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’ve been thinking about this as I ponder the long list of people who have dropped out of my life after often long runs as top-tier friends.
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!
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 over 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 get-togethers during 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-eight couples. I was heartbroken that the ‘gang’ dispersed into the ether.
I think that friendships like these end primarily because of some combination of laziness and busyness. When you no longer share that situational ‘bond’, you’re no longer thrown together a lot. So 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 isn’t going to happen.
Also, people are very busy. Between work, family and other friends, time is always at a premium. If you’re not at the top of someone’s ‘priority list’ you lose out. The common ‘bond’ was often what got you to the top of the list before. Now, unless you have that deep personal bond or you forge a new bond 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.
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 anymore. I’ve learned that making and keeping friends has as much to do with timing as anything else. Just like with romantic relationships. Some things are just not meant to be.
Fortunately for me, many wonderful friendships have blossomed and lasted and enrich my life today. Many of these friends now live all over the country as well as in the UK and Europe. But distance has not lessened our connection. Some things ARE meant to be.