While having coffee with a friend whom I hadn’t seen much of in the past year, I decided to be real. Not that it’s anything new for me to share the real me with my friends, but this situation was different.
I have this friend that has struggled with a certain aspect of her life the past handful of years. As a matter of fact we met due to a similar crisis in our lives, happening at the same time. So, it was almost as if our friendship was bonded in crisis.
While at a very low time in my life, a girlfriend who knew us both introduced us. We immediately clicked and set a follow up time to meet for coffee. She was so easy to talk to, she truly understood what I was going through and she helped me to feel that I was not alone. Every time we met for coffee or for a walk, I felt heard, understood and energized.
As we spent time together, we both really opened up and began to trust the other. We talked, we cried, we laughed and we bonded, as girlfriends do. We became a part of each other’s inner circle.
As the years passed, our lives changed, as life does. I can say that I needed less support than I had when we met about our similar situation. We began getting together less frequently, and for a while barely spoke much at all.
I would continue to invite her to things; birthdays, grad parties or to coffee and most of the time she would say yes, but when the time came something always seemed to come up and so she was unable to make it.
I knew that this friend was still dealing with some serious issues, and I also knew that she has some struggles with anxiety and depression. I would still reach out, but when it seemed no longer reciprocated, I eventually quit inviting. Occasionally, I would run into her at a mutual friend’s function, which then validated my thoughts that it was just me. It seemed that if another friend invited her, she would show, but when I did, she wouldn’t.
Looking back now, I realize that I was being fairly selfish. I was so focused on my own hurt feelings, I didn’t bother to find out what was going on with her that was causing this.
About a year ago, there was a fairly big event that was happening in my life, our daughter was getting married. There was the shower, bachelorette party and of course, the wedding. Since this friend has been a part of my inner circle for years, I invited her to all I could. Yet, I “assumed” I knew what she would and would not show up to.
One of the wedding events, the bridal shower, we had limited space and could only invite a certain number of guests. So, with her not being super close with my daughter, we didn’t invite her. The day of the shower she contacted me and mentioned the shower. I explained that we had limited space and that I hope she understood. Honestly, I didn’t think she would attend either way. What I realize now, is that even if you’re not in a place where you feel you can mentally, physically or emotionally handle a situation, you still want to be invited.
Well, the kicker was the wedding. My friend RSVP’d months in advance, but on the day of the wedding, with only a few hours to go, I received a message. The message said, enjoy your day today, and was very vague. I asked if we would tbe seeing her and she just said no. I don't recall there being a valid reason, or excuse. I responded with a snarky yet cordial comment.
I was hurt, angry and yet felt validated. At that moment I came to the conclusion that she just must not have an interest in being my friend. I wasn’t thinking of her feelings, her anxieties, her… really at all. I was just focused on me.
I shared with the mutual friend that introduced us years earlier how I was feeling. She helped me to look at it from another perspective. I wasn’t ready to do that yet and angrily felt and stated that I was just done.
A few months later I received a text from my friend. She stated that she missed me and would like to get together. She stated that she wanted to make her friendships a priority.
I agreed to meet but in the back of my mind, I figured she’d back out at the last minute.
She didn’t. We met for coffee and talked at length. It was very nice.
She shared with me that she’d been struggling with some things in her life for so long, and that she hadn’t been dealing with it in a healthy way. Stress had attacked her body and mind and she’d been feeling physically sick for a long time. She also said she was ready to start taking care of herself, she was making time for herself, as well as other relationships that were important to her. I listened, took it all in, and tried to do so without judgement.
After she shared with me, I got real… I said “I have been mad at you for a while” She smiled and said “nice… thank you for telling me that” I continued by explaining to her that I have felt unimportant to her, and I gave her some examples of situations that upset me. She smiled and simply said “Thank you for being honest with me. “ Wow… that was easy.
She asked me if I had shared my feelings with anyone else, and I admitted that I had talked with our mutual friend about my feelings. She mentioned that she wished I would have spoken with her sooner, instead of talking with anyone else. She shared more as did I. It was a real moment between friends. I was able to see her perspective much clearer and realize that I had been so focused on my own needs that I hadn’t attempted to find out what was truly going on with my friend.
It was a very eye opening experience that helped me to realize that when there is conflict in friendships, there are things that do help and things that don’t. And things certainly aren't always as they seem.
What does NOT help is:
*Gossiping to others about your friend
*Assuming you know what is going on in their head, their heart, and their world, without asking them personally
*Ignoring the person or cutting them out of your life without discussion
*Focusing ONLY on your emotions, hurt feelings, without regard to theirs.
What does help is:
*Asking your friend how you can help them
*Listening to them and truly hearing them out.
*Being honest with them and if you’re mad, admit you’re mad (with kind words)
*Put yourself in their shoes, without judgement.
*Remember we are all human, we are imperfect, and we are self-centered people. This may not be natural for you and may be stepping outside your comfort zone, but if the relationship is important to you, you will find a way to learn how to communicate better, and in doing so, be a better friend.
I am so thankful for this special friend in my life. I am thankful for her empathy, her understanding and her amazing listening skills. She has helped me so much while I was dealing with some major life challenges and I feel blessed to have her in my life and in my inner circle. I look forward to the future, our lives settling down and creating new memories.
Until next time ~ Be blessed, Geli