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Friendship PROBLEMS

Kate Middleton photo Kate Middleton · 13 May, 2021

Friendship is tough. But what are the real grenades that can blow up a good friendship? And if you've been hurt, how do you know if a friendship is worth saving? Here are some top tips on what to do when a friendship has gone wrong.

Friends, you can't live without them, can you? They're just the best thing! But sometimes they just drive you a little bit crazy and you definitely can't live with them!

Friendship is tough and it's complicated and it's up and down, rollercoaster, sometimes it feels all over the place and especially the kind of friendships we want most of all, the really close ones, the people we can really rely on, the mates we've shared stuff with: to do those types of friendships, to really make them work, it takes time and it's tough.

So what do you do when something's gone wrong? That's what I want to talk about in this little video. What do you do when someone who you thought would always be there for you just, well, they weren't. What if they did something awful? What if they really upset you or hurt you?

Or sometimes friendships just don't go the way we expected them to. So what do you do if it just feels like you've drifted apart from someone? What if it's suddenly become "awkward"? Do you cut loose? Do you give up? Do you just stay friends on Insta, but never mention them again because it's just become too awkward and you don't really know how to delete them and whether they'll notice?

So let me share with you two main reasons that psychologists talk about which are why friendships end. So this is like, let's think about, is this friendship that you're struggling with, is it in that sort of, that really critical space or not?

Here goes, the first one is what's called friendship fading. You know, let's be real about this: some friendships are just for seasons, they're moments in life, where we're thrown together by something. And the friendships most likely to be in this category are the ones that were built around a shared moment or space. So let's say someone you were in a class with or you were on a team with or something like that. When that moment moves on and you've finished that subject or you're no longer in the team, you just don't see each other regularly. Unless you do something to stay in touch with that person: unless you make a proactive decision that friendship will change and it will probably drift apart. It actually takes a surprising number of hours, regular hours, regular time together to maintain a friendship. If you want to build a friendship up from nowhere to somewhere, that's even more intense.

But we can't do that stuff with everyone. Sometimes life does just move on and friendships fade or they change. They were closer. They become more peripheral. That's okay. It's natural, it's life, but sometimes it's hard, particularly if the two people in the friendship feel differently about it. Sometimes we do have to accept things change, distance and difference may mean the nature of a friendship changes.

But what about if something actually happened? What if there was a trigger? The second reason friendships end is a lot more difficult and a lot more emotionally rough. And it's what this famous psychologist called Robin Dunbar (he’s like a friendship expert), he calls it cataclysmic collapse.

So, hey, are you having a bad moment with a friend? The question you need to figure out is this cataclysmic or not? Is it something you can get over or is it a deal breaker? Because you know, friends are not perfect, people are not perfect. And particularly if you're in your teens, people are still figuring out how to do relationships. When you're in your teenage years, you're starting for the first time really to do proper meaningful friendships. You're only just figuring out who you are and the person you're getting to be mates with, they're figuring out who they are. And that means once you each know who you are, you could start to form a really close connection but it's new and it's different. Some days you don't even know how you feel about something nevermind about how your friend feels about something. So friendships can shift in teenage years. They're tricky. They're unpredictable, arguments happen, misunderstandings happen, rough moments happen, particularly if other stuff in your life, or your friend's life, or both of your lives is intense or tough, so exam season, or when there's other things going on in the world.

But is what happened cataclysmically bad? Here's three things you can think about if you're asking that question.

Number one is about context foundation. It's ‘how close were you before it happened?’. Because in general, to be sure, some friendships are more worth fighting for than others. You know, if you've shared a lot together if you've been mates for a really long time if you were super close before, it's more worth working through something that's difficult. So ask, how close were you before?

Number two is ‘how bad was what happened?’. Cause you know, some arguments can just be stupid stuff, can't they? Like sometimes I just feel like I can't take another moment of my husband because he has this really weird way of sneezing. Now that's not really rational. And it's usually saying a lot more about me and how crabby I am than anything about him. It's definitely not a deal breaker! It's something I need to get over. It's just a bit of a silly thing.

But sometimes people do really silly things, really dumb stuff. People are not perfect, including you, including me. Sometimes they didn't mean to, they just said something stupid or acted in an idiotic way or they were trying to be funny and it just really didn't come off. Or they've just done or said something that with hindsight they really, really wish they hadn't done or said. Sometimes we don't know what to do and therefore we get stuff wrong. And in those situations with a good friendship where you know there were good intentions, and if you can have a good conversation about what went wrong, you can retrieve it.

