Relationships and effort

It’s been a good year for me overall, if I were to consider my work, my health, my home, my family and all the things I hold dear. But its been a year of spectacular disappointment in terms of people. I’ve broken and lost (some deliberately, some naturally/organically, some inexplicably) more relationships this year than I have in several years gone by.

Making and breaking, losing and rediscovering relationships, has been a common theme in my life, but this year I had a moment where I felt that maybe I’ve officially run out of the quota of energy and effort one gets to invest in relationships.

Yep, I believe we come with a limited supply of energy we can spend on relationships. That energy doesn’t come from a bottomless vat which never runs dry. It is finite, it does run out. And when it does, it becomes almost impossible to replenish.

I used to be a the sort of person that was equally emotionally invested in all the relationships I held dear. I took being left out, falling-out or losing relationships very, very badly. And since my adult life has seen a healthy measure of relationships, that have been built and broken along the way, I’ve seen my fair share of fall-outs that have left me sufficiently emotionally scarred.

But this year something snapped. I had an epiphany. Ever since I’ve realised I don’t have the energy for high-maintenance relationships, I don’t have it in me anymore to chase after relationships, or work at them, coax my friends into places of comfort and honesty, many things have changed.

Friendship used to be a source of a fair bit of angst in my life. But this year, I have realised I’m quite frankly, over it. I don’t seem to want to keep relationships that require an undue amount of effort.

I am much less troubled by a shaky relationship now than before. I walked away from an unhealthy relationship with almost zero remorse and heart ache this year.

I recognised a weak relationship, put my foot down and didn’t accept the dishonesty that came with it. I pulled the plug on it, rather than brush it under the carpet and continue to put myself in a vulnerable position.

I have become much stronger in sticking with what I respect in my relationships. Being a little uncompromising about wearing my heart on my sleeve, has meant that I lost a friend who couldn’t handle the honesty that is part of it.

As a direct result of this, I’ve been alone a lot. And the biggest development of them all has been that I not only enjoyed the silence, but craved and chose it for myself, even when opportunities to engage with people presented themselves. I have found a pleasant kind of comfort in my own company, that isn’t tinged with sour-grapes.

Because so many of my old circles and comfort-zones (in terms of people) were broken, I’ve found some wonderful new friendships, amongst people so varied and with whom I didn’t think I’d have a deeper friendship.

I came across this piece in The Guardian yesterday and practically every paragraph hit home. Particularly:

“Treading carefully is easier said than done. Part of a good friendship is honesty, and sooner or later one is forced to choose between being amenable and giving a friend the honesty you think the relationship merits. But honesty is always a risky strategy, whether it’s asking “Do you like my new dress/suit?” or “Do you like my new girlfriend/boyfriend?” — I’ve had the privilege of losing a relationship over my inability to accept a choice my friend made, and of experiencing a new friendship where we openly, honestly questioned our choices, thrashed things out, and came out at the other end. In peace. And said friend remains to be one of the nicest people I have bonded with this year.

“The thing with friends is that because they tend to be bit-players in one’s life – “let’s meet for drinks/a meal/a game/a movie” – it’s easy to build up a false idea about someone with whom you share a friendly relationship.” — I think I have been prey to this a lot. Moving out of Bangalore made me seek a social circle here, which quite naturally was based on doing things together. I have never been one for a large circle of friends, but even the small circle of trust and kinship was based on a false sense of togetherness. I suppose it is but natural for cracks to develop when you reach a point where you seek more than just dinner and drinks together.

“…think women sometimes struggle with friendship in the long run as they seem to have an unspoken pact that a friend should always be supportive. They just invest so much in each other. Men often accept a little grit in the ointment – one can tell a male friend to fuck off without losing his friendship. Female friendships can struggle when the faults in either party begin to surface.” — Without making a general statement for all women at large, I know this is true for me. I see the hugsband who has all of two best friends, he talks to them maybe twice or thrice in a year, at-best. And yet when they’re in town I’ve seen him leave the dinner table to rush off and meet them, and pick up exactly where they left off. I on the other hand, have always taken care to stay in touch, and make all the requisite moves friendship requires and yet struggle emotionally, a lot more than he does. He has never felt the need for a circle of people for comfort, doesn’t need everyday signs of love and togetherness. I used to balk at the idea, but this year I’ve seen some of it in me too.

