“Friendship is almost always the union of a part of one mind with the part of another; people are friends in spots.”
“I feel obliged to say that the emotional universes we inhabit are so distinct, and in deepest ways opposed, that nothing fruitful or sincere could ever emerge from association between us.”
—Bertrand Russell, personal letter.
These are two of my favourite quotes about relationships with other people.
They probably sum up pretty well my thoughts about both friendship (the first quote) and the boundaries you sometimes have to put in place between you and others – even, sometimes, those you once regarded as your inner circle.
I was re-reading a post from Galina Krasskova that made me think about putting all my bits and pieces about friendship in one blog post to consider more deeply.
Some of this might be controversial, and I’m not sharing this to be provocative, I am just trying to articulate some of my views on friendships and boundaries, and it is something that I found myself talking about a great deal when I was living my cancer experience.
It was surprising to me how many people felt that somehow, the capacity people had when I was experiencing cancer somehow proved their value. The number of people that muttered something along the lines of “you soon learn who your real friends are” or similar was probably matched by the number of people who sought absolution from me because they were at capacity.
It was extraordinary to me then and remains a point of bewilderment now.
1. People have their own lives, as such, they should be the main character in their own story. Sometimes, that means they need to focus on their own storyline, not mine. And that’s ok. Just as it is ok for me to say that I am at capacity.
I find the idea that as adults, we can drop everything to attend to a crisis that isn’t immediately our own, is… simplistic, at best. I’m driving to work, and I need to focus on peak hour traffic and getting working time – it’s unreasonable to expect me to be immediately available. I work full-time, or perhaps I have children (or both), or I have a medical condition that I need to manage – adult life means you have demands upon your time, and life responsibilities, and being an adult means that sometimes, that means that you are going to have to wit until that night, the next weekend, a month, maybe more, for someone to have capacity.
2. “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
There were people who were extraordinary, and my gratitude is deep. Having said that, I think people need to weed guilt, duty, martyrdom, and manipulation out of their relationships the way that you would remove broken items from your home. Perhaps you need to sit with them a while, seeing things can be fixed, but if that isn’t the case, then you need to consider the relationship and look to your boundaries.
3. When someone is in need, don’t put emotional demands upon them. Asking for absolution from your guilt with seeking reassurance through apologies is placing an emotional demand upon someone who is already at capacity. Have courage to love them honestly.
“My friend, your circumstances are intense, I wish you everything you need to get through them. I find it really confronting, and whilst I wish you all the best, I need to take some space. Is it OK if I send you a meal voucher or put some money in your account, even though I’m not able to be emotionally/physically present?”
“My friend, I am thinking of you. I am at capacity currently, but I will reach out more deeply when I have the bandwidth.”
4. Not all relationships last, and nor should they. We grow, we change, and sometimes that means a connection withers or terminates abruptly. It is worthy of grief, and it is a grief we do not acknowledge or allow space for. It is perfectly natural to grieve the ending of a relationship.
I use the term relationship interchangeably with friendship; as I grow older, some of the social constructs that place sexual and/or romantic relationships as some kind of pinnacle seem more and more unreasonable. The idea of it being someone’s responsibility to complete me is disturbing, and the idea that someone needs me to complete them is equally so.
Here are some great articles on friendship that explore the idea that not all friends are going to be inner circle, and not why you can’t necessarily rely on everyone. And that’s ok!
- Friendship by the numbers
- 9 Boundaries you should have in your friendships
- Love like a Greek: the six types of love
- The friendships that fade when you are chronically sick
- Why you need a network of low stakes, casual friendships
- On the ending of a friendship
- Friendships change, here’s how to deal
- 10 types of odd friendships you’re probably part of
- What are your friendship tiers
- The friendship challenge
- Stages of friendship
- Why fake friendships are ruining you
May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them, may you be there for them; may they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth, and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam cara.