Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University [Netherlands] conducted a study about friendship and networks and found that in seven year’s time, one is likely to replace HALF of their friends. This obviously means transitioning out of half the friendships you have.
Here are some personal examples of how the seven year sifter worked for me (sorry this is lengthy, skip this portion if needed):
Friend A: I realized as we got older that “A” and I had very different social and life goals. While the hypothetical venn diagram of interests we shared slimmed, we still enjoyed each other despite differences. At one point, we had a horrible falling out, but later reconciled and still feel the closeness we had before. We have a less communicative but mutual bond that keeps our friendship strong.
Friend B: “B” went through some drastic changes in her late teens and did not transition well. I tried to be her support system but she had fallen into a bad crowd and dependencies. At one point, I had to distance myself because I did not feel comfortable or safe. I still pursued her from that distance and tried to coach her on. I’ve come to a point of realizing my season of influence is done in her life, and it’s time to move on. I still pray she gets help from someone who can possibly identify with her story and help her through the challenges she has to overcome.
Friend C: “C” is my constant. She’s my rock and I am grateful that she never changes and is a better example of purposing so I can learn from her. Even with the distance she makes time to text/email/call and visit. Sometimes I feel like I slide a bit because she is so faithful at keeping in touch but I am working on being more proactive in our friendship.
Friend D: We were good friends who became best of friends through a series of hardships and life events. I am her constant, and “D” is my tried and true. We are completely yin and yang as people and it really goes to show that the most unlikely pairs can make the best of friends. I would say I’ve worked hardest on this friendship because of all that we’ve experienced together. We’ve seen the ugly side of each other, bared our souls, and because of that openness, we are practically sisters.
Friend E: She has pursued me and let me know when I failed her. We are also very different and I’d say she is the hardest for me to pursue. Our friendship is purely phone and skype so it gets rough to keep in touch. I feel like this friendship is difficult because our venn diagram of interests is slim, but she has a big heart and the patience to deal with a friend that fails her over and over. I’m thankful for openness because I am able to work on my flaws and make this friendship better.
Friend F: We met in college and since graduation have not been as close. “F” is passionately pursuing her career and doing very well! Unfortunately availability and physical distance do not help. We’re okay with acknowledging that our season of closeness was college and now have more of an acquaintance standing but lots of good memories.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far…
1. It’s okay to have seasonal friends. Not all of them will pass the test of time but those who are worth it will need to be invested in. I need to be purposeful.
2. People change. Not everyone keeps their views, standards, or interests the same. I have to put effort in people as people, not just in the little things that bond us. That way, even if we drift in most areas, we still have a strong tie based in each other, not ideals or things.
3. Damaged relationships are worth reconciling. It’s okay to move on or conversely, put effort into fixing what was wronged. It’s not okay letting hurt feelings fester. It’s emotionally freeing to not have the weight on my shoulders.
4. Constant communication is important, but personal bonds are the life force. A meaningful friendship stands the test of time and distance. It may be harder to keep in touch, but the heart stays tender.
5. Don’t assume. I almost lost “E” that way. Luckily I was given a chance to talk things through with them. Speak up first even when it scares you. Silence never solves issues.
6. It’s okay for people to have other best friends or even not consider me a best friend any longer. This one was especially hard for me to get over. I think I grew up assuming best friend was a position of solidarity, mutually shared with each other, and one person only! The truth is, I have many best friends. Each one is special in their own way, and none of them could replace the other. And, I have been de-moted from best friend to just friend, and that’s okay, because some people grow closer and others grow further apart. I’m glad that they have someone special to confide in and that we had our time as “besties.”
7. Anyone who exhausts you emotionally or abuses your friendship should be reconsidered. It took a few leeches and drama queens for me to understand that people do use friendship to use you, and take your time and resources. If it’s been a one way street of frustration, it’s time to get out of that situation.
8. Real friends don’t try to change who you intrinsically are. They don’t set expectations for me nor is it their job to pressure me. I should never feel uncomfortable with myself and I should never feel ashamed or less than. Encouragement is great, pressure is not.
9. Take time to acknowledge that you appreciate having your friends in your life. Sometimes the littlest of ways can mean the most, even if it’s just a, “Hey, thought of you today.”
10. Be proactive. Don’t rely on your friends or be one-sided. It take balance. This is something I am horrible with, because I am usually the quiet friend and feel attracted to talkative, spirited people. It’s easy for me to let them do the work. I don’t need them to call me first to validate that they still want me in their life. That is petty thinking. I need to build myself into a healthy habit of being a conversation starter, meeting-up instigater, and all things in-between.
I still have so much to work on, personally, but I feel like I’ve come a long way. Passing that seven year mark with so many of my friends just confirms our bond is timeless and that we have what it takes to push past that prime into a lifetime.