Friendship: Reciprocal effort and knowing when it’s okay to let old friends go

We all know that friendship is a two-way street. However, it can sometimes be difficult to know when to put your effort into bigger and better things. George Cowell talks about reciprocal friendship, and how it’s okay to let old friends go.

No one ever wants a friendship to end in the beginning. When you meet someone you like, when you find someone who gets you, when you find someone who makes you happy, instinctively, we don’t only just want it for a few days, months, but we want it for life. We all dream of the friends we have when we are 70, friends you can reminisce a lifetime of memories with. It’s kind of like dating to marry, but without the intimacy.

It’s important to manage your expectations through life and be mature about the obstacles two people could face in the pursuit of lasting friendship. You might move to different cities, and you might make new friends, you might become a different person, these things are all your right as you navigate through life.

And yet, with all these obstacles in your way, some people are absolutely resolute in their determination to keep someone in their lives. With social media, you feel as though you are still a huge part of someone’s life because you can literally see everything they’re doing.

This illusion of connection forces a lot of people into a state of comfortability. Maybe your old friend isn’t putting in the effort to call, or email or text, but “I know everything their doing because I’ve seen in on Instagram.”

What many people neglect when striving for lifelong friends a lot of the time, is themselves. For a real friendship to last the test of time is reciprocal effort is required. The time and effort you place into an old friend, you are immediately taking away from the energy you could be putting into a new one.

If you’re finding it straining to maintain a friendship, you’re forgetting what some of the main points of having a friend are. You forget that a friend is there to care for you, make you laugh, be present, and show effort. If an old friend isn’t providing you with the validation for the effort you are putting in, you need to consider yourself. You should think about how it makes you feel to be carrying the weight on the sea-saw and feel how it’s dragging you down.

If you continue to fight a losing battle, you will most likely end up resenting the very person you’re trying to keep a friendship with. This is dangerous and totally unnecessary.

There is a multitude of reasons why someone may not be responding in the way you’d hoped. They might be busy with work, university, school, new friends, new relationships, trauma, or grief, maybe they’re fighting a new battle, and they don’t want to worry you. 90% of the time, the reason people aren’t investing in you is that they’re investing in their new life, and you should be too.

This doesn’t mean an old friend has to become an enemy, and you shouldn’t resent an old friend because time and circumstance have taken them from you, that’s normal. You should allow old friends to become happy memories and leave it there if you know that you’re putting more effort than the other person.

Validation for effort is so important for your mental health, and if you can actually feel the difference in effort, it can be degrading and heartbreaking. It’s okay to be selfish and end a friendship if it’s making you feel this way.

Maybe, if an old friend has made you feel unimportant, put the phone down, walk down the hall, down the street, to a new friend, a new leaf, and invest all the love you have to give in to someone new. People come and go as is life.

If you have a lifelong friend and you’re reading this, please get in touch because I’d love to hear how you did it!

Written by George Cowell

Feature image credit: Unsplash

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