I think the two reasons relationships fall apart or ‘fizzle out’ is that we can be too proud or too busy to make them work. I’m not just talking romantic relationships here, I mean all kinds of friendships too. When our feelings get hurt or we experience conflict, sometimes our egos and pride get in the way of making choices from a place of love or kindness. We prefer to be right rather than to let people off the hook, and when we get busy we let ourselves off the hook instead of showing up for people when they need us.
The “I’ve been so busy lately” line works, and most of the time it’s very sincere, but I think it’s also a symptom of not prioritizing things. Being too busy or too proud is often not intentional – we don’t mean to stop investing in people – which is why it’s important to be thoughtful about how we engage with our friends, family and significant others. If you stop showing up for people they will stop expecting you too, and that is where breakdown occurs.
We can’t let the feeling of “they should be texting me first or reaching out or pursing this friendship” get in the way of the fact that we have an equal responsibility to show up for our friends, family and significant others.
I had an experience a few months ago that I felt God was using to teach me about loving people. A dear friend of mine and I got into a fight. It was a dumb fight, fuelled by a lot of emotions on both sides. It was a difficult situation because it was someone who I love quite a lot and we ended up not talking for a few weeks.
She asked for space and I was playing the waiting game.
After a few weeks I heard a sermon at church (Nexus in Down Town Kitchener, if you’re wondering) about reconciliation and fixing broken relationships. It emphasized a point that resonated with me deeply, we aren’t meant to walk away from relationships. I believe that we should stay in worthwhile relationships and keep building them and loving people when it’s not ‘easy’. [This isn’t a generalization including unhealthy or dangerous situations, in which case I defer to people making choices about what healthy boundaries they need in their lives].
Sometimes when we meet new people or make new friend’s it’s easy to feel like “wow I never fight with this person” or “this person has never let me down” – but honestly if you feel that way about someone y’all probably aren’t that close or haven’t known each other that long. All long term relationships have rocky patches and that’s okay, what matters is working through them rather than walking away.
“I don’t feel like calling them.”
“I don’t feel like putting in the effort.”
“I am just giving them space.”
These words are all excuses I have made to ignore conflicts or put off reconciling with people who have hurt me at some point. What I have been learning lately is that it’s a lot better to drop the excuses than drop the relationships.
There will be times in your life when you get hurt and times when you’re the one who messed up. I know that when you’re in the position of being at fault, you kind of just wander around with your fingers crossed hoping that things will be okay, but if you have the opportunity to be handing out forgiveness – give out as much as you can.
Before things with my friend got sorted out, I confided in someone that I was pretty torn about the situation and didn’t know what to do. Do I call? Do I give her space forever? I just didn’t know. But the advice I got was this: no matter what you do, make sure you’ve completely forgiven her before you see her. Don’t let any of those hurt feelings linger, and don’t make her jump through hoops. Forgiveness sometimes comes when people apologize, but I think it is also important to come without the apology.
A lot of conflict comes from honest mistakes, miscommunications, and hurt feelings. Don’t let honest mistakes end meaningful relationships.
Loving people and making an effort in our relationships is a choice that we must keep actively making – so why don’t we always choose that? Because it takes effort to check in, to invest in people, to be supportive during their challenging seasons. It’s way easier to say we just naturally drifted or other things came up. And sure, sometimes things do fizzle out naturally, but I think a lot of the time it happens because we don’t feel like investing.
Nothing makes me feel worse than trying to make plans with someone and saying I’m totally booked – the extrovert in me tries to double book my evenings after work and triple book my weekends to see people (yeah, that doesn’t leave time to rest or grocery shop or shower or sleep – that’s a different blog post). But I love having time – time to make plans, time to invest in people, time to be available. Busyness masquerades as a chic thing that makes us fancy and unattainable. I don’t want that. I want to be free for Saturday morning coffee and to be able to answer the phone when someone is having a bad day.
Busyness is the worst excuse, but one that we all make. Yes, life is busy, and yes if you’re juggling a lot of responsibilities it can be hard to connect with people. We all have different things going on that make our lives busy. But the bottom line is that we find time for the things that matter to us.
I heard another sermon more recently at that same Downtown Kitchener Church, and the pastor said we all know community has positive long term benefits but it takes hard work and, since human nature leans towards immediate gratification, we often don’t want to invest or build those relationships. I think the same can be said for why so many of us shy away from conflict. Those painfully awkward conversations about how someone hurt our feelings, or the vulnerability of admitting we were wrong are just as hard as those first interactions of trying to make new first in community.
Our lives reflect our choices – and we have the power to choose to be too busy to be vulnerable.
Making That Choice
Life is messy, relationships are messy, people are complicated and emotional, and sometimes it takes work and awkward conversations to get along with the people we love. But I wholeheartedly believe every bit of that hard work is worth it.
Investing in others takes budgeting that time to be available and intentional and it’s not always easy – but showing up matters. So – what if you don’t feel like showing up? Show up anyway. Be kind anyway. Know that loving people is hard, but do it anyway because the people who love you are also showing up when it’s not easy. And that is what makes it love.
There is this lyric I love in the song Javert by Penny & Sparrow that goes:
“WELL FUCK HOW I FEEL
IT’S A BAD GAUGE OF REALNESS
AND I WOULD LIKE LOVE WHERE
FACTS ARE IN PLACE”
I love this line because I am a very feelings based person. I’m a two on the enneagram and my Myers Briggs has me at eighty-six percent feeling. So yeah, feelings are a big part of my life. But more important than momentary hurt feelings are valued relationships.
Its not always easy to show up or repair damage. I get it, I’ve been on both sides of the conversations; getting over my own pride to be forgiving, or realizing I might need to reach out to someone rather than waiting on them to come to me, I have been both the friend saying I wish we spent more time together and the person hearing that I’m hard to make plans with because I’m so busy.
The truth is, in long term relationships with friends, family and significant others we will go through challenging seasons with people we love. But if we think of those hard seasons as merely a chapter in the stories of our relationships rather than the ending, then I hope you’ll be able to look back and reminisce with many old friends about the good times you’ve shared throughout your lives.
In the last year I’ve been reminded over and over again that working through miscommunication, conflict, and hurt feelings is worth it to continue building sturdy relationships. Pride can get in the way of reaching out but also in the way of reconciliation – and that is just silly. Sometimes, we need to over look our feelings, or let go of grudges, to forgive others so that we can love them. The facts are that nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes, we all hurt and get hurt – often unintentionally, but loving people can always be a choice that we make.