I recently had the pleasure of hosting a good friend of mine from my San Francisco days–one of my favorite friends ever. We were close back in the day after we met on New Years Eve 1999. Single girls living in the big city, we both helped each other through Carrie Bradshaw’s breakups, job losses and our own breakups. Now married with two young boys and living in San Antonio, Shandelle flew in specifically to visit and spend time reconnecting with me. I was over the moon to see her standing at baggage with a big smile on her beautiful face. We hadn’t seen each other since her wedding in 2004 and yet it felt like no time had passed at all.
Although we’ve both experienced a lifetime since leaving San Francisco, we fell right back into our friendship as if we were reuniting with our most comfortable and favorite pair of soft jeans.
Over the years, I have learned some hard lessons about friendship–meaning not all friendships are created equal. Some are joyous and last a lifetime and some are toxic and draining. Some friendships can fall into a category in between which can be confusing or comfortable depending on how you see it.
I’ve experienced many of these friendships in my lifetime learning a great deal from each and every one. Some remain close to my heart while I’ve had to cut others loose to save my sanity. Not all friendships are created equal and when you realize the difference, life becomes so much easier and more enjoyable. Here are a few of the different types of friendships:
1. The best friend
Since birth, we are taught that everyone has a best friend.Books, movies and TV always have the main character and her/his loveable yet best buddy sidekick. Does this happen in real life? Sometimes but seldom can you have a true best friend that you are glued to for life. Maybe when you marry, can you have a best friend, but for the most part, the best friends should be plural–as in best friends. I seem to have best friends from each chapter of my life. It took me years to realize its okay NOT to have a complete best friend, but to have several best friends that will be in my life forever.
2. The close friend
Through maturity, I’ve learned having close friends doesn’t mean I need to talk to them everyday. These are the friends you met at one point and they impacted you enough you keep in touch despite living in different cities. They are also the friends who know you and your past and all the good, the bad, and the ugly. They will be the ones you put first on the invite list to your wedding and the friends you will shell out money for a plane ticket to visit. As we age, life gets thrown into the mix and although you haven’t spoken to your close friends in a couple months, you can still pick up the phone and continue your conversation as if you spoke yesterday. These are the friends that will support you and let you commisserate and vent and basically drink your issues away with and they will be the ones to celebrate with you when you get pregnant, get promoted, or engaged. These are the friends you know will never leave your life.
3. The acquaintance
It’s interesting how maturity taught me not everyone needs to be a close friend. I always wanted that best friend growing up and always tried to make everyone a close friend. Often I would end up disappointed and hurt. In my early 30s I realized it is very much okay to have a social circle of friends who are more acquaintances than close friends. I go out with them often, but I wouldn’t be hurt if I moved away and we never spoke again. These are most likely work friends or social group friends. I found I was much happier when I had a bunch of acquaintances in my life and didn’t have to feel hurt if I wasn’t invited somewhere with them. Acquaintances are just as important as close friends because they do fill your life and help you stay social and keep a good perspective on life. They will always come and go and some will impact you more than others. Some might even get bumped up to a close friend. Regardless, you should feel good with a bunch of acquaintances in your life and a few close friends.
4. The significant other
The best advice I ever got was from my mom. She was the one who told me best friends exist only in the movies and in books. Sure, we have close friends, but a true best friend doesn’t really come along until you meet the person you want to marry. Its because of the extra level of intimacy and loyalty you share with that person. Since I haven’t married, I’m waiting to fill that spot in my heart but I definitely have room because I’ve wanted to fill it since I was a little girl.
5. The Toxic Friend
This one is probably the hardest to define. We have all had that friend who drains our energy with her problems and anger. The hardest part is feeling the guilt when you realize you can’t be friends with this person anymore. She isn’t a bad person, just not a good fit for you. I’m an extremely loyal person and it took me so long to figure out that I didn’t have to keep toxic friends around if they didn’t feel right. I could cut ties, wish them the best and go about my life bringing in the energy I needed. Sometimes a toxic friend is disguised with behavior that is fun but destructive. You like that person a lot, but he is going to get the both of you in trouble at some point. I guess you could say he is a bad influence. As a youngster, its harder to see these qualities in a person, but as you get older, you start to know from experience that types of people that boost you up instead of bringing you down. Its okay to let those people go. I’m sure I’ve had people let me go because I wasn’t right for them–and that’s okay.
Friendships are the reason we remain a civil society. The old saying is true–you can’t pick your family, but you sure can pick your friends. I’ve collected a lot of friends over the years and many are actually close friends, a lot are acquaintances and a few turned toxic and I had to let them go. I am the person I am now because of the influence I’ve received from my social circle. I’ve learned to open up more, be less judgemental, and have a lot more patience when it comes to friendships. I don’t demand as much anymore because its okay to have friends at the acquaintance level.
The best part about understanding friendships is letting the pressure go and being okay with who YOU are first and then attracting the people you like next. Its a relief.