Thoughts on Friendships and Relationships
Throughout my life I’ve had lots of different experiences with friends. Some great, some not so great. I think this is pretty normal. I do have to say that I’ve been lucky when it comes to friends and in general have only had a very small handful of negative experiences.
Here I am in my late twenties and I feel like I have a good understanding of what friendships mean to me, what my friendship means to other’s, what is important to me and what aspects of friendships I’m better off without.
It’s one of those things where you wish you could go back in time and tell your 14 year old self not to worry and to cut those bitchy no-good friends out and focus on lifelong relationships, but this isn’t a lesson you can teach and can only be learned through experience. When you come out the other side you realise just how heavily these experiences have impacted on your personality and influenced your current and future relationships.
I have a very tight group of girlfriends who I adore and could not live my life without. 100% fact. They are my life and I recognise how lucky I am to have the friends I do. Cringe… but I’m genuinely thankful everyday for the support network of strong, independent, powerful and amazing women (and men) I have in my life. I have friends outside of this group, probably 4 of which I consider best friends. These are women who I have known for many years and who are longterm friends that I see as often as possible but unfortunately not as often as my core group because well, life!
After a really turbulent few months with personal relationships, I wanted to write about elements of relationships that are sometimes forgotten or unacknowledged. The aim is really to appreciate the people you have, and spend a bit of time assessing the relationships that require more attention, and the areas/people which you may be better removing from your life.
Recognise When Your Friends Are Trying To Help You
I think half the problems with friendships when you’re younger relate to things being taken the wrong way and your own insecurities preventing you from taking helpful, constructive criticism.
When you’re growing up (teen years, but also your twenties), you’re desperately trying to navigate life. Establishing and learning your personality, interests and what you want to do in life, even down to finding your personal style is stressful and bloody hard. For me and my friends, our twenties has been the biggest decade for learning and growing and looking back, the people we were at 20 is HUGELY different to the women we are at 29.
I don’t think I’ve never really taken anything the wrong way, or thought that anyone didn’t have my best interests at heart, but sometimes when your friends are trying to give you advice or support (because your head and heart are usually in a different place to someone standing looking in), it’s easy to feel that someone just doesn’t understand you and your personal situation. I see this so often in friendships and can see people pushing others away because their friends ‘just don’t understand what they are going through’, when actually they probably know you better than you know yourself.
The best way for me to learn this was when my friends have gone through tough situations and I’ve given them advice myself. Giving advice is such a good way to learn and there have been a few notable times where I’ve strongly driven advice into a friends head because I know that it’s what’s best for them and when it comes around to being my turn to listen, the reality of knowing what I would say to others sometimes helps you swallow the pill.
Recognising when friends are looking out for you and giving you genuine (if somewhat difficult and hard to listen to), advice is so important, and the key to growing together through the highs and the lows.
Know When To Give Each Other Time
I’m about as extroverted as a person can be. I can cope on my own and sometimes even like it, but if I can be surrounded by 10 people at all times – that’s my jam. During your teens you’ll find that some friends have boyfriends and girlfriends, some don’t, and some chop and change friendship groups more often that it rains, but generally you are in similar situations in life. You spend your time in school/college/university, getting your first proper jobs and then the hard work maintaining and nurturing relationships start!
My group consists of lots of different professions, working different hours and having VASTLY different experiences day-to-day. This makes seeing each other quite hard work and everyone’s financial situation becomes quite different too, making things awkward at times. When you hit the age where you and your friends are settling down, buying or renting homes, getting married and having children, things take another turn.
You’re not the sole priority anymore and your friends are no longer your sole priority either. There’s a shift from pre drinks on a Saturday night being a guaranteed event, going out, sleeping over and having hangover Sunday’s together, to being busy with every other aspect of adult life and eventually running out of time (and moving on from this lifestyle), to dedicate to your group. Again, this is just life and it’s all ok!
