Are Friendships Meant to Have Expiration Date?

I was on the train on my way home this afternoon when I got a message from a friend asking me how am I doing. I replied and told her to thank you for being a friend all these years.

She then confessed her frustration over a common friend whom she treated as a best friend for a long while but now it seemed their friendship is drifting away.

As I read her message, I couldn’t help but go back in time to a typical sunny afternoon walking from school with Rodel, Dante, and John Elmer. Holy Cross of Mintal is just a fifteen-minute walk home, but our journey seemed to last longer than that. We share our laughter on that dusty street like slapstick comedians performing on the street. In some instances, I didn’t realize I was already in front of our backyard and our amusement had to be cut short, only to resume the following day.

Life was tough then, but with friends around us, life was more bearable. How fortunate are we to share lasting friendships that endure life’s up-and-down rollercoaster ride?

In the early years of social media, people tend to connect with as many people as possible, hoping that a wider circle of friends on Facebook will make a difference. It did not take too long for us to realize that Facebook friends actually meant Facebook connections. Some of those contacts are functional — only meant to communicate through Messenger for a group,

But just like anything else in life, changes happen. We move on from our grade school pals, pursue different degrees, get married, and settle far away. Whether it’s that slow drifting apart from a childhood friend, or that abrupt ending caused by disagreements, losing someone you thought would always be part of you is deeply jarring. Friendship breakups are unlike the endings of a romantic relationship. They can happen without formal closure and occur over the course of our lives. Why put closure on a friendship when you don’t even know whether it has ended or not?

And unlike romantic partners, whom we hope they’ll be the ones meant for us, friends are often assumed the de facto companion for life, no matter how many they are.

Let’s be real. Friendships are sometimes not meant to be. And if they are, friendships require constant effort to make it work.

As I tried to console that friend who confided in me, I also find it hard to accept that if I face the same situation. I’d feel betrayed by the trust, of making promises that are broken, and building dreams together that crumble long before they are fulfilled.

Losing a friend feels like losing a part of you. A friend who sits silently but listens attentively is all I need if I want to share my frustrations because I need empathy much more than advice.

However, friendships can also end due to dozens of reasons: 55 to be precise, categorized as selfishness, lack of frequent interaction, romantic involvement, and perceptions of family members and other friends.

Why Friendships are Important?

For obvious reasons, we humans are hard-wired for social relationships. UCLA professor Matthew Lieberman in his book, “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,” the need for social interaction is as basic as our need for food, water, and shelter. To many people, this fulfills a key emotional desire to feel a sense of belongingness and purpose.

Friendships enrich our lives in so many ways that their presence brings numerous emotional and physical health benefits.

The right mix of friends around us helps mitigate the effects of loneliness, boost our self-confidence, and reduce stress, just like what Rodel, Dante, and John Elmer brought during those walks.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, surrounding ourselves with toxic friends — those who perpetually complain about their neighbor, roommate, or colleague with no resolution in mind — can be detrimental to your well-being, according to a 2011 study. So maybe, we can downgrade this social relationship from friends to mere acquaintances.

If you are at age 25, you must have achieved the apex in the number of social connections. But at this age, you might also be focused on romantic relationships or career priorities that shortly afterward, your social circles rapidly shrink and friends take a backseat. This might be the time when our longstanding childhood friends start to drift from our communication lines.

Based on your current circle of friends, your reputation might be on the line as the Russian proverb appears to allude to: Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.

Maintaining Healthy Friendships

Some of us might stick to the principle that it’s better to maintain your friendships than seek new friends. Regardless of our choice, I think it depends on how we actually approach friendships.

Are they chosen because we get something from them? Or is it bringing out the genuine care a platonic relationship can offer without condition? I am blessed with good friends, but I’d like to stick around those who are difficult, believing that my patience can make a difference. But once respect goes out the window, the reprisal of indifference will reign.

Keeping lines of communication open

Despite disagreements or different points of view, friendships must remain as long as communication remains open. Unless the other party fails to resuscitate a failing relationship, it is still worth fighting for. Through this process, we get to know more about our friends and better understand their perspectives. We don’t tolerate their misdeeds but accept them for who they are.

Be brutally honest with each other

I’d rather have a friend who will call my mistakes out, than a friend who constantly praises me even if I notice there’s something wrong. Truth sometimes hurt, but it also aligns us to the right direction. A friend who will make constructive criticism about my style of writing or drum fills will be appreciated.

Communicate your expectations

Lack of time is often cited as a relationship killer. We can claim we are constantly busy and we need to communicate that to a friend. “I am busy for the rest of the week.” “I can’t take your call. Just message me your concern and I’ll get back to you after my shift.” Instead of offering vague, blanket statements about how busy we are, such explicit statements convey the level of engagement you can commit, and a reasonable friend will always take it positively.

Small gestures can go a long way

You don’t have to invest a long time to make your presence felt. A simple “hello, how are you” looks like a boilerplate message you can copy and send across all your friends in 43 seconds, but it’s the effort that counts. Or ask how their weekend went or how was their vacation planning going. They might be eager to share their story and become conversation starters.

Or maybe, Look up your Facebook account and perhaps, you have a friend who is celebrating his or her birthday today. Make this special day even more special by reconnecting with this person if you’ve not been in touch. Your birthday greeting would bring a smile to someone’s face.

So going back to the question, do friendships have finite lifetimes? I still don’t know. What I know is that friendships are meant to be nurtured for life no matter what happens. As I told someone with whom I had an argument months ago, life is too short to bear grudges.

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends
No, a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends
(Friends – Michael W. Smith)

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