Change is an essential but sometimes painful aspect of life. The reason it’s essential is because it forces us to grow
Hi, my name is Avigayil. You’d think living next door to one of your closest friends would be the greatest thing ever, right? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you’re WRONG.
I’m in ninth grade. Ever since I was little, Shoshana and I have been neighbors. We’ve always gone to the same school, the same camps, even gone to the same doctors and dentists. Our families are very close, and we are very close, and I don’t just mean because we share a driveway.
There were no issues until this year when we hit high school. Obviously, we’re both attending the same school, but the student body is much larger. And believe it or not, I’ve made some new friends — friends who are not also friends with Shoshana. At school, things feel the same, because we’re always together in the same group of girls. The problem is when I want to make my own plans.
The first time Shoshana saw one of my new friends walking up my front steps, I naturally invited her to come along. I guess it was bound to happen. It’s hard to miss anything if you live six feet away from each other.
The next time it happened, I felt a small twinge of annoyance. Like, wasn’t there a concept of not hanging out with each other all the time, maybe spending time with other people for a change? But I could see no way around it. I wasn’t about to say anything and hurt Shoshana’s feelings. She is my best friend, after all, and I know she’s having a harder time fitting in at school than I am. But it’s now become a given that anytime someone comes over, Shoshana comes too, and I’m getting sick of having her around as a third wheel everywhere I go.
It’s not like I don’t want to stay friends with her. I do. I will always care about her and consider her one of my closest friends. But I’ve started feeling like I need space, physically and emotionally. I don’t want this to ruin our friendship, but I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what to say to her. My other friends don’t dislike her, but lately I’m getting the feeling that they’re getting tired of having her around all the time, just like I am. How can I make her realize that instead of strengthening our friendship, this constant togetherness is weakening it?
Hi. My name is Shoshana. I have a best friend named Avigayil, who also happens to be my neighbor. She is the greatest friend I could ever ask for. I’m so lucky to have her and glad that we always go to the same schools and camps so that we’re always together.
Since we were really young, we have never been apart. When we were nine years old and Avigayil proposed going to sleep away camp, I cried my eyes out until my parents let me go too. Our houses have an open-door policy — hers is mine and mine is hers. Our mothers are really close, we spend Shabbosim alternating meals between our two families, and we plan Chol Hamoed trips together. We’re like one big family that happens to live in two different houses. I’ve always been thankful to have a friend that’s like a sister, partner in crime, and a buddy all in one. It’s been great, baruch Hashem.
When we first started high school, I wasn’t as comfortable with all the new girls as Avigayil was. She was always more popular than me. That never really bothered me until this year. Now a lot of girls want to make plans with her, and she wants to spend time with them too.
I admit that I am feeling a bit possessive over Avigayil. I mean, she’s my best friend. We go way back, and these girls have nothing on me when it comes to being Avigayil’s friend. So why am I sensing that Avigayil is distancing herself from me? Does 15 years of friendship suddenly not mean anything?
She does her part. Whenever she has a friend over, she invites me too. If she doesn’t, I make sure she sees me from the window, so she’ll remember to ask me. That’s the neighborly thing to do, right?
Her invitations are starting to feel less and less gracious. What’s the problem? It’s not like anything is different between us. Our lives are exactly the same as they were a year ago. I haven’t changed, except for maybe being a little more shy than usual.
I miss my friend. I miss when it used to be just the two of us. I don’t want to lose her to these new girls who barely know her. Is it too much to ask that our friendship stay the same as it’s always been?
Dear Avigayil and Shoshana,
I am so happy for you both for the beautiful friendship that you share!
Recently I had an opportunity to speak to a large audience on the topic of social skills. I started off the presentation asking them to think about any long-term friendships that they have. Once they had someone in mind, I asked them how the friendship worked.
Most of our friendships are context dependent and don’t necessarily generalize to other areas of our lives. For example, my camp friends were my friends as long as I was in camp. My best friend from seminary and I were inseparable and had the best year ever! We had crazy Shabbos experiences, traveled all over, did chesed together, went to the Kosel for 40 days, and ate out way too many times. We maximized every minute and did everything together. Then we came home… and didn’t keep in touch at all. When my daughters look at my seminary album they ask me, “Who is this girl in every picture? You never talk to her or about her.” Meanwhile, girls that I was less friendly with ended up living in my neighborhood or working with me, so we picked up our friendship, and it’s stronger than it ever was.
So what makes forever friendships different? Sometimes we’re lucky to have a friendship that spans a long period or even a lifetime. I am blessed to have a friend who is actually part of a multi-generational friendship. Our grandmothers were friends, our mothers are friends, we are friends, and now our children are friends!
Back to my audience. The answer that most participants gave regarding the workings of their successful friendships was that they change. They allowed the relationship to change, and therefore, it survived. My best friend from seminary and I were used to a friendship where we saw each other every day. Once we flew home to our different locations and that was no longer possible, our friendship immediately ended. If we were open to change, and we would have started schmoozing on the phone, or set up a weekly learning time, or monthly get-togethers, we might still be friends today.
Change is an essential but sometimes painful aspect of life. The reason it’s essential is because it forces us to grow. Look at this period of change as an opportunity to grow. The core ingredients of your friendship don’t need to change. The loyalty, kindness, comfort, and compatibility can endure. The external trappings might have to change, like the frequency of your get-togethers and the exclusiveness of the friendship. It takes maturity and strength to allow a friendship to stay strong while still giving it space to change.
Avigayil, you can inform Shoshana beforehand that you are inviting a few girls over but it’s to finish studying what you started in school so you are not inviting her to join. Explain to her that you value her friendship but still want to explore other friendships. Those two points are not contradictory.
Shoshana, you say that you feel possessive. Possessiveness does not work in a friendship. It makes a person feel trapped. The harder you try to hold on to the friend, the farther they run. Give her space, and take the time to deepen other relationships that you have. You can also look at high school as a time to invest in yourself. Figuring out what you enjoy and where you can contribute actually makes you better friend material.
Navigating this new change might be hard, but it’s well worth the effort. You have a beautiful friendship, and even if it looks different on the outside, it can remain strong and become a forever friendship.
Mindy Rosenthal M.S., BCBA/LBA, teaches social skills, executive function skills, and other skills to incredible children, teens, and their parents. She is also the lucky director of student services at Ilan High School and consults nationally and internationally on social skills, executive function, and behavioral programs. She can be reached through Teen Pages.
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 878)
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