Friend was a term I only used to describe the relationships I had to outside people. I never called the people I spent most of my time in and outside of school hours my friends, even the ones I brought around my family. I stopped having friends once my “best friend” in elementary school moved away. My expectations and standards for what a friend was exceeded anything anyone could give or possess, especially as broken little children. Over the years, people called me their friend then found a way to disrespect or violate that. I have allowed people to call me their friend although they never knew how to be a proper friend to me (and I could not be a proper friend to them).
We all have these ideas of what a friend should be, but never set those expectations outwardly. Have you sat your friends down and had a conversation about what you expect in your friends BEFORE a conflict? I didn’t think so. We wait until we are upset or worn thin to tell people what we don’t like and expect more of.
What Happened, Girl?
In 2017, I made the foolish decision to try something I saw on Twitter. One of my Twitter friends said something to the effect of “pour into the people who pour into you.” At the time, it hit me in the chest. How I decided to practice this motto was based on interpretation. I took the “give to get” approach. It left me empty. I was the friend always available. I was the friend that allowed people to come dump their problems. I was the friend continuously dealing out advice.
No one cared enough to know what I was truly dealing with. Calling only to ask how I was because it was the “courteous” thing to do before dumping their problems on me. No one stopped to think how they could be for me what I was for them. Instead, updating me on the new drama of the day, complaining about situations they were never going to change, or making impressions they would resent any notion of later.
When I did have an opportunity to share, I overdid it. I spilled about 90 percent of the ways I felt, explained some of my bottled trauma, and shared even little things most people don’t know about me. I wanted to try a friendship that was open and boundaryless because I never had it. It did not work in my favor. Instead, it was a baggage exchange and my baggage wasn’t handled with the care I thought it needed.
I had enough of being everything to everyone. I was depleted. The only person I could blame was myself (as that is the only person I have control over). I didn’t handle how I was feeling well either. Instead of exploding or telling people how wrong they were, I chose to retreat and did so often. I learned to stop responding to text messages. I started ignoring every other phone call. I kept short conversation, so they got the hint to leave me alone. Though passive aggressive, it is how I always handled things.
How Did You Do It?
If we are being honest: that tweet had nothing to do with how I managed or maintained the relationships I had with people. I had been fostering those types of relationships since I was a child, and how I chose to deal with those relationships continued throughout my life. It was just easier to blame that tweet instead of recognizing my own behavior or the environment I created to allow people to A-town stomp all over my inability to have boundaries.
My boundaries are new. As in, I created these boundaries within the last few months. Since last year, I have been self-reflecting and progressing through what I call my “season of forgiveness.” I start recognizing the older I get, my wants and needs change. Things I would have allowed in my teens and early 20s, I refuse to allow now. People have been granted unlimited access to my time, patience, and words. That unlimited access has been revoked. I now tell people when they are wrong in how they handle me. I refine topics we are allowed to discuss based on person. No longer will drama, partner complaints, or intimate details about my life overpower our conversations.
What is The Lesson in This?
Well, my intention isn’t to encourage you to be closed off and not share. My intent is for you to protect your peace and put your needs first. Needs meaning what you want out of your friendships. How do you begin doing so? These are the steps I am taking: self-reflection, acknowledgement, creating, and implementation.
Of these steps, implementation is the hardest and longest process. It is difficult to actually do what you say, holding yourself and others accountable in the process. It is especially tough when you are used to being treated that way and people are used to treating you that way. It’s a habit, and in order to break habits it is going to take a series of conversations. You have to take it one day at a time and remind yourself why you are doing this in the first place.
Brittnie Applon is a part-time lifestyle writer. When she's not giving unsolicited advice, she spends her days stressing about nothing while watching court shows and Golden Girls.