For some, romance may be much easier to tend and mend than a friendship, if you consider that it’s a different kind of commitment—sharing your heart, bed, and finances. When you love someone, if it’s for keeps, you say what you need to (hopefully, but not always with kindness), even duke it out metaphorically, or go to a counselor when you can’t resolve issues on your own.
Long-standing, and even shorter-term, friendships that go awry for whatever reason can be tougher to fix. In most cases, you never promised until death-do-you-part. However, if you’ve invested time and heart, you don’t want to toss it aside like a bad idea without some intense soul searching.
There’s no single conversation, however, that works in every situation. An apology might be the magic bullet, but can you offer one simply to make peace or will it gnaw at you like a deep hurt if you’re doing so without total sincerity? And does being over age 50 and feeling that life is so short factor in? Perhaps, you’re of the mind that you don’t want to or emotionally can’t subject yourself to friendships with such problems at this age. Do you feel life is too short to let anything rile you and ruffle your now fraying feathers? So much we’ve found depends on the following components:
- the two people involved and their respective ways of agreeing, disagreeing, compromising, or agreeing to disagree;
- their type of friendship–more superficial versus deeper–and whether a recent relationship or one dating far back;
- what transpired and if based on one faux pas or many irritants or grave misdeeds;
- the ability and desire to ignore versus the need to account for each transgression;
- if based on multiple issues has the resentment festered to the point that the lid is about to blow;
- each person’s ability to hear and tolerate criticism if it’s constructive, or if not and it’s a personal attack with verbal or emailed insults that may have taken it past the point of return, at least for the foreseeable future;
- each side’s capacity and desire to move on or correct the relationship;
- each side’s ultimate goal–a need to be right, have the final say, save the relationship over the long term, or recognize that maybe it just no longer works.
Following are a few hypothetical and actual scenarios to chew on. Think about which solution might fit best if you encounter one of these experiences before you speak or act. Ask an objective person for her thoughts but do what ultimately your gut tells you to do. Understand that not all friendships may be right forever, but often it’s best to end it kindly rather than in an explosive style or by ghosting and disappearing without a word that makes it tough to pick it back up again. Ultimately, remember that good friends are hard to come by, especially after age 50. You can’t find or buy one on eBay or Craigslist!
#1. It’s all about her. Your friend always seems to focus exclusively on her needs, talking about her problems and illnesses, or what’s wonderful in her life, and never seems to ask you questions or listen to your successes or challenges. Do you have a heart-to-heart or just pooh-pooh your sadness that she doesn’t seem to care enough about you? Can you accept that that’s just the way she is…maybe?
#2. Picky. Picky. Your friend finds fault with so much you do, whether it’s your being busy with obligations and not having as much time for her as she has for you, or you’re not meeting her expectations. You don’t remember birthdays, anniversaries, express enough empathy for something that happened in her life. Do you have a heart-to-heart and share that you are beginning to feel like artillery practice, and wish she’d put away her arsenal or emotional bean counter?
#3. Ungracious. Your friend rarely or never compliments what you’re wearing, how you look, any invitations you send, even what you’ve served her at a luncheon or dinner party or brought as a gift. You just wish once she’d pile on compliments the way she piles on the food when a guest in your home and say how terrific you are, your cooking is or, even better, what a great friend you are or all the above?
#4. Hyperthymesia (she never forgets). Your friend has an irritating habit of criticizing you or somebody in your family or a very close friend when others are present, sharing that your mother was a monster, that you never had dates way back when and especially not for the prom, or that you obsess over stuff too much. Here, too, can you accept that that’s just the way she is, or do you need to let her know that sharing so much and with others just doesn’t make you feel warm and cozy toward her?
#5. On different planets. Your friend’s and your values are just so far apart now that it’s become difficult for you to hear her opinions about almost everything you consider important–whether political, religious, monetary, food, dealing with people, the death penalty, freedom of choice, transgender issues…whatever! Is agreeing to disagree sufficient, or have you realized that every conversation and get-together is fire by ordeal. Now that you have almost nothing in common is it best again to bid adieu sweetly and kindly, or just let the conversations and get-togethers diminish slowly so that you both realize your intent is a firm goodbye?
Bottom line: Friends should make you feel good about yourself, not be total “yes” folks, but certainly not make you feel you’re the worst person in the world, or the second worst.