The Expiration Dates of Friendships

Friendships have expiration dates.

It’s not just the milk in these lattes that goes bad. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Some friendships have a very distinct expiration date.

My good friend wanted me to take her out clubbing. Preferably an LGBTQ club because she (bisexual) wanted to meet someone, preferably a woman, but a regular old dance club would have been good.

I said I didn’t know of any LGBTQ clubs in the area but I was game to go and I would look into it. I didn’t. I prioritized hanging out with my younger, cooler friends. This friend was 20+ years older than me and prone cancelling plans last minute. Plans worked well when I came over to hang out at her house, but we had never tried for something more ambitious like a night of clubbing. Still, I figured we’d go at some point.

She died. We never went clubbing.

***

Some expire more slowly.

My college friends and I talked about meeting up post-graduation. Going to visit, planning a long weekend, clubbing, etc. (sensing a theme?) Only, I wound up spending the better part of my 20s and 30s after college keeping Shabbat. That eats up a lot of weekends.

Not that keeping Shabbat was all bad. I had lots of fun Shabbat experiences with my new observant Jewish friends. You can travel and experience Shabbat in different places, and I did. But Shabbat definitely makes travel more complicated. Somehow, I kept thinking there would be a long weekend, maybe a Thursday night or a Saturday night. But who wants to go out in the cold winter time when Shabbat ends early and Saturday night plans are possible? And in the summer, when Shabbat ends after 9 PM, it gets to be too late to do anything.

My friends grew older. Grew out of touch. Had kids. Grew out of a lifestyle that would have allowed for partying with friends. In a way, I had too.

We’re still friends on Facebook. Technically, nothing stops us from meeting up. It’s just pointless now.

***

Some I throw out before the expiration date.

Like milk or produce that is about to spoil. I do this with most friends who become parents. I say mazal tov and then I stop talking to them. They largely don’t notice because they stop talking to me too. But it makes me feel better to be the one who ends it rather than being the forgotten childless friend that the parent friends with real responsibilities forgot about.

***

Some I wish would expire faster.

With the exception of maybe 2 people, I largely didn’t keep in touch with my local friends during the pandemic. I’ll take responsibility for this, but friendship is a two-way street and they could have reached out too.

Honestly, it was hard to be friends during the pandemic anyway. If I was talking to a friend who has better pandemic circumstances than me, or found silver linings rather than olives, I felt jealous and bitter. If I was talking to a friend who was in a worse situation, I felt guilty. We ran out of conversation topics. There is only so much to say about coronavirus and politics. The depression that I had managed to largely (though not entirely) keep in check pre-pandemic by making enough plans to distract myself raged wildly. I ran out of capacity to reach out to people because I could barely hold a normal conversation. So I stalked my friends on Facebook and their Facebook posts made me realize I no longer really liked many of them.

Facebook “friends” may not really be friends. Image by Firmbee from Pixabay

(In fairness, I liked everyone far less during the pandemic, myself included. Since I started this blog during the pandemic and never met any of you lovely readers before, you’re not part of the “people I like a lot less now”)

Vaccination and reopening rates in my area are such that people are starting to make plans. As if our friendships were merely on pause or cryogenically preserved and ready to be thawed in the spring weather. But to me they feel already rotted.

47 comments

  1. Friendship is complicated. It requires hard work sometimes and expectation management. I had a dear friend who I had known since primary school. But over about four years, for me it just went sour. I can’t explain it easily and a part of me still feels awful for not persisting. But one must find one’s own path. Shrug. It’s the way of humans. Blunder or scamper, a trail we must blaze for our lives.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh wow, I am totally guilty of proactively ending friendships when a friend’s circumstances make a dramatic shift for the better and I feel too jealous and bitter to handle it. (Most of my friends don’t have kids yet, but I can definitely see how that could be just this sort of friendship ender.) If we’re at very different places from the beginning, sometimes it can be ok, but if we start out in sort of a similar position and then things change, game over, usually.

    Once, when I was in college, I stopped being friends with this girl because she had lost a lot of weight and I was jealous (though in fairness we hadn’t been very good friends to begin with). There’s another friend, one I was very close to at one point, who I’ve kind of let drift because her life just seems too good and too easy in virtually all aspects (probably because she has the kind of personality that makes things easy), and I can’t handle it. And don’t even get me started on the havoc this pandemic has wreaked on virtually all relationships in my life.

    I will say I’ve had some friendships I thought were over for good that have revived – but that’s more often been true in cases where there’s been some kind of dramatic friendship breakup than where things have just faded over time.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I am that person with sickeningly amazing circumstances who still manages to vent, complain, and be unhappy. I try not to sound that tone-deaf and I still have people seemingly willing to hang out with me. But I really get this because I hate this in other people, even though I am guilty of it myself. Maybe these friend and I deserve each other?
      That is impressive to bounce back after a dramatic friend break up! I’m not sure I know of anyone else who has done that. Maybe my sister and cousin, but that’s family so doesn’t really count

      Liked by 2 people

      • My circumstances are really not that bad, objectively speaking, but I’m a huge complainer nonetheless. I’m trying to work on being less bitter and jealous, and being happy for people when good things happen to them even if good things are not happening to me, but it’s HARD.

