Part 1: Old Friends
There’s a reason why the term “Bromance” popped up in the past few years. While it’s a humorous word, friendships with other men are seriously significant throughout our lives. True friends know us well, support us through life’s ups and downs, and often shape who we are today.
But sometimes, as our lives progress, we can find ourselves growing apart from certain friends made in previous chapters. Maybe it’s the college buddies you lived with for years bonding over beers and game days, or the high school bandmates you jammed with on school nights, or the childhood friends you chased in the streets of your hometown.
Our priorities, responsibilities, hopes, dreams and desires evolve with each stage of life. And ultimately, we ourselves evolve, too.
Let’s say you recently started a family or dedicated more time to your career, while your friends have fewer responsibilities and more free time. Or, perhaps you’re actively dating while most of your friends are in settled relationships. Regardless, as your life evolves, your friends’ lives may not develop at the same pace, along the same route, or vice versa. And that’s OK! It’s quite common for friendships to ebb and flow.
However, I see cases where men stay in friendships out of loyalty, loneliness, or many other reasons, even when the friendship is no longer reciprocal - or worse, it’s detrimental.
I’m not saying that all friendships bear an expiration date and you must throw yours in the trash as soon as you have fewer things in common. Instead, I’m referring to those friendships that consistently take energy away from your life, rather than add to it.
Many of the patients that I see in my therapy practice for men are high achievers; they’re loyal, giving, and spread themselves thin, often at their own expense. Like any relationship, friendships are an investment of time and energy, but the investment should be intangibly rewarding for both parties. Here are some questions to consider:
Does spending time with him (or them) seem like a chore?
Are conversations more like transactional exchanges of life updates?
Are your hangouts always on his terms (when he’s free, what he wants to do)
Are you supportive of each other’s priorities (relationships, careers) even if they differ from yours, or does your friend resent you, criticize your choices, or even try to sabotage them?
Do you feel pressured to partake in activities that are detrimental (excessive drinking/drug use) to your lifestyle?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you don’t need to write off your friend(s). It does mean you should consider making some changes so you can be good friends to each other while prioritizing your own well being.
Here are some suggestions to consider:
Set boundaries. If the main differences are schedules or activities, try vocalizing what YOU want. You don’t have to always hang out when it works best for the other person or do what he wants to do. Let me give you a couple example conversations:
“I know I’ve been spending more time on Saturdays with my wife and kids and I haven’t been able to come to any games with you, but I really want to catch up and hear how things are going. What days are you free this week for happy hour?”
Or: “I have a very busy quarter, and that means cutting back on drinking on weeknights. Instead of meeting at the bar, how about we try that new pizza place?”
A good friend will understand and be happy to see you. And if they don’t reciprocate, it may be time to let that friendship go.
Categorize your friendships. Sometimes it’s not about cutting out friends; it’s about recognizing what makes each friendship great and tailoring your friendship accordingly.
Do you have college buddies that are still in party mode? Know when you have the time and mental capacity to see them. Hint: It may not be every weekend, but make an extra effort to see them for big life celebrations.
Do you have a hometown friend who has been in your life for years, but you no longer see eye-to-eye or have much in common? If you want to keep that relationship, invite him out to an activity you both still enjoy (like a pickup basketball game) where you can his company but not get into a lengthy discussion (about politics, etc.).
Lastly, reflect on which friends are truly supportive and make sure you spend your energy cultivating those relationships.
Put yourself on the market for new friends. If you’re finding yourself holding on to fizzling friendships, consider making new friends that are in similar life stages or enjoy similar activities. We’ll talk more about this in the next post.
Navigating friendships is no easy task, and each relationship is unique. If you’d like to speak about your specific situation, feel free to reach out for a session.