While adult friendships may seem like they’re all lunch dates, happy hours and group trips to Vegas, they can be a lot more complicated than that. Sure, as adults, we’re not supposed to care about the petty stuff anymore. But… what if we do? What if something seemingly small just really bothers us? How do we voice our concerns over a friendship as adults, without getting taken advantage of or hurting one another?
Harking back to relationships in our younger years, instead of letting things fester inside for weeks, months or even years, I think we need to re-learn how to just… LET IT OUT. And I don’t mean by getting drunk and crying on your best friend’s shoulder (or who’s ever available). We just need to learn how to communicate our feelings in a “healthy” and productive manner– pinkies up and all. I have a few ideas:
1. Talk to your friends, one-on-one, Real Housewives style.
If there’s one thing we can learn from terrible reality TV shows, it’s the art of confrontation. Sure, the crazies on television may blow perfect opportunities for resolution by throwing tables and chairs at one another, but here in the Real World (not pictured on television), those situations can actually turn out really promising. Sitting down to lunch for a genuine heart-to-heart can go a long way in strengthening, or salvaging, a friendship. There’s most certainly no need for reservations at an expensive restaurant, but it’s always nice to share a meal someone. A chat over tea, coffee, beer or even a park bench is just as good. The point is, just make the time to talk to your friend… one-on-one, and about whatever’s weighing on your mind.
2. Write it down. Privately.
Writing down your feelings can go a long way in getting you to understand them. Or at least think more objectively about them. Middle schoolers get it when they write notes in class. Adults, however, have a little harder time. We have to be more careful. From that episode of Friends to the girl who posts paragraph long rants on Facebook, many well-intentioned notes and emails can go dangerously awry. The more time you have to analyze every hurt feeling and action, the more dramatic you can get. Over-dramatizing almost anything never helps. So maybe as adults, instead of crafting folded notes and passing them to our loved ones covertly under tables and chairs, we should compose an honest email to ourselves. Or a letter. And then figure out how to deal with our feelings, and the other person, in real life.
3. Be okay with letting go.
Letting a friendship go is… sad, disappointing, frustrating and/or all of the above. It’s hard to think about all the time and energy you put into one person as going to waste. However, as long as you’ve learned from the relationship, that doesn’t have to be true. Maybe you just really needed this person at a certain point in your life. Maybe it was a time and place that tied you together more than you realized. Or maybe you both changed. Whatever the reason, letting go of one friendship or relationship can actually open you up for many more to come. All that energy you invested into one place and person is now free to go elsewhere. Endings are never “fun”, but they’re a necessary part of life. We all know the cliches: “without one ending, there can’t be another beginning” and etc. But they’re cliche because they have some truth. The unknown that goes hand in hand with endings is rough, but it’s also the space where new things and experiences happen. We just have to be open to them. (You’re welcome for that moment of Zen.)
Bottom line, adult friendships are hard. They all come with “baggage”, egos and most often, fear. However, if we can learn to recognize and get past all these issues and anxieties, they can obviously be incredibly strong and meaningful. Honesty is at the heart of any good advice, and that’s what adult friendships often need more of. As our lives get more complicated, it’s not always easy to become more honest, but it’s most definitely worth it.