Rollercoasters are said to be rides for thrill-seekers; but are we also expecting to go on a ride in our friendships? 🤔
Most often found in amusement parks or carnivals, rollercoasters are elevated railways constructed with tight turns and steep slopes, on which people ride in small fast open cars. Those who like rollercoasters get a kick out of the unexpected ups, downs, twists, and turns they promise. While others, like me, would rather pass on the uncertainty of the coaster. I mean as soon as you get on a rollercoaster and it is released to begin, there is an immediate clink-clink-clink-clink-clink sound that begins; which indicates, there’s a rise up ahead. You can see and feel the rise, and can hear the screams of those seated in front of you; but whether the rise turns or falls remains to be seen.
So too is the rollercoaster of friendship.
Want to Ride?
Most friendships start with the rise of fun and commonality, and that usually lasts for a while; but at some point, it’s inevitable that someone may scream (theoretically) to indicate something has changed.
Personally, I prefer rides that offer some level of exhilaration, but in a very understood and easily contained manner. One of the reasons I’m hesitant about rollercoasters is because I’ve never felt safe and secure in them. I mean, for crying out loud, the cart is open!
If I don’t feel safe and secure, I’m too uncomfortable to trust it, let alone enjoy it. It doesn’t matter to me that there are others on the same ride who seem to be having fun. When all is said and done, my only concern is if “I” will be okay? I’ve experienced the same apprehension in approaching friendships.
Is this safe?
I think part of my distrust with rollercoasters came when I was very young. I experienced being pinned into a position, unable to control my own movement; either because my weight and that of the other person riding with me was incongruent; or because the gravity of the ride slammed them into me. Then, because of the rides speed, the other person was unable to move over to allow me to reposition myself. I’m was trapped…and unable to experience the ride in a way that was comfortable for me. Do you see where I’m going with this?
What I’ve just described about rollercoasters (and my own experience with them) is comparable to the difficulties friendships sometimes encounter – rises and falls (inconsistency), lack of experience and lack of understanding (making it difficult to adjust), concerns for safety, and even incongruency.
6 Reasons Friendships Struggle
Looking at some of the similarities to rollercoasters, I’ve compiled 6 causes that may affect the dynamics of friendships. Take a look to see if either are relatable to your own experiences.
1. Incongruency/Inconsistency in Friendship –
Sometimes in our friendships there is incongruency; meaning what individuals bring to the table isn’t equal. This is isn’t necessarily a friendship deal breaker, as long as neither individual is taking advantage of the other. Though people can be starkly different, and one may feel they have less to offer, it doesn’t mean they have nothing of value to add. The problem lies when one person gains all the benefits and the other gets little or nothing – no support, no engagement, no interest or celebration.
However, I would add that I don’t believe incongruency is necessarily related to the differences in accomplishments (education or what a person does for a living) or societal status, but rather how much is or isn’t invested. How much are you willing to invest (cultivate, nurture) in your friendship and what is your expected return?
On this rollercoaster of friendship, are both individuals committed to the course of the rises and falls that may take place? Will individuals make adjustments or be aware of changes so that no one feels pinned in a way that isn’t working for them? Due to inconsistency, is one friend bearing most of the weight of the friendship? If factors like these aren’t addressed, they eventually taint how friendships are viewed going forward, because individuals don’t trust or feel safe that they are seen and supported.
2. Immaturity in Friendship –
Immaturity in friendships can be emotionally and mentally draining…and dangerous. It can sometime creep in slowly, or come more quickly; hitting hard and abruptly, like a sudden stop or sharp turn on a rollercoaster.
When I speak of immaturity, I’m not talking about lack of experience alone, but rather the presence selfishness and inconsideration of others. One person looks out for self, and hardly considers the other’s needs, preferences, or feelings. The relationship is one-sided, and usually the immature individual lacks the capacity to see it. Immaturity in friendship can be witnessed both in treatment and spoken words. An individual who lacks maturity regards truth and honesty as more important than empathy. They may say whatever comes to mind, as long as it serves them; often embarrassing or hurting the feelings of the other. Yet, they have an expectation that the other individual should remain loyal and committed to them.
This tendency is usually a deeper issue and often the reflection of residue from previous relationships, friendships, or family experiences. Those on the receiving end of this behavior don’t have to feel obligated to be the subject of this treatment; but if the friendship is value, it should be addressed and called out when necessary so the guilty party is aware and can be held accountable. Don’t allow offenses to build or fester.
3. Unrealistic Expectations in Friendship –
At the end of each year, my family and I sit around the table and discuss our goals for the New Year. We discuss what we’ll need to accomplish those goals as an individual, as well as what support or allowances we may need from others in the household in order to be successful.
I respected my son for saying that as he pursues his endeavors the family might expect that he wouldn’t be available; and that his presence might sometimes be inconsistent. However, he vowed to do his best to check in and be present for major family events. In moments that I’ve grown frustrated, because I’ve wanted him to be present the way he’s been in the past, I’ve been reminded of the conversation and the expectations outlined. Though I respect the boundaries my son created, it IS NOT working for me. I miss him.
