Can we be friends with those who are in ‘different seasons’ than us?
Do you ever find yourself saying or hear others saying, “Well, after my friend got married/had a baby/had her 3rd child/(fill in the blank), we just didn’t connect well anymore because we were in different stages/seasons of life” ?
I used to say similar things. I try not to anymore.
I think letting a friendship go because of ‘season differences’ is … well, a bit lazy. Don’t get me wrong – I know there is truth to the fact that there are some profound areas that single folks cannot connect with married folks on, or those without children cannot connect with mothers about (to just name a few ‘seasonal differences’). But it can drive me crazy when someone in one of these camps writes off a friend or a potential friend simply because they can’t share certain experiences, however central to their current life stage, with them.
In my opinion (which, due to the beauty of this being my blog, I can freely express ;)), deciding you now have less in common with a friend and are not going to do the hard work of figuring out how to continue to relate to him/her is either due to a different reason which you’ve decided to call ‘seasonal differences,’ or … you are just not willing to do the hard thing.
One of my greatest friends, Michelle, and I met our 2nd year of college. We continued to become better friends during our 3rd year (in which we started nursing school together) and we even were roommates for one semester prior to her getting married halfway through our senior year. Her getting married changed our friendship – and it should have. Her first priority had to be her husband, not me. I experienced a sense of loss, but was excited for her and we continued to be friends. However, it became a bit more difficult at times to relate because, as we got older, I remained single while she started having children (#1 and #2). By that point, we were not able to share some huge experiences – motherhood and being married. It was easy for me to say,“well, we’re in such different stages of life – we just can’t really relate anymore.” But then I realized something – of course I couldn’t understand being married or being a mom because I was not at that point in my life. But … what was keeping me from asking her questions to help me better understand some of her daily struggles and joys? And what was keeping me from sharing some of mine with her, as the experience of being a single woman in her late 20s would never be something she would experience? In other words, I could either say to myself, “Well, she would never understand my struggles and daily life,” or I could help her to understand them (and vice versa).
Sure, it would take me out of my comfort zone to do so, but, so what? Since when are the best things usually the easiest things? I remember that mindset change being such a huge thing for me regarding my friendship to Michelle. And you know what? Looking back at how our friendship has evolved and seeing what a dear, dear friend she continues to be to me makes me so grateful. Grateful that I decided not to simply give up on something so precious because life seasons changed. Grateful that she didn’t do the same.
Let me be clear – I think there are certain seasons for certain friendships … I believe a friend for life is a rare thing. I am not saying you should work hard to maintain each and every one of your friendships as life seasons change. However, I am saying that, whether you are meeting someone for the first time or have a friend whom you have had for several decades, don’t simply assume you cannot be/continue to be great friends because you may be in different stages of life from each other. Be willing to do the hard work of trying to understand where the other is at in life. And if they’re willing to do the hard work as well, be willing to help them understand where you’re at in life.
It will be worth it.
I love you, Michelle! I look forward to many more years of sharing life with you …