“Friends, like marriage partners, love each other, but they must also be allowed to hate each other sometimes.” — Extreeeemely important and a big lesson this year: that it’s okay to hate each other in a way that fundamentally, nothing changes. Being friends with someone doesn’t mean loving everything about them all the time.

“In each of my closest friends there have been moments when the friendship has nearly foundered – but we somehow came through them to a relationship that was stronger than it was before the crisis. The nature of friendship changes, and you have to change with it.” — That last sentence — word. The friendships that have endured differences, time, distance between us have all been the ones that have gracefully morphed with the changes that have seeped into our lives, personalities and therefore our friendships too. I think it’s natural to discover the nuances of people’s personalities and ethics, as our own personalities and belief systems gets strengthened, thought-out and deeply etched. And relationships need to grow along with, rather than parallel to these changes.

“A good friendship, like a good marriage, ceases after a while to be a mutual entertainment society and becomes instead a sorority or fraternity of battle-scarred veterans. We are still here, we still enjoy being around each other, and we treasure our shared histories. This is something precious, even if it isn’t always a laugh riot.” — The relationships I dropped fairly painlessly have been in this category, where our friendship has been rooted only in a mutual-entertainment-society and a laugh-riot. It doesn’t take a genius to soon wake up and realise you’re craving something more substantial.

“Is there a secret to long friendships? Simply this – an absence of pride. Too many falter on stubbornness or the determination to hold on to offence. Successful ones rely on humility and the recognition of human fallibility. These are not merely useful attributes. They are the heart and soul of friendship.” — I have to admit this has been the hardest lesson of them all. That we all have an ego, pride and a good share of stubbornness. In some relationships, I have held on to offence, because of my own pride. And I also am aware of cases where a friend has been too proud to make any effort to mend things. It takes humility on both sides, and the relationships that have endured emotional upheavals have been those where both egos were put aside without much thought, and the mending happened effortlessly.

Which brings me back to my epiphany about relationships and effort. I started off saying this year has been disappointing in terms of people, but maybe the flip side is the realisation that the truest relationships have been those that fell into place effortlessly. They’re those that require little working-at, are healthy whether we’re having a giggle-fit, a fierce debate or going through a crisis.

It’s true, this year I have lost more friends than I have in a long while, but it is also true that this is the year I have made more friends, more willingly than before. My friends are varied not just in age, but in interest, in profession and the kind of relationship we share. And to have all of that with a minimum level of effort, feels good.

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13 thoughts on “Relationships and effort

  1. Regarding how different friendship is when it comes to men/women.. From what I have been able to see is that when it comes to men, cursing is generally reserved from the closest of friends. It goes on to show that you’re comfortable enough to swear in their presence.

    As far as losing friends goes.. I strongly agree with one thing.. It is different when you’re friends who just hang out for coffee/movies and such.. But when you get involved with each other by spending times in the daily lives, your views of them (or theirs of you) can change drastically.

    • Yes, thats where this comes into play “sooner or later one is forced to choose between being amenable and giving a friend the honesty you think the relationship merits. But honesty is always a risky strategy, whether it’s asking “Do you like my new dress/suit?” or “Do you like my new girlfriend/boyfriend?” — whether we like itor not our choices become open for judgement/questioning by friends. And few friends are able to handle that. Ive had a friend who didnt disclose a new relationshipfor the longest time, which led to me believe the relationship was bogus. I maintain my stand, because I don’t get why else anybody would shy away from sharing such a happy development in life with close friends. Unless 1) we werent as close as I imagined 2) fear of the relationship not being endorsed.

      And then the point about not having to love everything about our friends at all times comes into play. These differences cease to matter with those who are easy going. And thats my basic point. The less effort a relationship requires, the stronger and more enjoyable it is, has been my recent realisation.

  2. It’s funny, I’m going through the same thing with a friend of mine. I’ve known her forever and she is one of my closest friends. I don’t know if it is the distance that develops in to a communication gap but I feel so estranged from her. I feel I’m the only one feeling all these things while she seems perfectly fine going about her life. And I wonder why do I make such big deal about this when it clearly doesn’t affect her. Another friend asked me to just accept this and move on, but it is like leaving back a piece of my heart.

