How often are we compassionate with ourselves when it comes to friendship relationships? Acknowledging that as an adult, friends can say and do things that sting and trigger us into negative emotions. We often treat our romantic relationships with more sensitivity than we do friendships whether male or female.
Our friendships at a young age teach us about what we value in ourselves and how we treat others. Our parents and society encourage us to choose our “company” wisely. We think we have done a good job until we feel hurt and we think we aren’t supposed to get upset because we are adults. We are deluded that friendships can be counted on to be consistent and work in our lives to always support us and nothing is supposed to go wrong with them...
So why is it that we avoid dealing with the pain we sometimes experience in friendships?
We believe that we should have worked out how not to hurt from friendships, that we should be bigger than the incident/s that triggered the pain in us, that we are being immature. Ultimately we judge ourselves for having feelings. We shield our emotional injury by clamming up lest we get judged as behaving as if we are back in high school when we thought we owned our friendships. We pretend it didn’t happen, swearing that this would be the last time or we would drop the friendship. We don’t always need to drop the friendship. And others, well they are certainly worth letting go. Nobody should ever make us feel bad about ourselves. And nobody deserves to feel depleted or taken advantage of in a friendship.
Some friends add to the backbone of our character as they reflect who we are. Friendships will ebb and flow. Some will last a lifetime, some will come into our lives to teach us something about ourselves that is relevant to our growth at the time, and some for a while, will be happy and then will move on with no sadness attached. Friendship has been referred to by some as “a Season, a Reason and a Lifetime”. We can only control our part in the friendship-relationship, just like we cannot force romantic relationships to work when they no longer have any energy. We cannot force a friendship to continue when it has run its course.
The challenge is to express how we feel in all relationships so that all our human connections remain healthy. Friendships are no different.
Part of growing up is recognizing the patterns in friendships that are hindering our health and joy in people and ourselves. When you notice that you are triggered, instead of leaving it unspoken, find a moment to reflect before you express your discontent and what you value about your friendship and what has occurred to cause discomfort.
When we are triggered the first step is more about personal reflection. What could I have done differently? What part have I played in this? What is my role in how I am feeling? Once you have exhausted all areas of personal responsibility... and this can take time, reflection, honest feedback from others, then you are left with a spectrum /continuum of options:
At one end of spectrum is to do nothing - let it go. The risk is that it will eat you up and resentment will build so it may not be a viable option.
The next option is to take a break from the friendship, just take a breather, be busy, remove self from situation for a while...time can heal. The risk is that time does not heal and the issue still niggles...
Then if that is the case, it might be to invite a conversation and express how you feel. No accusation. No blame. Just - here is how I am feeling.
This conversation may lead to healing of the relationship or it may lead to defensiveness and attack. If the latter then the next option is to recognize that there is a values clash and there is no fault just different values.
Discovering ways to talk to our friends and let them know how much we value their friendship—and being able to have difficult conversations, is fundamental to building trust and connection.
In order to have trust, we need to practice and uphold the following 5 C’s:
1. Consistency 2. Congruency 3. Compassion 4. Competence 5. Communication
In all relationships you need to establish your core values and how they are lining up in your world so that you are living your life from a congruent and aligned place. If loyalty for example is important to you, and it is in question with your friendship, then that will result in a trigger for you. At the crux of all relationships romantic or not, lie the core values of your being.
Do you know your values? If not, discover them with a Life Coach or search online for tools to help you live from a place of truth in all of your relationships.