I have written here before about the convenience factor in friendship and the huge underlying role it plays in pretty much all of our friendships. If a friendship becomes inconvenient for one or both parties involved, it will probably end, - and you might not even notice it has ended until the dust settles!
As I have experienced this countless times, I have also noticed a pattern within my friendships that I find unsettling. Perhaps it goes hand in hand with my people pleasing tendencies, but I can recognize how much effort I put into being convenient for my friends.
By this, I mean to say, that usually, I can identify the people in my friends lives, with whom they would rather spend their time… and I am (usually) very understanding and accommodating of this. It may be other friends that I know my friend is closer to than she is to me. It might be family because I know that her kids or her parents take up the most of her social time. More often than not it is her partner.
Say for example her partner works away – I will do my best not to ask for her time and attention when he is home. If she usually spends Friday nights with her friends from work I will never arrange a get together then, even if that would be the best time for myself. If her partner works during the day and she has a day off work during the week, I will accommodate my schedule to see her on that day. If she spends Sunday mornings at church with her parents, I’ll never suggest anything with her on a Sunday before 2pm even if I know the service ends at 10am. Some friends always seem to decline when I initiate at all, so I always wait for them to ask and basically bend over backwards trying to be available when it suits them. Or I will say “Let me know when you want to catch up?”
As I am fortunate enough that I don’t have to work at this point in my life, I am lucky that I can be accommodating for my friends. My husband is very flexible and accommodating of my high social needs and doesn’t stand in my way. This is true even if my time with my friends impinges on our time together as a couple. My husband knows that allowing me to have friendships is essential to my happiness. That he encourages me to have friendships which remind me that I am still a person outside of my role as a wife and mother is a beautiful thing. He knows I often come home happy, and better able to meet the needs of my family when my own needs are met.
I do, however, often ponder what would happen if my circumstances were different. What if I did have to work and was unable to meet my friends on their days off? What if I couldn’t be available to them at times when my husband or family were available to me? What if I was as inflexible as them? What if I was too tired to come out on a weeknight or too hungover to meet up for a Sunday brunch?
I feel like I have to be so patient and flexible and available to them because someone has to be and they never seem to be. They never have trouble telling me no, that my suggestion won’t be convenient. What if I did the same? If I made their friendship feel as inconvenient as they inadvertently make mine feel? You know what I think? I think I would be very lonely. And ultimately I guess that is why I continue to do it.
Do you know what is ironic though? Living my life this way; existing in the cracks of other people’s lives still makes me feel incredibly lonely. There is a certain acceptance that comes with knowing “Yes I have been invited there tonight because her partner is busy, or away, or because someone else cancelled.” However there is also a certain feeling of rejection that comes with it too. That feeling of being the “back up” friend. The second choice. (Or further down the list!) The time filler so that they don’t have to be alone and feel lonely while the person they really want to see is busy. I understand this is all part and parcel of managing friendships and family and relationships. Trying to give everyone the time and feeling like nobody gets enough.
That said, I also understand that my loneliest days tend to fall on the weekends when everyone else is busy with partners and other friends and family. And I don’t see a single person making themselves available when it is convenient for me the way I do for them. While I am happy to be accommodating and fit in with everyone else, I can’t help feeling like it would be nice to be that person that they wanted to spend time with because they enjoyed our friendship and our time together as much as I do. I guess it would be nice to feel like someone is available at my convenience. Is that totally selfish? Yes. But at least it’s honest.
Everybody plays the back-up friend sometimes. I know this. None of us are immune. Question is, where is the compromise? The middle ground? How do you strike the balance? Or do you just keep growing in people’s lives like a weed and grabbing at whatever rays of sunshine you can get through the cracks? Is that the actual definition of friendship as opposed to the back up? Are friendships just the relationships that grow in whatever cracks of time are left in someone’s actual life? Are my hopes too high that both things can be of equal priority?
Your Best Friend ForNever