Relationships. They come in so many different forms. Most bloggers focus on the romantic (or not so romantic) form of relationship – myself included, more often than not. But, relationships can be with friends, family, current loves, former loves etc etc etc. So, what makes a friendship work – and also what makes one fail? As you grow and change as a person, friendship and relationship dynamics can change. That’s definitely one of the contributing factors to the demise of my marriage – we just grew apart too far. So, how do you keep those connections going?
When we’re at school, it’s comparatively easy to make new friends in the playground and in the classroom. Those mates can and do stay with us for life – or at least until we’ve finished our GCSE’s. But, as we get older, it can be more difficult to make friends and also to hold on to them. Our 20’s are all about drinking buddies – laugh-a-minute friends to get shitfaced with any day of the week …. or at least it was that way for me! My 30’s have largely been about picking my company more selectively and enjoying time on my own more often than before.
I am fortunate to have two wonderful best friends who have both been in my life for decades. We have been through more fabulous and fucked up stuff in our lives than I care to remember. They have also been my life line through some of the most difficult times too. The course of true friendship doesn’t always run smoothly but I know deep down that they are true friends for life.
I’ll be the first person to admit that I have changed a lot in the last couple of years. I am proud of a lot of those changes – I have found my voice, confidence and my feet in life as a single mum. Now, I feel that I am more true to myself than I have been for a very long time. Change is good … usually … as long as people can grow together through it without losing their common ground.
One of the best perks of rebuilding my life has been forging new friendships with the new people I cross paths with. These are people who would never have come into my life before but have enriched it in so many unexpected ways. Not all of them have stood the test of time, but that’s OK. I still learnt something from my time with them and for that I am grateful. Others went out of my life years ago and have returned again and now I can’t imagine life without them. As I said, making new friends as a grown up can be double tricky – people’s lives may already be full. So, if you find a new friend and that relationship flourishes then you’re onto something good.
Ah, the big one. When TJ’s dad and I went our separate ways, I had high hopes that, although our romantic relationship had ended, a platonic friendship could continue. We didn’t hate each other although we knew we wouldn’t be growing old and grey together. Two years later and that’s not quite worked out. Our co-parenting plans didn’t come into fruition – although we tried and tried again. The initial aim to spend one weekend day a month as a family became a near impossible feat so we ended up no longer making a mark on our calendars for it.
Is it a bad thing? In some ways, yes. Not only did I lose a husband but I also lost a friend. But, in other ways, I think it’s good. Such close-knit co-parenting could have made it difficult for us both to move on from the past and really focus on new beginnings. We did recently manage to spend a few hours of TJ’s birthday as a three but that will be a rarity than a regular occurrence. So, I hope TJ benefits from his dynamic with his parents separately but also the time which we do spend together, however irregularly it happens.
I – along with loads of other people – have long contemplated whether you can be friends with an ex and keep it purely platonic. I’ve gone backwards and forwards on this having rekindled relations with ex-partners on more than one occasion. I think I now accept that a friendship cannot truly exist between two people who have now or in the past had that ‘spark’. Mutual attraction is difficult to ignore. Both parties need to be on the same page for a continuing relationship to work. For me, there’s certain circumstances when that is far from possible … in other circumstances, it can be a dream come true. I think this one is to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
I often refer to TJ as one of my best mates – both to him and also to other people. We have a really strong bond, which I think has definitely flourished more due to that co-parenting arrangement. We spend a lot of time just the two of us and that’s just great. But, I struggle with how to marry that up with discipline. Yes, he’s only four-years-old but that little man still needs to know what’s right and what’s wrong. No one else is going to do that but me when it’s just the two of us. But, does he listen? No, of course not. Not always. Is that because we’re buddies? Maybe.
Someone recently told me that parents need to be friends with their kids but that they also need to foster a certain level of distance in order to command respect. I have thought about that a lot. Yes, I do get cross with TJ sometimes when he pushes my last button after a long day. Don’t we all? And then we instantly regret it when we’re wracked with mum guilt afterwards, obviously. But, isn’t that part of what makes me a good mum? Setting the boundaries, not letting TJ get away with murder and teaching him the right and wrong way of doing stuff is at the heart of good parenting, isn’t it? Or, am I going too far when telling him off, using the old ‘time-out’ trick and walking away when he’s having a tantrum so I can calm myself down and not completely lose my shit? I don’t know – suggestions welcome! Until then, I just try to be open and honest with TJ and show that no one is perfect, which is fine.
Friendships are about common ground and a connection with another person. Sometimes, they are instant and last forever. Others could take a while to develop and may need some metaphorical hand-holding along the way. There’s also those occasions when it just ends. Whatever happens, cherish the good ones and put the work in, I reckon. Then, you will more than reap the rewards of companionship, comfort and comedy along the way.