SITUATIONAL FRIENDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently wrote a blog about old friends; people who knew you when you were a lot younger and who shared a part of your life that doesn’t exist anymore. That got me thinking. Why do some people become ‘old friends’ and others drop by the wayside? Why do some people stick with you over decades while others drift away?

I believe that most people start out as situational friends. You meet and become friends because you’re sharing an activity or a stage of life. Examples are people you work with and parents whose kids go to school with and/or are friends with your kids. Also, people you meet through hobbies, like at a golf or tennis club, a knitting circle, a book club, etc.

What makes some of those friendships ‘take’ and become permanent? I have no idea. Many friendships seem to end when the shared activity stops – you change jobs, your kids graduate or find new friends, you leave the club, whatever. I’ve had so many friends like this it blows my mind. I’ve often wondered why we lost touch. Why was it that that particular person or couple slipped away? We were so close!

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But some friends do stay with you and ripen into wonderful ‘old friends’. I’ve never been able to tell which friendships will last and which won’t. In the mid-late 1980’s I was redecorating my house from top to bottom. I spent two years working closely with my decorator and we became friends. At around the same time, my daughter became friends with a girl in her kindergarten class and I became friends with her Mom (and Dad as well – we also socialized as couples). Those friendships lasted all the way through high school – 12 years. Who am I still close with 30 years later? The decorator. The Mom still lives five minutes away from me and we haven’t even talked in years and years. The decorator moved out-of-state more than 10 years ago but we’re still the dearest of friends.

For many years, Tom and I had a group of friends who shared a dock with us at the marina where our boat lives. We were crazy close. We traveled together with our boats, partied all summer and had gotten together regularly over the winter. Gradually, boats left the marina, people moved away and most of them disappeared from our lives. Only one friend remains out of at least six or eight couples. I was heartbroken that the ‘gang’ dispersed into the ether.

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I think friendships like these end because of some odd combination of laziness and busyness. When you no longer share that situational ‘bond’, you’re not thrown together. You have to make more of an effort to see each other. Obviously, if you haven’t developed a strong emotional connection that transcends your ‘situation’, that won’t happen.

Also, people are busy. Between work, family and other friends, time is at a premium. If you’re not at the top of someone’s ‘priority list,’ you lose. The common ‘bond’ was what got you to the top of the list before. Now, unless you have a personal bond or you forge a new one that shoots you to the front of the line – you’re toast. You just don’t fit into the new reality of your former friends’ lives.

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I have to admit, I’m hypersensitive. I take it at least a little bit personally whenever someone drops out of my life. But, I don’t lose sleep over it either. I’ve learned making and keeping friends has as much to do with timing as anything else. Like romantic relationships, some things are not meant to be. Fortunately for me, many wonderful friendships have blossomed, lasted and enrich my life today.

Many of friends now live all over the country but distance has not lessened our connection. Some things are meant to be.

22 thoughts on “SITUATIONAL FRIENDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

  1. I know that never physically being in touch doesn’t change your affection … except over the years, it does. Gradually, perhaps, but it does. Especially as we age and people go to live in social centers for older adults or move in with their kids … things change. For us, the change has been more of the kind you can’t do anything about … the ones that pass, the others that sink into some kind of mental issue connected to age … the ones who grow ill. The few remaining ones seems to stay close to home and we aren’t of great interest anymore, although I’m not sure how interested they really were. As long as we were part of “the crowd,” we were fine, but when we started moving out of the crowd — earlier than many others — that was pretty much the end for us. I was probably less surprised than Garry because I’d moved around through various jobs and seen that even the tightest relationship based on work because … something else than not much … even after a few months.

    Now, the friends who are left are REALLY friends. Few enough, but very real.

    Having a husband you really love … that makes a HUGE difference!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ditto to all Marilyn just said. Having a WIFE as best friend is truly wonderful. We take whacks at driving each other nuts. Behind those whacks usually are sly smiles and laughter.

      We were just discussing friendships yesterday. We have two couples who are in the OLD friends who’ve remained good friends through the years category. Ellin and Tommy are one of those couples. We’ve seen our lives change over the years and can share easily. The good and the bad.

      I have situational friends. Most are former work pals who stay in touch. The familiarity is gone because we’ve gone down different roads. Still, there is a core affection that keeps us in touch with lunches here and there along with email exchanges.

      Essentially, I’m not all that friendly or conversational. My TV reporter persona was another guy. The glib, man about town who hung out with celebrities. That guy has been dispatched to old videos and pictures.

      Now, it’s Marilyn, the Scotties and me. We get along just fine.

      Liked by 2 people

    • You bring up a whole other issue – attrition of friends due to health issues or moving away. That can be even more painful because you are not yet ready to let go of that person or that relationship.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Excellent point from SW08 below – just because we’ve lost touch doesn’t mean we are not still friends. I have several friends I still consider extremely close with whom I rarely connect because our lives are SO different now – but when we do, it’s as if no time has passed. The bonds hold fast as we catch each other up.

      Life circumstances play another part in seeming “attrition” – especially economic. The friend who is struggling hates to seem a bother or a downer, and the one who has done well hates to seem like s/he is gloating, so it’s sometimes difficult to find common ground when you DO speak when you can’t really connect over “what’s new” — for example when one is thrilled to report being approved for Food Stamps and the other is excited to have gotten a good price for their current vacation home so that they can upgrade to another.

