Working to Keep the Spark Alive is a Thing in Friendships Too
Earlier this afternoon, I went on a bestie date with one of my closest friends, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s probably the most “Sex and the City” thing we do in our late 20’s, and I forever know that our inner teens would be proud of us. As one of my few friendships that’s weathered the times, I’ve often wondered what helped us make it past the 10 year milestone of friendship.
I joke with others that there are 3 main times that you lose and/or remove friends from your life, in your 20’s. For me, it was immediately after undergrad, 25, and approaching 30… and considering I’ve not yet made it to 30, it’s very possible other renewals and removals will happen in the future.
Some Friendships are Temporary & That’s Okay
One of the most gut-wrenching experiences is coming to grips when people you thought would be with you forever, are suddenly not a part of your story anymore. Successes don’t always feel as sweet, and full circle endings don’t quite resonate with new friends in the same way it would’ve with your “ride or dies”. At first, losing one of these friendships, feels like losing a little piece of you; suddenly or subtly having to release the versions of you two that first met, and found bliss together as friends. Just as with anything else, you enter what feels like a mourning period of releasing that friendship, your intertwined dreams, and the many gazillions of memories.
As opposed to a romantic partner, who you ultimately intend to replace over time, losing a best friend doesn’t often have a clear cut recovery or healing route. You may not feel comfortable speaking or opening communication; things may have ended explosively or in an ugly confrontation, and as time goes on, you may realize you’ve lost a one of a kind friendship that you may not find again.
Truth be told, sometimes we’re at fault for these endings, other times (and what is typically the case) you both have your faults and reasons as to why things went south, and occasionally, neither of you are at fault. Regardless of the ending, it’s a great time to remember that relationship hygiene, having fun and exchanging interests, and loving communication are at the core of thriving relationships (romantic, family, etc.)
Why should this change at all between friends? Ever since introducing “friend dates,” I’ve embraced longer-term, and better-quality friendships in my life. It varies between people, but as of late, I value radical honesty, consistent check-ins, and lemon squeezes.
What the Hell is a Lemon Squeeze?
Alright, let’s flashback to circa 2012, my freshman year of Spelman College with GROWN Founder, Kaya Nova. As freshman year roommates, we shared friendships with many other students on our floor. As you can imagine, the combo of hundreds of new students, new moves, and parties, not to mention classes, we had many things competing for our time and energy. And needless to say, especially at our young age, open and consistent communication, emotional intelligence, and the like, were not quite our strong suits. At one point, when tensions felt like they were at an all-time high, Kaya recommended we do what’s called a lemon squeeze.
Every couple of months, or whenever there was a major conflict between 2 or more of us, we would all come together in our dorm area, snacks in hand, ready to squash it all with a lemon squeeze. We’d approach it with anything we’d been holding onto, deliver our feelings with love, LISTEN to each other, and provide helpful and healthy feedback to one another. Especially by the end of each chat, it felt like we’d renewed our communication and understanding of one another. So who’s to say we can’t apply this in our adult lives, with family members who’ve rubbed us the wrong way, friends we feel slipping away, and even just to hold ourselves accountable?
A lemon squeeze is just one approach, other ways to stay accountable are regular therapy sessions, journaling out of routine or spontaneously, and increasing the self-care when experiencing heightened emotions. Adult friendships, I’ve learned, just require more work, to begin with. With all of the life-changing people and phases we’ll encounter, we just need to do more self-work, boundary-setting, and communicating.
I recently learned a new affirmation “soft front, hard back,” that to me symbolizes approaching the world with fearlessness and courageousness. This is perhaps the easiest way to approach both new and older relationships; with an open heart, ready to give, receive and learn, but with a back strong enough to speak up, remain true, and hold each other accountable. It’s the utmost balance, and I’ve learned that some of us don’t even make the effort to find it. Don’t be that person.
Are On-Screen Friendships Just Fake AF?
Regardless of who your favorite on-screen girl group is, you’ve seen them weather the ups and downs that come with adulting, uncomfortable growth, and Puberty Part 2. Sticking to 20-somethings, “Girlfriends” is a great example; four best friends who are thriving in their own right, and failing in others, navigate dating and growing together. The famed toxic friendship between Joan and Toni was one of the first times I watched a friendship play out, whose outcomes made me cringe. Those two had weak boundaries at best, continued to give each other a million choices, and at one point, spent several episodes not speaking, only to resolve the conflict and continue on.
In a more mature, but just as fabulous example “Sex and the City,” and the new follow-up show “And Just Like That,” we find that one of the most iconic characters in the series, Samantha Jones is absent from the cast. There are layers to this, knowing that in real life it’s rumored the cast-mates fell out, and that in the show, a very delicate issue is the reason for Sam and Carrie’s falling out. It really is that easy, especially as we get older, to lose someone who’s spent decades by our side.
My greatest takeaway from gaining, maintaining, and losing friends throughout my 20s is that your friendships should evolve and grow with you. Hollywood can’t possibly personify this well; television is static, scripted, and predictable. And it’s ultimately a disservice to yourself to have false expectations of easygoing relationships forever.
Be firm in your expectations of those you pour into, accountable to yourself, and a great listener to those you love. And most importantly, be flexible and allow people to ebb and flow within your life. Intention is half the battle, so I encourage you to make the choice to be a good friend; it won’t be easy, but it will certainly be worth it.
As a life-long media lover, GROWN Editor in Chief, Naomi Brooks has garnered years of experience across mediums: Digital & Print Publications, Social Media, Communications, and Television. As a proud Spelman graduate, she leads our writing team, feel free to send any pitches or requests to firstname.lastname@example.org