So now, I wait patiently for the conversation this year; so that I can share with him, I can’t have another year like this one. I need just a bit more interaction and we need to discuss what that could successfully look like for both of us. Give and take.
This would be a good approach for friends to consider as well.
As friends progress as individuals and together, what can or needs to change? Are there any boundaries that should be set? Life experiences happen and affect us differently. How will what we experience or pursue affect the type of friend we expect to have or that we can be? Our capacity to manage our friendship may change. If this is discussed and considered upfront, difficulties and frustrations in friendships may be avoided.
4. Passive Aggressive Behavior in Friendship –
When there is a conflict, does the person react in behaviors or respond with words? In other words, you can tell they’re behaving differently, as if something is wrong; but when you ask, they say it’s nothing. Here’s the thing…It’s hard to address or correct a matter that has never been identified. We can never make the assumption that a person knows exactly what they did to hurt or offend us. Depending on their intention and motive, or what they may be focused on, they could be completely removed from realizing that anything happened. So, the person offended must use words AND EXAMPLES so that the offender is able to address the matter appropriately and make adjustments and apologies, if they see the need.
5. Displaced Aggression in Friendship –
Displaced aggression is similar to passive aggressiveness, but it’s usually targeted at the wrong person. Sometimes friends who share our common space and energy often get the brunt of our bad days and experiences with other people. Our friends become our scapegoats. Because they are the closest people to us, we take out our aggressions that we did not use in the right place on those we say we care about. Pretty soon our friends are casualties of war. In some cases, we could lose friends this way and be shocked and hurt, and feel blindside when they’ve had enough. Put your emotions and words in the right place and you could save some truly valuable relationships.
6. Misunderstood Assignments in Friendship-
This factor may seem strange, but it is one I feel needs to be most understood. As individuals we all have goals, purposes, and vision. Though at times we’ll have commonalities with other people, we all must pursue and fulfill our individual life assignments – professionally and/or personally. Our assignments might be life-long or seasonal. Regardless of the timeframe, our assignments must be intentionally met by us and respected by others. At times, assignments will affect the dynamics of relationships and impact the capacity to friend.
Some friends have more demanding duties, or may be more high profile. Maybe they’re a public figure, business owner, pastor, medical professional, principal…. There are plenty I can think of. Positions such as these thrust people into the spotlight, whether they enjoy it or not. Their positions are not only very visible to others, but require a lot of time and attention to other people and things. They’re constantly evolving and progressing. Friends of people in these positions have to be secure in knowing that regardless of their friend’s position or other circles…they’re still friends. They see you and value you.
Those connected with them must have an understanding of this. Sometimes these individuals won’t have the full capacity to support and encourage their friends and family the way their friends and family might be able to support them. Don’t make them feel guilty. Understand their assignments and pray for them. There’s pressure connected to the assignment. However, those individuals must also be aware of the need to make intentional time for their relationships and friendships too. They don’t get a complete free pass.
Do you recognize your friends calling, strengths and skills, and purpose? Do they recognize yours. This may need to be taken into consideration the next time someone feels neglected in friendship.
I chose to highlight friendship for the month of October. The subject definitely yielded good engagement, as well as differencing of opinions and experiences. For the most part, it is agreed that friendship is based on positivity, honesty, loyalty, consistency, and trust. But opinions varied to why friendships sometimes struggle in these areas. Again, because, everyone’s experience is different.
My hope in tackling friendship was to help identify the pillars of its foundation, as well as celebrate and acknowledge the need for relationships, boundaries, and self-care. It was not at all meant to somehow blast failed or struggling friendships I’ve experienced over the years. My goal is always to create safe spaces for needed and tough conversations. I govern myself by the same standard.
Friendish vs. Friendship
Through the blogs of the last few weeks, we’ve defined the difference between friendish and friendship. Friendish referring to our regular interactions with colleagues, classmates, church members, and other social acquaintances. Though these people may be seen regularly, regarded as friendly or positive, the difference between them and friends is the bond of consistent trust in a more personal and intimate way.
Unfriending was also addressed, both from a social media and personal standpoint. I shared that my opinion (which some disagree with) is that unfriending on social media is more about processing and avoiding emotional triggers. People have the right to choose who they want to share their personal space and information with, whether in-person or through social media platforms. We should respect each other’s boundaries and not feel entitled to invade or to be privy to space where we are not welcomed.
What about your friends?
Through the last few weeks, I hoped to have provoked some thought as to how we view ourselves and others as friends. We owe it to ourselves to be loved and supported, give love and support, and feel love and support. How do you rate yourself? How do you rate your friends? Wherever you (or they) fall on the scale, just know that it is a scale which can be recalibrated so that it remains useful going forward. In other words, adjustments can be made. All doesn’t have to be lost when a friendship isn’t going well, but it should be identified and addressed so that it can better serve you.
Friendships can feel like rollercoasters; but isn’t that true of life? There are going to be unexpected ups, downs, twists, and turns along the way; but when we reflect back, it will be in those experiences that the thrill of the journey is recognized and appreciated.
As we go into the Holiday Season and soon a coming New Year, cheers to better friendships and to being a better friend. Consider this your friendly reminder. ~ Dawn
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