We’ve all been there. You meet someone and you click almost instantly. You find the same things funny, have the same interests, can talk about anything, and look forward to getting together. It seems like you found your best friend, another part of yourself.
But then it happens. Maybe a year later, maybe five, maybe twenty. But one day you realize that maybe you don’t have so much in common anymore. Or maybe it’s the realization that you never had that much in common to begin with. You only thought you did because the things you had in common when you met were such a big part of both your lives at the time – kids, a job, a specific interest.
Sometimes it’s a little different. Sometimes what happens is you begin to see a different side to that person. They’re no longer the fun, amazing person you thought they were. Now they’re mean, spiteful or you find out they’ve been gossiping about you behind your back to someone you don’t even know. Or they start sharing opinions about something that you realize fits you – and those opinions put the two of you on very different sides of an issue that can’t simply be ignored for the sake of friendship.
For me, the realization started rather slowly, like a slow drip from a faucet, before coming all at once, as if that faucet shot off the sink and water sprayed everywhere. It was just little things at first, little comments and quick remarks that struck me wrong, but I ignored. I ignored them partly to keep peace and partly because I couldn’t be entirely sure how they were intended – they were written online or in text, and as we all know, it can be hard to read the intended emotion behind the words we read.
But things gradually got worse. The things being written were soon written in such a way that it became clear that they knew exactly what they were saying. A condescending tone soon became evident, an attitude that they knew more than me.
It didn’t take long after that for things to go offline and the situation started affecting our actual lives. That was the moment the faucet flew off and water went everywhere.
Once that happened, I learned I wasn’t the only one who saw this person the way I was suddenly seeing them. Other people had seen things, heard things, wondered about things. Other people had had issues with this person. It was reassuring, in a way, to get confirmation that I wasn’t crazy. On the other hand, it was also frustrating that it had taken me so long to finally realize there was an issue.
But the benefit of taking so long to realize there was an issue is that I had the time to decide how to deal with the situation. I had the time to think and consider options if it ever reached this point. No longer do I wonder if I should confront this person. Based on their attitude and the way they say and do things, I know confrontation would be pointless. They will never see the issue and they will only claim that I am the problem, not them.
Due to the circumstances, the friendship has evolved on its own to a different sort of relationship. Physical distance has already changed it, putting us in a situation where our contact is already limited. That limited contact is already growing more infrequent, and it’s become clear (to me, at least) that this relationship will die a natural death all on its own, given a little more time.
It was a learning experience for me, but it’s also been a chance for me to give my kids a learning experience, too. I’ve been able to show them that not all friendships are meant to last, and that it’s okay to realize that you and another person are just too different to remain friends. I’ve been able to show them how to gracefully accept that a friendship is fading away and to just as a gracefully let it go. I’ve been able to help them see that not every situation requires a confrontation and that sometimes it’s better to simply acknowledge in your own mind and heart that something is wrong and do no more. We don’t have to fix everything and just because we disagree with someone doesn’t mean they need to be fixed – it just means it’s time to move on.
This is where homeschooling has really helped us. If my kids were still in public school, I would feel obligated to tell them they had to be friends with kids in their class, even if they didn’t like them, simply because that’s how public school works. You get put in a class with people who are roughly your age and live in roughly the same geographic area and you’re expected to be friends with them. There is no room for not liking each other, because the teacher will insist you have to be friends.
Yet, because we homeschool, I don’t have to teach my kids that. I can teach them, instead, exactly what I’m teaching them: that it’s okay not be friends with someone, that it’s okay to back off from a friendship or even to end it, and that while you need to be civil and polite if you run into them or have mutual friends, you don’t have to continue a friendship that isn’t working for you just because they’re there.
What’s been your experience with friendships that have turned sour? Were you able to just gracefully back away and let it die a natural death? Or did you have to spell out for the other person that you no longer wanted to be friends? Did they force you to do that or was it your choice? How did you feel about doing it?
What have you taught your kids about friendship? Do you feel homeschooling has increased or decreased the quality of their friendships?