Relationships change. This is a statement I feel is common knowledge among many people. But for someone like me, who has a hard time adapting to change it can be a hard process to accept.
The way I have viewed relationships for most of my life is: if I am having regular heart-to-heart conversations with someone then that must mean we are close. Devoting time to relationships is very important to me, but it’s how I devote my time that has changed.
Over the summer I got to know several different people very well, I was hanging out and interacting with them pretty regularly via many social outlets. It was a season full of life for me. Then September hit and we all started to get involved in our respected ministries and organizations. My job became more demanding as my caseload began to grow while others had their own work to do. The people I had been running with were no longer available as things in their lives began to pile up. The friends I was communicating through social media were no longer posting or interacting with me as much. I started to feel insecure in my relationships, wondering if I was doing something wrong. Feeling guilty because I wasn’t able to spend as much time with those I cared about due to my own responsibilities.
As I dug into this in September I discovered a few things I would like to share as we begin to enter into the holiday season, a time when things tend to get busy and loneliness can crop up on us when we least expect it.
Relationships are malleable and adjustable.
Just as fall turns into the frigid winter, winter will turn into the life-producing season of spring. I see relationships in much the same way. Sometimes our relationships go through a few rough patches due to things like insecurities or our own fears. There are times when we see some people more than others. Sometimes the role a friend once played in our life is something they can no longer do during the particular season they are in. Perhaps someone plays different roles during different seasons in our own lives. Allowing space for the relationship to grow and adapt can be worth the change if we let it.
The beautiful thing about relationships is you share memories together. As you experience each others’ stories throughout the years you receive a glimpse into each others’ lives and as a result the relationship grows and deepens. No amount of change is going to take away these memories.
A perfect example of this is my relationship with a close friend of mine. She is a constant encouragement and joy in my life, but our relationship has had its fair share of winters. These winters allowed us to get to know each other in a way that we never would have during a blissful summer. It’s the memories we shared that kept us together as we sorted through our differences and allowed us to move into the spring we are in now.
With change, there is a grieving process involved.
Even if the change is good, I think there is a grieving process. Usually when something changes, there is a loss in the mix. It is possible to grieve and experience joy in the change while acknowledging it is happening and giving space for the relationship to grow and adapt.
With this in particular I am reminded of a time when a friend of mine set some clear-cut boundaries with me. The boundaries limited the contact I had with them and meant our relationship was going to be changing dramatically within a short amount of time. It didn’t help that it happened during a time when I was transitioning churches and a lot of my current relationships were going through struggles of their own. In my own eyes, I felt I was losing yet another close friend of mine. It took some time for me to adapt to the changes and it took me a bit longer than normal to grieve the relationship that was no longer what it once was.
I wish there were something encouraging I could say about this…. But I think grieving and pain comes along with loving and being in relationship with others. It’s a risk worth taking in order to experience life giving properties that love provides.
Relationships are not black and white.
I have a tendency to live life as if it’s black and white. Either someone loves me or they don’t. If I spend time with someone we’re friends, if I don’t we aren’t. If I don’t have a heart to heart conversation with this person weekly then that means we must not be very close or they don’t trust me.
How draining is that?! I don’t want to live like this. And I don’t want to place these high expectations on my friends, let alone myself. There is no possible way one person can meet every need I have, and I wouldn’t want them to.
Some of my most life giving relationships are those where I can just sit on a couch with a friend and talk about absolutely nothing in particular, laughing together uncontrollably. Or perhaps a friend who shares my love for classical music and can sit with me as we allow the music to fill our souls. Some of these friends are not those who I would share my deepest concerns but that doesn’t mean I care any less for them.
We have many different relationships and they are vibrant and full of color. They serve different purposes in our lives and each are beautiful in their own personal way. Each friendship has it’s own personality and that personality grows just as our own personalities do as we discover more about ourselves.
A friendship doesn’t need to be figured out, it’s the adventures you take together to do the figuring that make it it’s own.