I have relationships on the brain. I think many Americans do. In the aftermath of a highly contentious election, I observe people from all sides publicly and privately sorting through the complex ways this political cycle has affected their relationships. It got me thinking further about the mindset I bring to my own interactions.
As a child, I was incredibly sensitive with an overwhelming need to be liked and included. I would often take things personally and want to find the path to acceptance with everybody. Through the years, I learned that we are drawn naturally into friendships with some people, and less so with others. I also learned that there are people who most likely will never be your friend. The key to that sentence is “most likely.”
There was a time when the open-ended implications of “most likely” would stress me out. I like things tidy and compartmentalized. If it isn’t working, I want closure. I prefer to know where I stand with someone. However, relationships are a two-way street, and I can only drive the car in my lane. Plus my need for definitive boundaries does not supersede the natural fluidity of relationships over time nor does it allow room for change. Real life relationships are layered, and two people may connect on one level but completely miss on another. And the more time people have together, the more intricate it can become.
These days, I am finding freedom in allowing relationships to come and go, wax and wane, without feeling the need to define the who/what/why. There are friends whom I cherish that I haven’t seen in years, and there are people whom I would love to get to know better. I am always intending to schedule time with these folks, yet life gets in the way. Putting in effort is important, but I am accepting that just because things aren’t happening now doesn’t mean they won’t happen again someday.
Then there are the people with whom I share messy and contentious experiences, and we aren’t as close as we once were. There are also those I intentionally walked away from to escape toxicity. These packed the biggest punch for me personally, and I still mourn each break.
Rather than beating myself up or blaming someone else, though, I am recognizing that there are seasons to all relationships that don’t have to have a definitive beginning or end. I want to allow the distance, the dissonance, or the lost time to be what it is and doors to remain open for whatever the future holds while I try to grow from each experience and gain new perspective.
This really hit home for me after touching base with someone with whom I share a tumultuous history. We have had moments when I think there will be no reconnection, and then life circumstances come along to bring us back together in a meaningful way. It seems new phases bring possibilities for relationships to be reborn or evolve. Not all will, of course, but you never know.
This may sound incredibly obvious to most, but it takes practice for me, especially as I watch things play out for my children. I have seen friends come in and out of their lives, and I have witnessed situations that make me hurt for them. We have discussed how it’s OK to have different seasons for their relationships. Maybe connections need time to be rekindled, or maybe things will always have a hard limit because that is the healthiest choice. But there have been some rocky starts that have turned into great relationships as all parties have matured, and a big part of this is due to the forgiving nature of children and the willingness to start again.
In the effort to build up a child who has suffered a broken friendship, it seems easiest to say ,“It’s their loss”, or, “Who needs them?” Sometimes, we as adults do this too. But the reality is that paths often cross again. Maybe nothing will bear fruit, but what if it does? If we are open to new beginnings or willing to go back to old conversations with a fresh perspective, perhaps those relationships can grow again. And if they don’t, we can allow things to play out without cynicism knowing spring will come again someday with someone else.
How do you navigate changing relationships in your life? How do you help your children do the same?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit: Chalky Lives. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.