    • In my experience, distance *does* change things. People are constantly changing, and when youre far apart those differences get accentuated. I had a friend who was unable to deal with how much I changed as a person once I left Bangalore. I was unable to understand why it was os hard, and I found the constant “things are not what they were” refrain very stifling. For me the relationship hadnt changed, I was more able to move on and give the relationship a new form than he was. And eventually it fell apart rather shabbily.

      On the other hand I have also reconnected with a friend with whom I had a bitter fall out in high school, and no contact with in between. I realised she lived in Goa when I moved here, and we reconnected. Meeting as adults almost a decade after the massive fight put so much in perspective. We were able to somehow pick up where we left off very effortlessly, sorted out so many misconceptions and now things are great. She is one of my nicest friends in Goa. Despite the lack of distance (she lives 30 mins away from me) we dont meet as often because our lives are busy, but when we do it is easy and fun. We can get a meal or just drop by unannounced and gab for hours. There is no pressure of keeping in touch on a daily basis or any of the acts of friendship that we come to expect from people we’re close to.

      More and more I feel relationships deserve only a certain requisite amount of effort, and Im guildy of over indulging a lot. it has caused me too much heartache in the past andthis year has been liberating because Im finally over that, and acceot what comes my way.

  3. This year for me has been about discovering so many things about myself and how I view my friends and my relationships with them. Couple of my relationships have gone through the whole roller- coaster, and emerged – battered, bruised but all for the better. Another friend, she lost her mum and I suspect I wasn’t there for her the way she might have liked for me to. With Facebook and other social media, snapping ties has become hard (at least, the drama associated with it); but I’ve learnt to taper away. This is also the year that I re- discovered my college friends, whom I had lost touch with. Turns out we are all pretty similar when it comes to the basics (even if we’d drifted apart in the past few years). Most importantly, I’ve learnt not to sweat the small stuff. And pay close attention. I’ve always been a little blind in such matters. Many ‘acquaintances’/ old friends have surprised me this year by how willing they were to go the extra mile for me/ by the warm reception accorded to me when we re-connected and I am learning to identify and reciprocate.

    • “I’ve learnt not to sweat the small stuff. And pay close attention” — bang on. I think a lot of my peace with letting the not so good relationships go and loving (and hanging on to) the ones that remain, comes from not sweating the small stuff and paying closer attention in general. What men, are we just getting old?!

  4. This year I’ve seen a lot of forced relationships. People whom I would have drifted away from if unfriending on FB didn’t mean such drama. I am now sharing my life with 800 people, of whom I only like about 400. :-/
    Lovely post. Every second line poke to me.

    • Yaar, FB does skew things in this respect. Especially if youre bumbling along for work and networking, and its not your primary interface for connecting with people who are important to you. Im in that boat and its a little painful and intrusive, but I manage by just minimizing the time I spend on it. So I know what that :-/ face means. But I’ve stopped fretting over fb. It has its advantages, and plays a part if you treat it well (hahaha)

  5. this post expressed all what I have also gone through. And, the relief of getting over such friendships is immense.Giving up on a painful relationship is one place where you become happy and calm by giving up on the hard work!Nice post!

  6. The point about ego and pride is bang on. Recently a friend of mine made a jab about me that I thought was unwarranted and rude. I was mad for a few days and then like the big person I thought I was being I told pk .. “He’s too in touch with his ego and his insecurity is obvious here so I’m going to forgive him.” So PK was like “Great. But you’re very much in touch with your ego too if it took you almost a week to forgive him”. I’m realizing slowly that if there’s the offender then there’s also the offended. We have to minimize the amount of times we take on both roles. Neither is worth wasting time on.

    • Youre SO right. In every fall out iv seen the ego swell on either side. Like you depite having a deep affinity for my ego i am usually the one to make the first move to patch up, even if it a week later, but thats the bit i think i have lost the will to bother with. Too much effort unless there is some effort coming from the other side too. A friend told me this was too transactional an approach to take with relationships but the way i have dealt with people this year and the amount of hassles i have saved myself tells me it works.

  7. The place where you mentioned that you started enjoying yourself more just called out to me. Limited energy that too. Oh actually the whole thing. I was nodding through out. :)

  8. Pingback: Unfinished business | hAAthi

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