It took me eight years of falling in and out of love with a few human beings to figure some of this out. Here’s what my best friends, who are my oldest lovers and greatest love stories, have taught me.
1. Boundaries are necessary
I thought that friendship meant being okay with being in each other’s faces pretty much all the time. And although they are some of my favorite human faces, over the years I’ve learned the importance of boundaries. Those memes you see about best friends invading each other’s space and wanting to be one human being? That’s crap. It doesn’t work that way for most people.
Any relation, including friendships, needs a sense of healthy boundaries. You can’t be around each other all day, every day. You might share the smallest, most ridiculous details of your lives with each other but you may not share a few bigger details. You will have your own thoughts and your own secrets that no one knows, not even your best friends. That’s not a bad thing.
2. You can’t heal each other’s pain or walk each other’s paths
No matter how much you wish you could. But you can make it better in many ways. Don’t turn bitter when your friend’s life doesn’t change because of your advice. Sometimes what you’ve told them every day for five years will strike them when it comes from a total stranger, and they may call that life-changing. Their truth will come to them in its own time and way. Accept that.
3. Needing is never the sign of a healthy relationship
You will notice most often that you will never be able to perform your role with success in the life of a friend who tells you that they need you. This is because you are both beings that are only completed by your own selves. If there is a piece that is missing, it won’t be something brought in by another.
Anything external will be a temporary fix and will never fit exactly right. So don’t feel unworthy when you notice that a friend doesn’t need you. Instead, look for a friend who wants you even though they do not need you because that speaks something about how worthy they think you are.
4. Be clear about your expectations
People say don’t expect anything from others. I don’t know if that is humanly possible so I’ve come up with my own alternative. Let your friends know exactly what you expect from them.
You expect them to respond to your texts in less than six hours. You expect them to meet you once in two weeks. Not possible? Alright, once a month. You expect them to do this exact thing when are dealing with a demon that you’ve dealt with since pretty much your entire life.
Here is how they can, if they wish to, support you in battling your darkness and moving onward to chase your sunshine. Of course, this requires a certain amount of self-awareness too. But that’s a basic that you are going to need anyway, no cookie-cutter solutions for you there!
5. Do not expect anyone else to understand your journey like you do
That being covered, I am never going to be able to say this next part enough. Your journey is your journey. No one else is going to understand it the way you do, not even your closest friends.
No friend will give your journey a place above or even right beside their own journey. You wouldn’t do that either. If you’ve done it, then you know the pain and discord it creates. You don’t owe that to anyone and no one owes you that. All you can do is support each other’s journeys in the best way you can without draining yourself mentally, emotionally, or physically. And the one supporting gets to decide how much comes to them and what feels right to them.
6. Treasure friends who make you uncomfortable
Sometimes you become friends with people who are like you in an almost eerie way. I don’t mean they have the same taste in books and music.
I mean people whose darkness and light looks a lot like yours. People whose inner ticking bombs of insecurity and pride are timed to go off at about the same time that yours are. People who, on the surface may seem like your antithesis, are only so fearsome to you because they remind you of yourself.
Love these people hard. Keep them in your lives because they will be a constant reflection of parts of you that you walked away from, buried deep within, or are still learning to accept.
7. You cannot force a barrier to come down
You will never be able to break some barriers. When you face these barriers, your first instinct is to tear them down and throw love recklessly at the beautiful soul on the other side of it. But that isn’t always what being a friend is about.
Sometimes you have to respect an individual’s choice to have certain barriers with you and you are going to have to find a new way to love them. Love them from across. Love around the barrier, love over the barrier, love despite the barrier. It won’t be easy, but love never is.
8. Know that every friend will offer something different
When you meet at the table of friendship, every individual brings his or her own assets. Some will bring endless empathy, some will bring an open wallet, some will bring laughter, some will bring strength, and some will bring support. As every person is different, what they offer in a friendship will be different. What they have to offer you in a friendship as opposed to what they offer someone else, will also be different. Don’t compare.
9. Sometimes you will love more, that’s alright
The hardest thing to accept for me was this. You will not mean the same to some friends as they mean to you. This is harsh because only two people can ever keep alive the history and the meaning behind their bond. It’s a part of the world’s countless stories that no one else will ever know. So when both these individuals see what has transpired between them from two very different viewing glasses, it’s confusing. You begin to question what exactly happened between the both of you and what your friendship even means to begin with.
But there are spaces between human beings. The world as seen from someone else’s viewing glass won’t meet your world halfway. And that space in between will always be there, sometimes a larger space than others. There will always be spaces between our loves. All we can do is let it be and keep loving anyway.
You can hope that someday the love will connect the gaps. So love without inhibitions, without fears, with a little more understanding, and a lot more fortitude. Dare to be real. Your army will go to war with you and wear their battle scars with pride of a tribe worth fighting for.