Being in my 30s has been a different kind of hard than my 20s were. Where I personally feel more solid and established in my beliefs and morals, lifestyle and priorities, there are new mine fields to navigate during this season of life. Experiencing the loss of loved ones, career changes, divorce, infertility, raising children, managing schedules, always planning the next thing. Truthfully, this season can often feel lonely despite the busy-ness of it all. In the midst of it, it can be hard to invest in friendships. We outgrow relationships, or have a falling out, or sometimes they end for seemingly no reason at all. Our paths simply diverge. I want to talk about when friendships end.
Friendships Ending Is Painful
Just before my 30th birthday, with Benjamin just a few months old, I made my first “mom friend”. We connected on Instagram and she invited me to meet up with her mom/baby group. That first year of Benjamin’s life was really hard. I was in a new marriage and a first-time mother with little support. My family lives across the country and I was home with the baby all day and night. It was an incredibly isolating time in my life, and I was struggling with my new identity. The biggest blessing through it all was this mom’s group. It kept me busy. It allowed me to meet people and connect over this super intense season of our lives. It was fun. We probably went to 15 first-birthday parties that year. I really thought these were my best friends for life.
As large groups go, eventually there was a falling out between some of the women, sides were taken by others. The specifics don’t matter but the result is that things changed. I started seeing some of the women get together and share on Facebook or Instagram, obviously not having been invited. I can’t tell you how many tears I shed feeling hurt or left out. Then a couple close friends of mine moved away and our friendships fizzled out. I was feeling a lot of pain and sadness. Losing a friend can feel a lot like a death. There is an entire grief process involved a lot of the time. I was really struggling, and then my mother-in-law came for a visit. Over wine, she shared with me one of the greatest lessons of my life.
Not All Your Friends Are Front Row Friends
In short, she gave me this visualization: You’re on stage. Your front row are your forever friends. The true ride or dies… and they aren’t many. The other rows are mom group friends in different stages, your single friends, your married friends, your friends in one area, your work friends. Those friendships might seem important, and they could be super intense for a while, but then the light fades for a new scene. It’s fluid.
Whew. I cannot tell you how much this analogy has helped me over the years. I struggle a lot with imposter syndrome and anxiety. My negative self-talk frequently tells me that I’m not enough or worthy of good things or relationships. But you know what? IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT ME. I can’t do anything about someone not liking me for whatever their reason, if I am out here living my best authentic life. I’m not for everyone and not everyone is for me. I just have to stay positive and keep it moving.
I came across this quote on Facebook and I had to share it here. Repeat after me:
“Sometimes your circle decreases in size, but increases in value.”
Cherishing Forever Friends and Embracing New Friends
As I get closer to 40, I can really appreciate the things I have learned about friendship so far. Everything you go through is an opportunity for you to grow through that experience. I have learned how truly special my Front Row Friends are. I choose to invest more of my time, money, and energy into those friendships. And yet, I want to make more friends. As time passes and my life circumstances evolve, I want to make great friends along the way. I know what qualities I value in other people, and I no longer accept toxicity in my relationships. I would like to think that I am a little more understanding when friendships don’t work out in a way I would have liked, as well. I’m still sad, of course, but it hurts a little less when I frame it in a way that I feel grateful that they showed up to “my show” for whatever length they were able.
If you’ve recently experienced the end of a friendship or you know in your heart that you need to let one go, here are 5 great tips for letting go of a friendship. Not totally sure it’s time to end a friendship, check out this post about why friendships end and signs it may be time to end one.