey through life; a change in the course of life happens. Those things can naturally alter the state of priorities, where distance is created, but the friendship is still in tact.
The responsibilities that come along are priorities that have taken the place of the free time that your friend used to have, but no longer has. He or she may not be able to give you long phone conversations that you need on a constant basis. They may not be able to meet for coffee on a Tuesday or shopping and dinner for the weekend and they may not have the time at all to sit at home for hours on in, chit chatting about current, past or present events, if they do nothing to edify life, and they do nothing to assist with the new things that are going on in a persons life. I am an extreme advocate for girls night out, and spa day, mommy free days..etc. things like that. I am only saying that it may not be possible to do as often, when a persons responsibilities in life increase. Which is also why I speak a lot about the need to do a girls day out, and for those people to take the necessary break from life- when they can.
It may be that your friend is in a place where they are working really hard, and they are tired. They may be navigating through their own set of challenges and looking for ways to increase their quality of life. That is accomplished through focusing on the most important things first. Focusing on their goal, their mission and how to accomplish what they have set out to do, in order to have the things they want and need in life. The value of the relationship is the same. Your friend still loves you and will still be there as much as they can.
For instance: They were there for you when they had only one kid, and they put you second. They spent more time with you because they could. They only had one kid, no significant other and no job. But when they had a second child, you weren’t second anymore. You were third. And so the “as much as they can” part changes. They still can, and they still do- but they do it when they can, which is what they have always done. When they got a job or picked up an extra shift at their current job, you were no longer third. You were forth. When they began a relationship and got engaged or married, you were no longer fourth, you were fifth…and so on. And in some cases you weren’t that high up on the list, because with those responsibilities, an additional list of responsibilities comes along with it, that fulfills the requirement of holding a job, taking care of two children and being a wife. So all I am saying is, you are still as important, next to the things that have to be taken care of in their life.
When you have children you should understand this. When you have the load of two jobs/school and taking care of a house, you should know this. But when someone doesn’t have any of the above, it may be harder for them to understand. Your priorities may not be the same.
You may consider going to a committee meeting on Sunday as a priority, whereas if you don’t go, you will still eat dinner that night. Worse case scenario, you are voted off the committee, but you still get to go home and eat. Someone else may feel that going to work on Sunday is a priority, because if they don’t, their kids wont eat, and that’s actually the worse case scenario. So sometimes, we cant even look at our priorities the same – or the things we prioritize, because you may not have the same responsibilities.
Consider it personal space:
For example: You walk into a room, right into someone’s personal space- right in their face. Their natural response is to take a step back. Never mind the fact that you walked up too close, because you’re not mindful of personal space. But that person never just says, “Hey move back.” Because no matter how sweet they say that, it will send feelings flying. They just take a step back. Well, you have no idea why they stepped back, because you only saw them “move back.” It appears to you, as if they “moved away” from you. It has everything to do with you just being in the personal space that they need, to deal with personal matters and priorities. The friend just moved back a little, but they are still there listening to you. They can still see and hear you and have dialogue with you.