The Battle Cry Of Friends
Are you still friends with people you knew in grade school?
Old Friend Vs. Semi Old Friend
"God defend me from my friends; from my enemies I can defend myself."
You’re a cool person. People from diverse backgrounds seem to flock to you. It is rare for you to enter a social situation without someone greeting you. You wouldn’t say that you’re friends with these people, but if they’re buying, you’re their best friend. Or perhaps you’re a very unpopular person with only two friends to your name. One friend is someone you talk to only occasionally and, if asked directly, you wouldn’t say you were very much friends at all. The other friend is someone that you know in your gut only talks to you because you have a car. Once they’ve saved up enough money, they’ll have you drop them at the closest car dealership and that’ll be the last time you’ll see them. Let’s say though that your situation falls in between the two. You’ve never been a social butterfly, but you’ve always managed to make friends. Growing up, you were very close to two friends. You then went to high school and became pretty tight friends with five people. In college, you hung around mostly with three people who you consider to be your friend soul mates.
As a milestone birthday approaches, your significant other asks you who you would like for them to invite to your birthday party. Without hesitation, you hand over the addresses of your ten friends. Miraculously, they all rsvp saying that they’ll be attending. You couldn’t be happier.
On the night of the party, you greet each friend at the door. You quickly catch up with each of them and instruct them to go get a drink and mingle. Within ten minutes, you realize that inviting all of your friends was a bad idea. You suddenly remember how your childhood friends complained to you after that one group trip to the movies about your high school friends turning you into someone they didn’t know. How could you have forgotten the horror story of the date that one of your high school friends and one of your college buddies went on? One by one, your guests leave claiming they have an emergency to get to or some other blatant lie. After the last guest leaves, you and your significant other stare at each other, nonverbally asking the other what just happened.
It is 8:15 PM on your birthday and you are at a fork in the road. As tempting as it is to ask your sig what you should do, the decision needs to be all yours. They didn’t get shaped by these people. You did. Only you can decide what happens next. Clearly, you have two choices. You can either call each friend up and try to convince them to give a group meeting another chance. Or you can leave things as they are and continue on with your life.
- Why are you asking your friend who just stormed out on a group situation to give it another chance? Couldn’t you learn from your mistakes and just meet with them one-on-one or in their specific group?
- Yes, I guess you could do that. However, if you do individual outings you’re looking at ten Saturdays that could be spent ten other ways. If you do it by groups, you’re still looking at three Saturdays. (By the way, it doesn’t have to be Saturday.) If you convince your friends to give it another try, that’s just one Saturday. Also, had they stayed longer, they would’ve heard the news that you are getting married. Considering all that just happened, do you really want their next group meeting to be your wedding?
- Why would I want to just ignore my friends and risk losing them?
- To this I say, why would you want to exert even more effort on people who couldn’t look past their own comfort to celebrate your birthday? Yes, you knew in advance that these people didn’t like each other. However, as adults, they should be able to play nice for one night. You’re hurt. They’re hurt. You both need some time to cool off before you speak again. No, if you want to keep your relationship intact you shouldn’t ignore them for a very long time. Still, some time apart couldn’t hurt your relationship. If it does, your friendship was on shaky ground to begin with. Do you really want to be friends with some temperamental pain in the butt who isn’t mature enough to understand personal space?
- Isn’t there a middle ground? Does it really have to be “all or nothing?”
- No, but obviously some things need to be said and something needs to change. When the air has cleared a bit and you can talk calmly with your friend, you need to, as politely as possible, lay it all out on the line. This means that you need to tell your friend where you stand on this issue and where you would like them to stand with you. You obviously feel connected to all ten friends, but this does not ring true for your friend. You need to ask them what they would like you to do about the situation as well as what you could do to make things go more smoothly next time. If your friend says that the only option is for you to ditch the other groups and just associate with their group, you need to tell them that you can’t do that. I would laugh their comment off and ask for option two. If they say that this is the only option that would work for them and that they are unable to be flexible, I would calmly tell them that you feel bad that they feel this way, but that you understand their decision and won’t force them to change. In other words, you valued what you had together, but their inability to grow has now made them no longer a part of your life. I would repeat all of this with each of the ten. Hopefully, you will remain friends with some of them. However, if you come up empty, don't sweat it. These people obviously played as big a role in your life as they could. Be thankful for the experiences you had together. You need to move on with your life now. It is their loss.
You need to understand that certain types of people just cannot get along with other types of people. Try as you might to help your friends see the common ground and interests they share, if they do not want to see them, they will not see them. No matter how many times you beg them to give each other a shot, they don’t give in. From experience, friends tend to always see another friend the way they saw them on their first meeting. While they may look in the mirror and see an established adult in their early twenties, they may look at you and still see the five year old who wet their pants on the first day of class. They need you to remain that version of yourself because it’s comforting. When you challenge their view by bringing other friends into the mix that see you as their own version of you, that’s when tension starts and the “My Friend!” tug of war begins. While you may have not meant to start this war, it has begun. Be a friend to yourself and walk away.