A few years ago, one of my best friends—the guy I thought would be my best man—cut me out of his life entirely.
He stopped returning my texts and calls and never responded when I told him I wasn’t upset and only wanted to talk. To this day, I don’t know the reasoning behind it. I can only imagine there was something about me he felt would be better if removed from his life.
But I’m still in the dark.
It took me about a year of coaching, reflecting, and overthinking before I found closure. But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some sort of trauma as a result.
Despite that, it’s taught me a ton about friendships and all that goes into them. Here are two things I’ve learned.
1) A friendship is just another relationship.
A friendship takes a consistent effort to remain strong and healthy—just like a romantic partner.
In fact, friends are much stranger than significant others when you think about it. With a partner, sex is involved (hopefully), families are shared, and you may even reproduce together.
With friends, you’re basically saying, “Hey. I enjoy talking and doing activities with you. Let’s keep meeting up to do those things. We’ll never do anything romantic together, but we’ll still support one another as we live our lives.”
When we’re younger, it can be easy to take having friends for granted. In school, we’re physically forced to be surrounded by people our age with similar goals—be they playing the same sport, having similar hobbies, or smoking the same weed.
But as we get older, we go off to college. We move to different parts of the country or planet. Some people leave their previous lives behind. Others start families.
My 10-year high school reunion was this weekend. I absolutely love reconnecting with people from my past. It fires me up to see people grow and better themselves as the years go by.
One guy who was a bit overweight in high school lost all of it, is totally jacked now, and looks like a Calvin Klein model. I found myself teary-eyed as he took me through his journey. I told him I was proud of him.
Anyway, as we inch through our 20s our values and priorities evolve. When we add another human to that mix, a plethora of things can happen.
We’re almost guaranteed to change. Our friends are almost guaranteed to change. How do we know that these changes will align and harmonize with one another?
It’s out of our control. But what we can control is how present we are with the people we care about and how well we communicate what we want.
Setting up regular phone calls. Going out of our way to visit them. Asking them about their world.
I have a number of friends I used to party with. But now that I don’t care for getting wasted and doing drugs, a huge chunk of my shared values with those people is gone. So naturally, we don’t spend time together.
The friends I used to go out with aren’t the same ones I talk to about my business ideas. Likewise, the folks I bond with over goals and growth aren’t the same ones I party with now.
Each relationship has its own role. And those roles change as we change. Keeping a friendship thriving takes effort, luck, and communication.
Speaking of communication…
2) It’s important to regularly check in with your friends.
By “check in,” I don’t simply mean reaching out. I mean reflecting on how the relationship is doing.
This can seem a bit dramatic to people who aren’t as willing to be open and vulnerable. But it’s one of the healthiest and most productive things my friends and I do.
It can be done in many ways.
On a small scale, simply telling our friends how much we appreciate them can make an enormous impact. Praising them behind their back. Letting them change our minds and inspire us, and telling them when that happens.
I tell my guy friends I love them. At first, they don’t know what to say but it quickly becomes a natural part of the conversation.
At the mid-level, it’s important to vocalize what’s working and not working with our buddies. This is where setting clear boundaries comes into play.
I talked with one of my close friends last year about how she made me feel belittled and patronized in conversation. We talked compassionately and respectfully about it for four hours. Last summer, I asked a best friend I’ve had since 7th grade to put in more effort. He went from doing practically nothing to calling me much more frequently.
It’s not about demanding our friends meet our expectations. It’s about creating agreements with them that allow the friendship to flourish.
At the highest level, I’d recommend a yearly feedback exercise.
This is typically reserved for the people we’re closest to. Again, we’re looking for high-quality perspectives on how we’re doing in the eyes of those around us.
Here are the questions my friends and I dive into:
- When have I hurt you?
- What do you think would be most beneficial for me to improve?
- What’s something you’d like me to know?
- When have you been impressed by me?
- What do you think I do better than most people?
We’re guaranteed to hear things we weren’t expecting. And if we do this with multiple people, it’s useful to connect the dots from similar responses.
As much as we’d like to see them as organic entities, our friendships don’t simply take care of themselves.
There are two parties involved. They are likely to morph as the years tick by. And there’s no telling what those evolutions will look like or result in.
I have friends I get closer to each year. I got asked to be the best man by someone I’ve only known for two years. I got completely ghosted by one of the closest friends I’ve ever had.
It’s hard to predict what happens in our friendships. But if we continue to live for our values, we’ll probably cut out those who aren’t right for us anymore and attract those who are.
To my friends who are reading this, I love you all. ❤️