The best thing you can do as a friend, and the best thing your friends can do for you, is to recognise that you all have a lot going on and accept it for what it is and not taking it personally. We don’t have an endless pot of time or Bernard’s watch to help us out (imagine if we did though…), so we can only do our best. My group and I are so good and realising that there’s a time and a place for friendships (don’t get me wrong, we see this as a hugely important and big part of our lives), and rather than worrying about it, we give each other space when we need it and come together like a (more made up and better dressed) version of the Avengers. If I needed my friends, I have no doubt in my mind that they would show up.
I know that my friend needs to spend time with her husband, I know another friend needs to see her parents and another has to balance looking after her own family, and I love that the respect goes both ways. When my attention needs to be elsewhere, it’s not taken the wrong way.
Be there 100% but learn it doesn’t need to be in person all the time. This is the best bit about being a friend – you are your friends counsellor and comedian, for the good times and bad, but not a burden.
Put The Time In
On the flip side to that you also need to recognise when you need the physical time. It does become harder and harder to maintain friendships as you get older, mainly because you are managing work, family, partners, your partners family, life admin, general adulting (ergh) – I haven’t even touched on hobbies and wellbeing yet – it’s a lot to manage!
My friends and I dedicate a lot of time to each other (a lot more than the average group I’m pretty sure), but we can do this because we MAKE each other a priority. There’s an element of balancing all the other bits and pieces, but if someone needs me, or I need a friend, I know that I will drop everything for that person, and they would do the same for me – sometimes that knowledge alone is enough to pull you through.
We’re also very good at making plans. This is one of the biggest keys to a successful friendship and this applies outside of my group too, to other friends. When I see my friends one on one we always plan our next catch up so I know that we are not forgetting to put the time in. With my group, every few months we get together and reserve dates for the coming 4,5 even 6 months or so, ensuring that we aren’t leaving it ages before doing something altogether.
Get Away From Life
When you have a partner, you have a weekend away or a holiday here and there to focus on your relationship and the two of you without external worries or stresses. I believe this is really important to do with friends too. It’s not easy; having husbands, children, houses etc means that going away can be a real pain, however time invested here is so healing. You will have conversations and experiences that you just can’t have over an hour chat at coffee which are so beneficial. Over 2 or 3 days, or even just one night, we can chat as a group as well as spending time one on one and you can guarantee someone will cry, issues at home will be discussed, work worries are vented and things are shared that need time to surface.
Put it this way, every time I come back from a weekend away with the girls my soul feels rejuvenated and I feel loved and supported. Who doesn’t want that?
Whatever Life Brings – Just Be There
Sometimes whether you’ve seen each other every single day, or you haven’t spoken in a year, being a friend is all about being there when you’re needed.
If a friend really needs you, be there. This might not even be in person, it might literally be answering the phone and giving them an ear to vent to. I’ve lost count of the times friends have called me and said ‘I don’t need any advice I just need to vent’, and proceeded to talk AT me for 45 mins and swiftly hang up the phone. And guess what – that’s fine! I love that because sometimes I need to do that too! Being a friend isn’t about big gestures and nights out and proving you’ve been for coffee on your Insta stories – it can be a GIF on Whatsapp, or a tag on Instagram to make them feel better and just to let them know your thinking of them. My friends do this with me all the time and a little motivational quote here or there can pull me straight out of a funk and make me smile – literally what friendships are for.
I guess that advice is perfect for more trivial life experiences, as some situations are far more serious than a quick meme, but when you spend your life growing and developing with your pals, it’s inevitable we’ll all go through health issues, relationship problems, life, death, babies, marriage and all the difficult times. Knowing when it’s needed, stepping up can be a hell of a lot more than a quick phone call. Just keep in mind what you would want others to do for you and if you are giving others that – then you’re winning at friendships!
To me, the beauty of a friendship is how amazing it is to be there for someone throughout their big milestones alongside the tiny unimportant moments and have someone who wants to cheer you on and support you through yours too! Not many things in life are constant, but if you work at your friendships they will really stand the test of time – and there is nothing more worthwhile than that.
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