I used to think I always needed to have a best friend. One person who gave me everything I needed in a friendship. One person who knew and accepted every piece of me, who didn't try to change me. One person who I could count on for loyalty, to always be there when I needed a hand or a shoulder.
I also used to think all of my friends needed to like each other and enjoy spending time with each other as much as I enjoyed spending time with each of them.
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
I've changed my mind about friendship.
I do not believe there is one person who can offer me everything I need, not even my husband, in friendship. I've learned not to place the weight of such an expectation on another. It's simply too much, too heavy. I love my husband and each of my friends, and singularly they offer something unique to me - something they should be individually respected for.
And I don't gather all my friends together thinking it'll make for a good time.
To recognize what I need in a friendship, and be able to appropriately communicate it, I needed to understand more about myself.
It's not you, it's me.
As I have shed layers of myself, allowing who I am to represent me instead of a mask or costume, I've learned of a hidden requirement for my friendships to be successful: I have to miss you. Only when I miss you does my heart comprehend what you mean to me.
Years ago, I took the Enneagram personality test. I am equally an Observer (5) and a Romantic (4). The Observer is my introversion, my head, my logic. The Romantic is my intuition, my heart, my dreams. Following the test, I read Richard Rohr's Christian Perspective of my two types.
“Can miles truly separate you from friends? If you want to be with someone you love, aren't you already there?”
Nothing about being an observer surprised me, I was already waist-deep in learning how to relate to and express my introversion. But being a romantic floored me. As a romantic, I like to long for things. When I get the things I long for - material things - I tend to lose interest until I have something else to long for. With friendships I do almost the same thing, but because my primary love language is quality time, my longing tells a different story. Only when I have the opportunity to miss someone do my feelings about them as a friend heighten. It explains why I do so well with long-distant friendships - why Mat and I dating for two and a half years, him in California and me in Washington, only drew us closer together - and why I may not be the best proximity friend.
Most importantly, I learned it's okay to experience relationships this way.
Now, I can't necessarily say to friends, "Go away. If I miss you, then we can continue being friends." I don't always miss my friends because not all friendships span a lifetime, some are for a season. There is no way to know without absence that I'll miss someone.
"Growing apart doesn't change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled."
I began to realize that unbalanced friendship (some might call it one-sided) is perfectly acceptable. It's a seesaw. Some friends make more of our relationship than I do and vice versa. Some friends get off the seesaw first, others I leave behind. When I discovered it's not just about what you get from a friendship, it's also about what you offer, it was easy to lean on love. I began to love my friends how they needed and seek out the love I needed from other friends. I stopped worrying about the give and take.
My number of relationships grew. By removing the expectation we be everything to one another, we be "best", my friendships became more meaningful. I found the friends who allow me to be extroverted, social for hours beyond my normal comfort. I found the friends I talk surface with to remind me not to be so serious. I found the friends I swear with, the ones who appreciate TMI.
I found the friends who were connected to their souls, and inadvertently connected ours.
"Before you find your soul mate, you must first discover your soul."
Charles F. Glassman
With some friends, the seesaw remains suspended in perfect balance. I used to think soulmates could only exist in a romantic relationship. I never believed in having one soulmate, and now I believe they span all types of relationships.
I'm blessed to have two soulmates I am always aware of in my life right now. I am quick to give my heart to them in any way they need and in turn, they offer their hearts to me - more than most of my friends. But I still cannot expect them to offer everything; likewise, they understand my limitations.
The wonderful gift of a soulmate is that they support the discovery of more soulmates. They support you to find more relationships you need. And they are lifelong.
Friends come and go, and I hope I do just as well receiving friendship as I am in my offering.
"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... it has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival."