Throughout their short lives I’ve tried to teach my kids that you don’t always have to be in first place. Winning isn’t everything. As long as you had fun, that’s all that matters. As long as you really try, it was worth it. These are wonderful sentiments when it comes to sports or grades, but in the world of relationships, it’s harder for them to find a place. As children we rank ordered the people in our lives quite frequently. There was usually nothing more devastating than finding out you were someones “second best friend”, especially if you considered them your “first best friend”.
Luckily, as adults, this isn’t a problem we frequently deal with. It’s usually pretty easy to figure out where you stand in someone’s life. When we were little we were verbal about it, having no problem shouting to anyone who would listen about our important list of people. As adults, we tend to be more subtle, and actions, rather than words, show all we need to know. When the words do come, they are not surprises. We already could feel the love and understanding through each action, small or large. Effort made. Heart full.
There are those times, of course, that the words and actions don’t match up. There is a disconnection, a breakdown in communication that makes us feel lost and confused. What I’ve found most often is that the words are there but the effort is not. It can usually be broken down into two types of friendships. One of them superficial, at best, and we know that it’s only a matter of time before these friendships are filtered out. The second kind is far harder to break free from, usually because it causes a great hole in our lives that we are not sure we want.
The Superficials: We have the friends that are nice to our face, but tend to lie or tell half-truths (Past post about this) in some sort of effort to feel better about themselves or “seem cooler” to us (sorry for the middle school terminology). While this is less than an ideal friendship, those types of people are easy to spot and even easier to let go when the time comes. Eventually we get fed up being lied to and simply let the friendship dissolve until all we have left is the memories. This is an end we see coming and usually, it’s one we’re ok with.
The Devastators: The other type of disconnect is more brittle and reaches the depths of our core a little more. It’s the people who tell you exactly what they think you want to hear, but only because they’re truly nice people. They know all the right words and they say them at the right times, essentially causing us to believe everything they say. And really, it’s because they just want to make us happy. The trick, as always, is to look deeper, to see how much the actions match these words. In the best kinds of friends, you don’t have to look hard. They match right up. These are the people you want in your life. These are the people you never let go. And then there are the devastating times when they don’t. You keep listening. You keep wanting to believe. You keep hoping the effort catches up to the words. So many times, it doesn’t, no matter how much you want it to.
And when it doesn’t you have a decision to make. Do you stay in that relationship, knowing you are essentially “second place”, a back-up plan only worth half? Or do you simply break free? Which pain do you endure? The pain of staying or the pain of going?