Not too long ago, my friend Chris Ross, came up with an analogy about friendships that I thought was brilliant. “Friends should be like magazine subscriptions. You should have the option to renew each year.”
He told me this in response to a problem I was having with some “friends” of mine. I am sure if you asked these “friends,” the problems lay with me. The truth of the matter is that recently I have been disappointed with many of my friends—those I believed to be real and true, who have turned out to be neither.
But I had to wonder, why all the disappointment? The reason I came up with was simple: Expectations.
Expectations ruin friendships. They ruin relationships for that matter. If you have no expectations of someone, they can’t really disappointment you. It’s ultimately that simple.
Case in point: I have been friends with a fellow named Jordan since 2001. We don’t see each other very much, in fact, we haven’t seen each other in five years. We talk online, not always, but frequently. We share similar interests. Why has our friendship been able to last almost a decade? Because we expect nothing from each other, yet we both know that when we talk it will be with shared interest. Seeing each other isn’t even an issue. That was never built into the kind of friendship we created, and that I think helped.
When seeing each other and hanging out is built into the structure of your friendships, the foundation of them can be weakened when that element stops. This has been an issue for me as well. I live far away from my friends—or far enough for them not to want to visit. With everyone’s busy life, I have to be scheduled into theirs. That’s if they think of me at all. Out of sight, out of plans. If I am remembered, it is I who has to make the journey to them. In what world is it okay for one person to do all the long hauling, but not the other? Where is the equality in that? There isn’t any. Only the pre-prescribed expectation that if I visit you, you’ll visit me. The “Tit for Tat” ideology.
I have few friends who will make the schlep up to see me such as my friend Gina. Gina and I have been friends for a very long time. Over the holiday break, Gina and her Fiancée had some time available and so they thought it would be nice to pay me a visit. With them they brought a Christmas gift. Very unexpected and very meaningful in its nature. I also had a gift for them. Something for the home they are about to make with each other. The surprise was on both ends because Gina and I don’t expect that each time we see each other over a holiday or birthday that gifts will be included. In fact, the only thing we do expect from each other is that we’ll have a good time no matter what we’re doing.
I live by a different belief system. To me, when you are friends with someone for a long time and it’s more than casual, protocol should be thrown out the window. If you’re that good of friends, you should not only know each other inside and out, and be comfortable with each other, but you should accept each other for the way that you both are. Rules and expectations pushed aside.
Maybe my disappointment comes from own expectations of the people I consider friends. I don’t have heavy expectations like some may have. I don’t need to be brought gifts when I invite someone over—I’d just be glad they visited. I don’t need to exchange Christmas and Birthday presents on a revolving basis. Those gifts are meant to be gestures, not expectations. To me, true friendship is just wanting to be with one another because you each make the other feel good. It’s about being there for the other when the shit hits the fan or the dog eats your homework. It’s a deeper connection, and one that if it stops working should be reevaluated and if need be, canceled like a magazine subscription you no longer care to receive.
Of course, all friendships and the expectations they may or may not come with are based on the circumstances and the nature of that relationship. And most friendships, including mine, and more complex than this little write up can begin to explore. The answers, my feelings, and the situations are not all presented here, neither are the exceptions to the rules – for of course there are many. Essentially, if you’re my friend, just be my friend. Take me for the good and the bad. Know that I think differently than the rest of the world and that I don’t follow the norm because for me, the norm never really existed.
There are several friendships I will be choosing not to renew this year. Is this a sad thing? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a reality we all have to come to terms with. We should all start thinking about our friendships. Are they working for us? It’s okay to not be friends with the people who use and abuse us. There is no harm is saying no to something you no longer want. You just need to be brave enough to cancel that subscription. How many friendships will you be renewing this year?