But there is a situation where somebody's been really cruel: maybe they knew what they were doing. They knew it would hurt you. They knew it mattered to you. They did it anyway. Maybe they'd done it before, this isn't the first time because we let people off more the first time maybe even the second, but the third, fourth, fifth? There's a pattern there that's not good. And there's a point at which even small things if they keep happening can have an impact. So think about how bad something was.

Out of interest, do you want to know what the most common friendship grenades are? The things most likely to blow apart a friendship, this is more research stuff, and there's four top friendship fails. So here you go:

[Number one] They are failing to stand up for a friend in an argument or a rough moment,

[Number two] Failing to share stuff, so not telling someone something either because you don't trust them but particularly if it's big news and even more so if you told other people first, that is really risky. Think about it, if you've got big news, the temptation is just to blurt it out to the first person you meet! Is there someone you should tell first who wouldn't want to hear it on the grapevine? Be careful with that.

Number three, failing to be there for a friend emotionally when they really need you or not offering help when they need it. Sometimes we don't know what to do, but the worst thing you can do is nothing. So if you don't know how to help someone ask them. Say, "I really want to help you in this moment, but I don't know how." Failing to do anything is a really risky thing in a friendship.

And [Number] four, failing to make an effort, to make a friend happy, so if there's something little you could do for your mate that you just know would made them smile, do it, do it, do more of it. Random acts of kindness, stuff that will brighten someone's day, particularly if they're having a rubbish day, that stuff is really good to do. And if you continually fail to do that it can jeopardise your friendship.

So that's like ‘how significant is the problem’?.

Three, then, the third thing to think about if you're having friendship troubles is: does this feel like a kind of big reveal? Has it shown you something about that person that could change everything? At the end of the day, our friends need to be people who we like, people who we respect, people who we share key values with, and sometimes something happens. It might not even be that bad, but it's a bigger picture thing. It reveals something about that person which just means, "Yeah, this ain't gonna be that type of really significant close friendship." Something about their character, their personality. Something about what they believe about the world, something about what they value, their ethics, I dunno. Sometimes we just suddenly see people with different eyes and it can change everything.

You know, in all of this, losing a friend the loss of a friendship, that stuff is really hard particularly if it was very significant, if it was a big support to you and all the more so if it's one sided: if it feels like someone rejected you, that that can be really direct that they ditched you or they had a row with you or they lost it with you and that's that.

Or it can just be more subtle. What if someone wasn't there for you? Or seemed to be preferring someone else? Or a friendship just drifted apart that you thought was worth fighting for, but it turns out the other person didn't?

Let me just end with three more thoughts on this topic cause it's hard and friends matter.

Number one, no friend will ever be flawless. Part of the love in friendship and the beauty and the potential and the magic of friendship is that we love people, even though they're not. It's like we choose to see them as more brilliant than they actually are. And having people who will love you, even though you mess up, spaces where you can make mistakes and be not brilliant and know that that person will still think that you are brilliant.

That's amazing. That's why you can grow. That's why you can take risks in those types of spaces, but that sort of friendship requires vulnerability of us. It requires us to learn how to let someone else not be perfect, to accept that the things that bug us or sometimes upset us, those imperfections might be part of what makes that person special. And so it's tricky and ultimately that's a maturity thing, it's something we have to learn to be good at. And it requires us to really value the friendships so that we can grow with someone like that.

Number two though is try not to be all exclusive. You know, it's so tempting, particularly in the teenage years to put all your eggs in one friendship basket, you meet someone and it just feels like they get you. They see the world you do, you feel like you've known them all your life. And the temptation is just to forget everyone else for a bit and just spend all your time with that person. But remember friendships are not romances! You can have more than one. It's brilliant. Spread your support across a few spaces, try to choose how you spend your time so that you're growing more than one friendship. That way, if there is a rough moment or a row, or just one of those things that sometimes happens, or something bigger, like someone moves away, you haven't lost the only source of support you had. So think about two, three, four, best buddies, not that one, like 'best mates, forever' thing.

And number three, just a thought to leave you with. Sometimes it feels really personal, but it just isn't. Sometimes things just move on and there's nothing wrong with you. And that can go the other way too: if you're struggling to find friends right now sometimes we're thrown together with people who just aren't our tribe and never were going to be. So if that's you and the people in your class or your school or your church or your group or whatever if they just don't get you: try not to worry about it. Instead, try and find some spaces you can meet people who do get you, who you really vibe with, so groups, clubs, online stuff, whatever works. Think about what you love and try and find some spaces where you can meet some people who love the same.

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