You might be surprised by who shows up for you when you really need a friend.
We all have those periods in our lives where everything seems to be going wrong, and we need sustained emotional support.
Nothing shows you who your real friends are like a crisis. I'm not talking about a short-term crisis, like your car breaks down and you need a ride, or you just got passed over for a promotion and need someone to buy you a drink and talk about how much you hate your boss. Most friends will show up for that.
It's when you have a longer-term crisis that you see the difference between the friends who like being around you when things are good, and the friends who like you even when you're not fun to be around. People you think are closer than family will sometimes abandon you when you're a slobbery mess for a few months, or you have a series of unfortunate events. You're not fun anymore, and there's nothing in it for them.
“You may have lots of friends now, but only in tough times will you know who the real ones are." -- Mouloud Benzadi
Maybe all your friends were "couple" friends and now that you're divorced, the invites stop coming. Maybe you are close to your friends at work, then you take a new job and it feels like you have nothing in common.
I've had at least two times in my life where I lost a lot of friends. The first time was when I was in my twenties my sick grandfather came to live with me. Suddenly I couldn't go out to bars every night or head off to the coast for the weekend, because my grandfather needed me. I realized that most of my friends were my "party friends" and once I couldn't party, there was nothing there.
The second time was when I was doing a lot of running. I had joined a few running groups and gotten really close with a group of other female runners. But then I got permanently sidelined by a knee injury and it became apparent that running was the only thing we had in common. Like my "party friends", within a few months most of my "runner friends" had faded away.
While those losses were really painful at the time, in the end, they were super helpful. I strongly believe that when it comes to friends, quality is better than quantity.
It's not just me. I've had friends who went through traumatic divorces or had people close to them die and when they didn't "get over it" fast enough, they found many of their friends were no longer there for them. "You're no fun to be around anymore," one of my friends was told when they tried to get together with someone. "I'm sick of hearing about how you can't get over your divorce. It was already six months ago, you've got to get over it."
We all know that it's challenging to spend time with people when they're in a bad space. It's hard whether you're the person living through hard times, or you're the person who's being asked to provide support.
What can you do when your friends are not there when you need them most?
An article in Very Well Mind offers these suggestions for dealing with friends and family who can't support you when you're having a hard time:
- Recognize that not everyone understands how you feel and that there may be a reason behind their feelings that has nothing to do with you.
- Treat yourself well. Practice being kind and gentle with yourself, and keep your self-talk positive.
- Realize that others may also be struggling and while they may sympathize with you, they just might not be in a place to actively support you.
- Find support elsewhere. Look beyond family and friends and explore options like support groups, therapists, clergy, or online forums.
- Ask for help directly. Sometimes people want to help but don't know what you need.
- End negative relationships. As hard as it is, sometimes you need to break up with your friends or family for your own well-being.
- Harness your emotions for good. Sometimes you can channel your emotions into action, or use your experience to help others.
It's pretty devastating when you're in a crisis, or having a low period of your life, and you realize someone you thought was a good friend has abandoned you. But these experiences also may shine the light on the fact that the friendship should have ended a long time ago.
Sometimes we limp along in relationships with people who we'd never start a relationship with now, only because we've already invested so much time. If there's truly nothing good left in the friendship, or it's been all one-sided for as long as you can remember, then maybe it's good to let it go.
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