It’s never been easy for me to make friends. Not as a kid in school, and certainly not as an adult. Of course, I thought it would get easier as I got older, but it never did. Honestly, it used to feel so baffling. Why don’t people like me? Why don’t my friendships ever last? Is this just part of life when you’re in your teens and early 20s? Yes, I felt all the ugh feelings, all the time, but never once did it occur to me that I might just be a lousy friend.
While it was probably a little bit of everything, failing time and time again made me stop and think. Why do I seem to be the only person unable to make friends and keep them? Reflecting back on early friendships the answer was pretty clear. Honestly, I was kind of a lousy friend.
Being a Lousy Friend is Never Intentional
Tessa and I met when we were in college. We both worked at the same place, and because of our school schedule, we also usually worked the same shifts. We grew close bonding over bad bosses and questionable relationship choices. Things were going really well until they weren’t. We hung out here and there, but more often than not, I’d blow her off to hang out with my boyfriend. Yes, I was that lousy friend, and in retrospect, I totally sucked.
Fast forward: Maria and I had been bosom buddies for close to a decade. She helped throw my wedding and baby showers. We called each others’ moms, “Mom.” Our friendship seemed to stand the test of time. She was like a sister to me. Everything was great until the day she told me her long-time boyfriend — whom I’d always despised — was abusing her.
I didn’t react well. Read as: I wanted to smack him with a frying pan, repeatedly, a la Rapunzel in Tangled. Long story short, I got so caught up in avenging her and punishing him that I failed to do the one thing she needed me to do: just listen. If you’re wondering where we are now… Well, she’s never met my daughters, and the oldest is 9.
It’s understandable that I felt protective and wanted to help. But doing what I thought was best wasn’t what she needed from me. I never even asked what she needed, I just assumed. Cue the lousy friend red flag.
My Circle is Small but Mighty
The few friendships I have now look entirely different than those early friendships. It’s not the type of friendship I found that changed; I changed. When things don’t work out, it’s cliche to say it’s not you, it’s me, but in reality, that was the case.
Picking and choosing when to be a friend isn’t friendship. My three ride-or-die friends have been there through it all, the good and the bad. We’ve shared in each other’s joy, and we’ve supported each other in tragedy. Don’t get me wrong, there is a fine line between supporting your friends and letting them walk all over you (but that’s a story for a different time).
True friendship isn’t always convenient or conventional, and it definitely isn’t a one-way street. When you keep compassion, support, and listening front and center, it’s a lot less likely you’ll wind up being a lousy friend or lose those who mean the most to you.