      And I must include political divides in this discussion. Some of my dearest college friends, with whom I seemed to have the most in common at the time, have grown quite conservative as they have grown older (some ::gasp:: even voting IN the current child-in-charge). I have, obviously, taken a path diametrically opposed. With what’s happening in America right now, it’s really best we don’t speak at all or we will surely destroy any remaining fondness for one another.

      In many ways the world has become a marble, but ultimately, time’s constraints separate us still.
      xx,
      mgh
      (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
      ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
      “It takes a village to transform a world!”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Madelyn, you touched a “sore” spot. Political divides. I have one time work friends who’ve come out of the closet, supporting 45 and his mongols. Their social media rants are appalling. I avoid them rather than engaging in non productive exchanges.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Mongols – love it!

          I do my best to avoid rabidly pro-45 sites myself, Garry, and jumped through the hoops to un-follow several bloggers who were still posting anti-Hillary and anti-Obama rhetoric many weeks after the election — as if anything either did or did not do excuses actions at the top these days (or has anything to do with them).

          I don’t even like to see incendiary titles in my feed, actually, regardless of the side on which they fall. The writer may intend to manipulate a click to read, but it has the opposite effect on me.

          I also do not return to sites that don’t monitor comments and keep out at least the worst of the rabble and all of the link-spam. Too much to read online already – I don’t have the time to recenter after some of the mud-slinging posted online (and I usually seem to get hooked at least enough to note the need to breathe and move on).

          Grown ups need to endeavor to disagree without becoming disagreeable, IMHO – and I expect the site owners to enforce rules of engagement by refusing to give rabble rousers comment space. There’s enough of that on Twitter – and following the example of the impulsive child-in-charge is likely a big part of the problem there.
          xx, mgh

          Like

          • I avoid rabid Trumpists too. I don’t come into contact with many in my life. So I just have to avoid reading their rants online, which is pretty easy. My Facebook page seems pretty high brow, with lots of articles posted from the washington Post, NY Times, etc. So I am pretty sheltered from the Trump mobs. And I’m quite happy to keep it that way!

            Liked by 1 person

            • My FB “friends” come from several diverse communities, so their political beliefs are diverse as well – esp. those I knew when I was much younger. The Mental Health community is not fond AT ALL, but they are only about 1/3 to 1/2 – so I avoid FB these days, and search for news online, with the help of a few blog-buddies I know to be reasonable humanists.
              xx,
              mgh

              Like

      • Friends who stay friends despite time and/or distance, are not situational friends. They are just friends who have moved away or partially drifted away. Those friends are precious. I have friends I talk to maybe 4 times a year but we havae wonderful, warm conversations every time. I love these people. Our bonds are still strong and our friendship survives. I am lucky that I haven’t lost any close friends to Trumpism. But I would be heartbroken if I had.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s a struggle for me to remain friends with arch-conservatives, but two are worth the effort. One is a committed life-long Christian, the other is now wealthy, so they voted their biases (as I voted mine, I realize – different biases, however).

          Both have proven their friendship to me many times over the years, and have shown themselves to be incredibly loving and giving to those less fortunate, so we agree to disagree over politics.

          Anyone else, the fact that they voted “anti-Hillary” changes how I feel about them, given all – as extremely as I’m sure I would have reacted to learning a former friend was a nazi as Hitler came to power.

          Sad – on multiple levels – and never before have politics gotten in the way of friendship, but these are strange, frightening and difficult times.
          xx,
          mgh

          Like

  2. I think part of the problem Ellin, – there is only 24 hours in a day. Just because you’ve lost touch doesn’t mean you aren’t still friends. Perhaps you have just moved on in your life.
    Leslie

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh this one has stirred up some heavy sh_t for me!! Yikes. I’ll spare your “comments” section but may have to write a post on it myself. Very stimulating. Thanks…(said with a twinge of barely camouflaged sarcasm…totally about me, not you!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have some very painful memories associated with this issue, as you do. I’m particularly sensitive to rejection so I react badly when friends exit from my life, for whatever reason. I had to end a particularly toxic relationship with a mentally ill woman. She tried to get back in my life a year later and I just couldn’t go through all that again. I often wonder if I made the right choice. I have also had crazy friends who accused me of all sorts of things and left the relationship in a huff. Even though I didn’t do anything wrong, it was still very hurtful. We were also part of a larger group at the time so it was awkward as well. I would be interested in hearing your stories if you feel comfortable sharing them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ellin, I had to grapple with the “moving on” issue. One of my work/social friends who I deemed my best friend was the subject. We were very close for many years. He was my best man when Marilyn and I married. In retirement, we drifted down separate roads. We stay in touch and see each other at social functions. I wanted to write a “best friend” piece about him on his birthday a couple of years ago. In a very awkward phone chat, he expressed his appreciation but asked me not to write the piece. It bothered me for a bit until I sorted out that HE was uncomfortable with me expressing my friendship for others to read. HIS problem, not mine.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That must have been difficult for you, Garry! When people lose close touch, you can never tell what direction the other person is going any more. It’s painful to realize that your feelings are not reciprocated. I hope you have been able to move on and not see this a s a rejection of you. It’s just a part of life.

        Liked by 2 people

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