What is a good friend? Where do we make friends? How do we keep them?
I've discovered lately that I have very few reliable friends. I have many friends who often want to get together (lunch, movie, or even a phone call) but after plans are made, they always fall through. Some are so notorious at it that when I make plans (such as my lunch plans yesterday), I always have a back up (thank goodness I brought lunch-I knew he would cancel at the last minute).
Is reliability important in a friendship? Does it make a difference if the friend always has a "good" excuse? What is a "good" excuse anyway? What is sufficient?
Is unreliability a good enough reason to disconnect and abandon a friendship? I suppose it depends on what the positives are. It depends on the balance in the Emotional Bank Account (EBA). What? I haven't yet talked about EBA's? Well, here is a good summary of Stephen Covey's EBA's, and a slightly more fleshed out version . I believe every single relationship in our lives has an EBA.
So the truth is that every time someone proves themselves to be unreliable, they are making withdrawals to their EBA. As long as their EBA balance is in the positive, you continue to accept them in your life. But they must double up on the deposits to make up for the withdrawals (to cover the fees and interest...).
So why do we keep friends? What is it that makes a friendship more solid than another?
Unfortunately, I've come to the realization that I have a lot of selfish friends. I'm not sure why. I think I tend to be very supportive and complimentary, and selfish people like that. I also have friends who are totally there when you really, really need them, but when you just need them (i.e. not REALLY, REALLY need them), they are more concerned about themselves. I guess I've let them do that. If they cancel on me, I pretend it doesn't bother me. If they can't carve time out of their busy schedule, I tell them I understand. I make sure they don't feel bad. That's the "People-pleaser" in me. Like a Scorpio (which I am not), I let things fester, bottled up inside, and then when I've had enough, I explode. And then my friends are confused because they didn't see it coming.
I think a lot of it revolves around my trusting nature. I tend to trust people until they prove me otherwise, instead of distrusting until a person has proven themselves to be trustworthy. So if someone gives me an excuse for not being able to spend time with me, I believe that what they are telling me is true. And because they are telling me the truth, I feel I have to be understanding. I don't think about my feelings, I only think about theirs. Which is probably why people who are selfish and have no other friends, love me so much...
I have a friend who is from a small community and has recently been away for a long time (several years). When she returned home, she was upset that the people around her had moved on. Many of her friends had left the community, and the ones who were still there were in very different places in their lives. She felt so alone. But the fact is that when she went away, she changed too. She made new friends, was busy with her new life all the time, and her friends were the ones who felt very lonely at the time. So they moved on, made new friends, moved away, got married, had kids, etc. They didn't resent her for moving away and for enjoying her new life. But they couldn't possibly be expected to stew and brood at home waiting for her either. Again, this is an EBA issue. She made no (or minimal) deposits to those friends' EBA, yet she expected them to keep her credit line open, in case she needed it. My challenge in all of this is that I can't tell her this because it would hurt her. And I can't do that. Because it flies in the face of a People-pleaser personality (and I love her with all my heart and couldn't bear to be the reason for her hurting). Incidentally, during one of her rants about how everyone had abandoned her, I offered to clear my schedule to call her. We planned a call half an hour later. It didn't happen. So I waited. A further half hour later, she said she was tired and wanted to go to bed instead. That was several days ago and I haven't heard from her since.
In fairness, though, I haven't always been the best friend to her, and she has forgiven me. She's been there for me at times when I really needed her. But that was when we lived in the same community, and deposits to each other's EBA's were frequent and plentiful. The withdrawals never brought our relationship into a negative balance because there were so many deposits. Like a regular bank account, if you stop making deposits, you are still charged a monthly fee. So eventually, you'll be overdrawn, and the small deposits won't cut it anymore. Eventually, the bank will just close your account. A friend will end the friendship.
Thankfully, I, as others, have moved on. I have one "new" friend in particular, who is always there for me, as I am for her. Our friendship is golden to both of us. We meet at least once a week. There have been weeks when we've had to cancel, but we usually try to reschedule, or make sure we chat enough during the off days, so that we know exactly how important we are to each other. She does live in the same city as me though, and local friendships are a lot easier to maintain than long distance ones. But local friendships can also be distant (God knows, I have a lot of those), so it's nice to have at least one friend who treats you like you're the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Regularly. And it is reciprocal.
This doesn't mean that I've closed my EBA with my other long-time friend. It just means that I am keeping an eye on the balance. If monthly fees keep being taken out without a couple of good sized deposits, the account will likely close before long. Alternatively, the account may just stay dormant, in the hopes that someday, a sizeable deposit will be made to rectify the balance.
Friends are a funny thing. They come, and they go. Some of them stick around through the good and the bad. One thing is for certain, though. You can't let your self-worth be defined by the people who chose to be or not to be in your life. Nevertheless, everyone has an obligation to look inside themselves to see whether they really are the person they wish to be. If you're not, only one person can change that. You.
Be a good friend.
UPDATE: After having lunch with my former career counsellor (who is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me) I have been enlightened further. Apparently, in Japanese culture, people are seen as falling into 2 different categories: Givers and Takers. I am, it would seem, a Giver. I think my new friend referenced above is a Giver too. A lot of people in my life are Takers. This does not make them bad people-it just explains why they are drawn to me (Why wouldn't a Taker be drawn to a Giver?). I feel this explains a lot...