        I guess there’s really only really been one time when I’ve had a friendship recover from a dramatic breakup. We had been very close, and I think the breakup was mainly a result of us both being crazy and our various mental health issues colliding in an unfortunate way at an inopportune moment.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Man I love this post! I don’t feel so guilty now. I am absolutely terrible about maintaining friendships. I often wonder what’s wrong with me. But it seems it’s a common occurrence. I do wish I had done better in many past situations, but what’s done is done. Anyway, it’s hard to keep up friendships when your lives diverge. I guess it’s no one’s and every one’s fault.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First, my condolences on the death of your friend.
    Second: “forgotten childless friend” -yup, this has been my issue for decades now, and as a mostly single woman, even more so.
    Hence my search for community to replace family, which everyone seems to have prioritized to the nearly entire exclusion of those of us with no families.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Unfortunately, most friendships are based upon the ‘What can the other person can do for me?’ concept. Once use for the other person ceases, the friendship ends. This isn’t real friendship. I’m an older person, don’t want to say how old, 🙂 , and I can say that I have only 3 or 4 friends that are truly friends. The rest I call ‘acquaintances’.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. […] against his cheeks and shade his eyes. I have been thinking a lot about friendship after reading Jewish Young Professional’s recent post and I value this little white dog for the uncomplicated love he demands and returns. His gentle […]

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the honesty in this. I’m guilty of not maintaining friendships too, although I hope I’m not transactional about it. You make an excellent argument that friendships have expiration dates – too often I feel guilty for not keeping up with people, but I guess it just isn’t reasonable to expect (many? any?) friendships to last forever.
    The distinction between “friendly” and “friends” is also important. As a teacher, “firm, fair, friendly” (in that order) are appropriate for me – being friends with students is not. Sometimes it’s tricky with colleagues though – a couple of times I’ve been invited to socialise with colleagues who I am always polite and cordial to but I do not want to be friends with. I’ve always made an excuse as I’m not game enough to be completely honest and just say I don’t want to – that’s where having kids comes in handy 🙂 .

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s another good point re: coworker friendships – they are a whole other can of worms! I moved from being friends with coworkers (that I didn’t keep in touch with) to being friendly, but not friends with coworkers. I now find myself contemplating a job offer that would require a relocation, such that the only people I would know in that area would be current and former coworkers – odd to think of the coworker-friend transition and whether it should happen in the first place (especially, as not all friendships can or will last)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think it’s best to allow what is to be what it is. If you have friends, enjoy those times. If the friendships end for whatever reason (People moving, changing life circumstances, growing apart, or whatever…), then they end for whatever reason. Then, not being angry, we find others. Hopefully, along the way, we have a couple we still enjoy the company of. Simple, if we allow it.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Sometimes, friendships end because we, ourselves, change as well, and the other person now sees a different person looking back and them. I suppose it goes both ways. When friendships are early, both people are only looking at what they want to see, praising each other inwardly, but I don’t think, at that time, we’re really seeing the other: not yet. But, if a friendship ends, that doesn’t mean all is lost. You can still wish them well, then go about your life, letting the other person figure things out for themselves. True friendship doesn’t seek to hold onto, but always to be honest, as I see it.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. What a profoundly sad post. My loneliest time was when I had my first child despite having a very loving family and a husband. But my childless friends would have nothing to do with me and I didn’t know anyone with children. I had very little money. I would spend my days drinking one extremely cold cup of coffee with my daughter in a pushchair but my side. Eventually some workmen who came every day for their lunch would chat with me. One of them, a Croatian, actually took the time to sit with me and talk to me, about his son and family back home. That was forty years ago. About ten years ago he recognised me in a supermarket, and introduced me to his son!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing a perspective from the other side. The reality is we never really know what’s going on in someone’s life or mind.

      I find two emotional blocks to making/continuing friendships with friends who have children. One is the fact I’m really angry about the fact that I don’t have and may never have children. I have enough social graces not to dump this anger directly onto someone who is so blessed (which is why I dump it all here on my blog), but I’m not in a space where I can get enjoyment out of an auntie-like role or sympathize with the challenges of child-rearing.

      The other emotional block is that I feel like I’ve been disrespected and treated badly by my friends who have children, such that I’ve put up limits for my own protection. I don’t expect friendships to be able to continue on the terms they had before. I understand last-minute cancellations and lateness. But what I can’t deal with is the condescension from my friends with children, like that nothing in my life is important or that I’m a loser because I don’t have kids. I’ve been made to feel too small and too unimportant too many times to be so willing to make the effort to keep in touch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is really sad. My daughter who is 41 does not want children. She never has done. She is getting married to a man who already has children so it’s not an issue for him. She gets a lot of adverse comments too, though not from family. It’s not an issue for us at all. I always wanted children but got to a point quite quickly when I thought I couldn’t. I had several investigations and then suddenly boufffe I was pregnant. But then I was earthshatteribgly lonely. My mum and dad worked. My husband was out most evenings building our new house by hand. Awful. But the worst was not being able share my experience with anyone. My childless friends were working. I hated all the playgroups and enforced sociability. Just remembering now I used to go to the park a lot. I was an old first time mother – then- I was 27. My companions in the playground were either teenaged single mothers or grandparents. So yes. I understand your position. It must be horrible to want something and to be able to share your feelings. Your blog is obviously resonating with a lot of people so I hope it helps. Try not to judge peoples happiness though by the smiles on their faces. At my lowest ebb I was always told what a wonderful smile I had and how serene I looked!

        Like

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