Giving Your Friendships Some Room To Breathe

The other day I did a post answering a 20-something question on finding and developing healthy friendships that stand the test of time. It made me think about what to do to keep your friendships from busting up. What is the difference between a bad friend and a bad day?   In your 20s friendships can be intense, especially if you are new to a city. It’s easy to place too much pressure on the friends you have. This woman shares her perspective on balancing the short term disappointments with the long-term benefits of a friendship.


“In my 20s every friend was so critical. What they did to me or for me or didn’t do for me really affected me because I had few friends and little experience with more mature friendships. What you have to realize is that when people are not coming from a perspective of bounty, they are very demanding of their friends. That was I. I was incredibly demanding. I had no boundaries about what to expect from friends. If you’re my friend, you better show up. You don’t tell me you’re too tired or can’t do it when you promised. To me, making a promise was a contract!”


This woman had a friend who didn’t share her perspective who ended up teaching her that not every promise is iron clad  but that doesn’t mean the friendship isn’t solid. There are different kinds of promises when it comes to friendship. Not showing up at a party when you are there with a group of friends is one thing, standing you up for your birthday is another. It’s about expectations and putting the disappointment in perspective.


“I’d never been disappointed before so I was shocked my friends disappointed me. But you have to realize where they are coming from. It’s true of every relationship. Your twenties are more intense than any other period of your life in some ways.  Everything is so new and fresh and therefore relationships between boys and girls are intense. Just by the sheer nature of the human psyche, this is the first time you’re experiencing a lot of feelings so it’s all very intense. At twenty-something it’s hard to take the long view.

Over time things become less intense and it’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re not experiencing life or you’re not enjoying life or other people. You just realize it’s not do or die. It’s not life and death. All this stuff is going to pass. The pain will pass. The disappointment will pass. The treachery of your friends will pass and you’ll realize who’s with you and who’s not.

You want to stay with the people who are a source of comfort over the long haul. It’s not so important about that one time they let you down. The one thing is not as important as the pattern overtime.  Look at the spectrum of your relationship and not just one sliver of it.  Does she mostly come through? Does she mostly help out? Does she mostly show up? You have to express your disappointment but don’t end the relationship on that one thing. That’s too often what happens.


Great advice. You do realize overtime that there are just some things you can’t change in a friend. Are they always late but you can count on the fact that when they get there they will listen to your story without interruption. Not so bad. Use the wait time to catch up on emails or chat with the interesting stranger at the bar or practicing you flirting skills with the barista.

Do they sometimes flake…but are there for the really big stuff that maybe some of the always up for fun friends don’t show up for? If they consistently pull through for the things that matter, let them off the hook for the others. Let them know when something is really important. Overtime you will begin to recognize the signals when they do flake on you and can make a back up plan.

The best way to avoid disappointment is to get real about yoru expectations in any relationship!

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