It’s never easy when close friendships you’ve had for a considerable number of years are starting to fade away. What makes this change even harder is when you know you’ve outgrown that level of friendship, you care for them just as much, but they’re not ready to evolve at the same pace or in the same direction with you.
There is no blame to assign here. We all have our own paths, speed and way of doing things. We usually have different dreams too, different values and priorities. All these factors contribute to a balance we would benefit from maintaining, in general and in relationships. Even though I’m a Libra (or maybe because I am), achieving (not to mention maintaining) a balance has always been a struggle for me, in all aspects of life.
Change is the only constant
Some components of a friendship break-up can be: moving to another country, naturally closing a chapter, or simply life getting in the way. However, I noticed that one other reason friendships can dissolve or transform (into something more like acquaintances for example), is the transition to veganism. From personal experience, this is a tough one. After I became vegan it felt harder to communicate with my close friends, particularly when approaching subjects like food, health, fashion, or any other that involved animal exploitation in some way. That is partly on me, because I am still a bit more sensitive than I should be and I haven’t yet mastered the art of detached conversation.
There can be many nuances to the dissolution of what once was. If, as a vegan, you are shown some respect for your new values and some effort (say they cook vegan just for you at a dinner party), that is much appreciated obviously. However, if that friendship was really close, then this may not be enough. Because a close friend just respecting what you choose to eat without making an effort to understand why and how you chose this lifestyle (not a diet), can be disappointing or even painful. On the other hand, for them it can be frustrating and confusing. Emotional intelligence, communication skills, level of open-mindedness, patience, and other deeper patterns and societal-ingrained ideologies are important elements that affect and shape the course of a friendship.
Honoring the relationship
When you have been friends for over ten years, you know each other’s favorite wine (probably the same one) and coffee formula. You know secrets and have shared laughs, tears, and birthdays. Perhaps you took questionable photos with a blonde wig and acted as a going-to-the-bathroom wedding dress support (very specific examples, don’t ask). These common memories and feelings make it that much more difficult when a friendship like this begins to shift into something yet unknown.
Throughout this metamorphosis process, I believe it’s important to not lose sight of the relationship’s history, depth, complexity, and meaning. Nowadays, I choose not to force something that no longer feels the same and, at the same time, to honor and acknowledge what the friendship meant (and will forever mean) to me—beauty, DIY art, the occasional tough love, laughter, hugs, cocktails, board game nights, being “adopted” into the family, witnessing impactful moments, and a gazillion more.
I like the notion of living gracefully or doing things with grace, including difficult ones. I believe letting be, letting go and moving with the flow, are good ways to go about relationships that are in a transition process. I am communicating less often, avoiding sensitive subjects, letting go of my expectations and ideas of what they should do, and simply letting them be. I am learning how to allow them the space to be who they are, without (or with as little as possible) judgment or need to control the outcome. I need to respect what is true for me and also what is true for them.
I am actually proud to say I went from getting angry while trying to force my point of view (with all the best intentions, but still), to consciously choosing my battles, controlling my energy when communicating, and letting things flow as we both feel in the moment and through time. I am aware they may not understand or appreciate an approach that to them may feel perhaps dismissive or distancing, but that is the best I can do at this point, with what I have in terms of strength, awareness and level of understanding of the human mind.
Making space for the future
As I’m writing this…I simply miss them deeply. I feel grief and sadness, but also love and compassion. We literally became grown-ups together and all the implications of that have painted, to some extent, the portrait of who we are now. And for that, I am forever grateful. The truth is, regardless of what happens, they will always have the same place in my heart, because despite our differences, their hamster-like cheekbones are irreplaceable.
As we grow up and evolve, our body changes, our perception and ideas change, partners and friends may change, jobs and hobbies change. We outgrow some of them, our tastes and values shift and we discover truths about ourselves that influence our future choices. We are a constant work in progress and I believe all our experiences are opportunities to learn how to live in the moment, take some lessons from the past and hold space for the mysterious ways in which the future will unfold.
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Photo: Greg Raines via Unsplash; Thomas AE via Unsplash