Friendship and Being in Right Relationship at Midlife
By Silas Rose Aug 26, 2020
How and why people come together in friendship or as lovers is a mystery. In the prime of youth the process of connecting and forming deep bonds seemed almost effortless and occasionally magical. Somehow the right person arrived at the right time to help us through a challenge or to grow in ways that were previously impossible.
However, as we get older the magic inevitably subsides in direct proportion to our evolving abilities to discriminate. We begin to pick and choose our friends more carefully, but not necessarily more wisely.
Confucius was one of the first philosophers to recognize the importance of having good friends. He warned
‘If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room’.
Close friends reflect back to us what we cannot see in ourselves and are willing to save us from our own bullshit. However, what about the people in our life that reflect back and feed qualities we don’t want to see, like our fears and self doubt? Few would consider these individuals as ‘friends’, but we hang on nonetheless because we might feel lost or lonely without them.
Friendship at midlife
The march into middle age is often marked with a dissolution of primary relationships. Parents die, marriages fall apart, friends move away, and careers come to an end.
Whoever or whatever no longer serves the cause of growth is cut from our life without mercy.
The friends we take with us into the second half have survived the test of time and many trials. These relationships are precious because they are impossible to replace. Followers on social media or casual work mates can’t satiate the yearning for the depth and empathy of an old friend.
Sadly, not all friendships survive the transition. It is tempting to bargain for a second chance or to try to negotiate a return to business as usual, but the cost of such a compromise would only delay destiny.
Being in Right Relationship
The notion of being in ‘right relationship’ is prevalent within indigenous cultures. It acknowledges the interdependence of our all our relationships, near and far. If we are out of alignment in one area of our personal, community or work life, all relationships are affected.
It is too easy to blame others for our problems when there is interpersonal friction. Being in right relationship means reflecting on and owning our part in the breakdown of communication, even if nothing can be done to repair the damage.
More often than not the end of a friendship is unceremonious. Rarely is there an opportunity for an exit interview or time to debrief and express regrets or gratitude for what was shared.
It is important to find some closure and mourn the ending of a friendship
Just because a friend is no longer in your life doesn’t mean they don’t still occupy your thoughts. Unresolved and ambiguous endings can weigh on the mind making it harder to form new relationships worthy of your trust.
Letting go can be as simple as writing a letter that voices what was previously unsaid (with kindness and gratitude). They may never read your words or you might decide to not send the letter and instead read it to an empathic ear.
Regardless of the outcome of your attempt to make peace with a friend, your heart will be a little lighter.