Have you ever heard of the expression “Fair weather friend?” It refers to a person who is only a good friend in times of positivity in your life, but cannot be relied upon during times of emotional storms, negativity or difficulty in your life. I tend to question if these people aren’t really more friendly acquaintances than friends… surely they are there, emotionally, for the few they feel close with? Alas, we can only really judge someone by our experiences of them, and it is true to say “when the going gets tough the tough get going.” (Sneaky Billy Ocean Reference there… just because I can! Showing my age much!! Haha)
So, according to the urban dictionary, the opposite of this phenomenon, is called a “Foul weather friend.” This refers to a friend who is always there for you in the hard times, offering endless support, guidance and a shoulder to lean on. These people are always empathetic and willing to commiserate, yet somehow, when your luck improves, they aren’t around anymore. Looking back through the dust of the friendships in my history, I started to wonder…. Am I a foul weather friend?
It’s not lost on me that many people seem to turn to me in times of need. I never shy away from the real stuff, and do tend to believe that being there for one another through the difficult times is the crux of deep friendships, bringing us emotionally closer to one another. I also can’t deny that there is a certain pleasure (however dark) that comes from being wanted and needed. When you know what someone wants and needs to see, it is much easier to show it to them. I tend to view myself as a pretty empathetic person so it comes naturally to me to provide that type of support to a person in need. So, what happens then, when the situation changes and the person is no longer in strong need of support?
Is that when I exit stage left?! Maybe it is?! Ouch. The thing is, it doesn’t always play out that way, and it isn’t always my choice. Sometimes, the other person pulls away from me when things get easier for them. After all, they associate me now with the harder times, and it can be hard to find things to talk about when the main topic of conversation before was “the crisis.” It isn’t uncommon for me to then find I am cast aside in favour of more fun, light hearted company. Namely, their fair weather friends! It also isn’t uncommon for these friends to yoyo back to me when they find themselves in stormy seas again. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that while these people were in a time of need, my level of friendship was comforting for them, however as they reached a healthier place and their need for me waned, they began to feel smothered by that same level of intensity. It’s a delicate balancing act on both sides I suppose.
Other times, it might be me who pulls away. It might be because I am exhausted, or because something has happened that caused me to change the way I see and subsequently feel about that person. Usually though, it is because the person in question has proved themselves to be unable to be there for me in my harder moments. I don’t expect someone can and will be there for me just because I was there for them, however, I think it is fair to move away from people who can’t be there for you. It is usually in favour of people who can be there.
A friendship that begins in crisis mode, or blossoms there, feels deep and meaningful. Once the crisis has resolved however, the small talk which was overlooked before in favour of deeper more pressing issues, can feel empty and meaningless. It can even be painful for both parties to endure as they struggle to understand how such a weighty friendship can suddenly feel so empty. Essentially, sometimes the friendship served its purpose, and it is ok to let it go.
The most important thing to learn from all this is balance. Even if a friendship is in a heavy place, please make time to share lighter moments together. If your friend is having a tough time, don’t protect her from having to be there for you because you don’t feel your problems compare to her own. You will be doing your friendship a big disservice. Talk about the big things and the little things and everything in-between. Keep up to date on the day to day happenings, spend time going to fun places, and make room in all the areas of your life, not just the dark ones. It’s not a competition, but try and make sure you are each giving as much as you are getting, listening as much as talking and reaching out in roughly equal amounts.
Lastly, be grateful for your fair weather friends, and your foul weather friends, because we all need different things from different people at different times in our lives. I believe a good strong lasting friendship will be able to be both, but if it cannot, each of them still has their value.
Instead of focusing on what you get from your friendships, focus on what you give. A friend in need is a friend indeed, but a needy friend drives you round the bend! Find the balance people!
Your Best Friend ForNever