friendship, unrequited.

Flickr Creative Commons: Rebecca.
Flickr Creative Commons: Rebecca.

What’s my badge of honor?

My ability to make, keep and be a good friend to many.

Pinned to the front pocket of my coat, I used to marvel at a seemingly natural ability to consistently maintain friendships despite distance or life stage, lack of common interest or even feelings of obligation.

Given the choice, if I had to choose between having three worthy, true and real friends, and fifty nice, fluffy and occasionally authentic friends, I’d choose the latter. Despite glaring evidence that I wasn’t necessarily able to have and do it all when it came to Being a Good Friend, I boasted needlessly in my capacity to love others well.

Because I knew what it meant to be a good friend: call them, text them, email them.

Pursue the living socks off them.

Be all things to all friends.

Ask a million questions.

Think of them and remember them and love them well …because this, this is what really matters.

And really, it wasn’t always a bad thing, it was just what I did and who I was. Because if I chose you – if I made the conscious decision to invest in your life, to cheer you on and make you feel like a million bucks – then you were one lucky cat.

Friend Whore that I was, I gained another contact for my phone list.

Certainly, there were seasons. In middle school and high school I leapt into the social pool of relationships, shameless in my ability to call myself Friend to every student in my graduating class: the preps, the drama kids, the nerds and the jocks. The druggies, the band geeks, the choir nerds and the no-names, I fit in everywhere and nowhere, all at the same time.

For each group I had a reason and an in, and excuse and a chameleon-like ability to adapt to any people-filled situation.

I calmed down in college, and further accepted that not every friendship was meant for life upon entering the work force. But at my core, I continued to believe one thing: friendships were at my disposal, at my discretion.

I alone held the key to their existence.

That is, until I didn’t.

Sometimes we put our hearts out there, pinning another with friendship’s badge of honor. We select them as a part of Soul’s Society. We invite them into our circle and we call them our own. We name them Our People, we deem them family. We believe ourselves so deeply knit with this person, this Other, that we remain blind to friendship’s need for reciprocity.

We love but are not loved in return, at least not as we want or expect or deserve. Our desires toward friendship are not reciprocated or returned in kind.

It’s friendship, unrequited.

And it can feel like the worst kind of devotion.

We shoot them an email or we call them on the phone. We text them again, again, but a month goes by, or two, or four. We invent excuses for them, for us, but then the confusion turns to frustration, and frustration leads to anger, and all of these excuses, and all of this confusion and frustration and anger remain a cover-up for our hurt.

We’re hurt because we chose them, but they didn’t choose us in return.

We’re hurt because all our old tricks didn’t work on this new dog.

We’re hurt because we’d categorized them as a Lifer, but it wasn’t the same for them. We weren’t their Lifer, their Other, their chosen friend.

We were just another contact in their phone list, one of the fifty.

So I return to the “I” of this post, writing in the personal, remembering that vulnerability is healthy and real and good. As you may know, I’m learning to be – I’m always learning to be – and with friendships that means that I’m learning how to let friendships happen instead of making friendships happen. Just as I’m learning how to be pursued, I’m shedding unhealthy habits and I’m embracing those few who are already in process, present tense embracing me.

Perhaps it’s because I’m realizing that friendships are organic in nature.

They have the ability to grow and flourish and morph into something greater than we ever expected, but they’re not for me alone to dictate.   I don’t always need or get to play my cards.

Instead, I lean into one of the wisest, truest lines ever written in a children’s book: [we are] “…making time for people that like you, that like to like you.”

So that’s what I’m doing: I’m making time for the people who like me, who like to like me.

Maybe you can do the same.

Friendship, unrequited: is there such a thing?  Leave a comment about FRIENDSHIP below, and also check out and join in the conversation at The Other Cara’s synchroblog today!   

23 thoughts on “friendship, unrequited.

  1. Ouch. You have been a sad truthful answer to prayer today, My Friend. Walking away from girls’ weekend last week and sending a text to one of my loves asking, “How come it’s hard to remember why we were friends?” and knowing the answer…. spending the week since KNOWING that I need to weed through my Facebook, “Friends” because the ones that don’t seem to like liking me make me sad and who needs to see that every day? There are PLENTY that like liking me, and plenty I like liking – who needs 685 people liking them??? Seriously, Self, free me of that unnecessary sad. Free me to give more to those that like receiving from me, to receive more from those that like giving to me. Yes. The answer I have been hearing and ignoring all week is YES. It’s time to be OK with those that like liking me and those that don’t. Thank you, Sweet CaraMac.

    1. Yes. In this with you, friend, in this with you. I didn’t go into specifics for obvious reasons ….and won’t here on the wide wide world of internet-dome, for also obvious reasons, but I feel your pain. Let’s free ourselves up to be loved by those who love us in return!

      Cara Meredith

      writer, speaker, musician.

  2. I really get this. Writing this friendship series has brought up a lot of those feelings of trying to fit in, and trying to always be the best friend. I wonder about this sometimes, since our name means “friend” in Gaelic, if we embraced it like a mission? I know I have. I’m learning to let go a little bit, too. To let things happen. To not have it be because of me.
    Thanks so much for linking up, friend!

    1. Yes, Cara, friend and dear one, we live up to our names. “To not have it be because of me” …isn’t it freeing to know that there WILL be people who like us without us needing to do anything to make it happen? Whoosh.

      Cara Meredith

      writer, speaker, musician.

  3. Cara, there is totally a thing such as ‘unrequited friendship.’ I was having a conversation with someone the other day about the fact that not everyone’s going to connect with us or respond to our brilliantness. I’ve had more time to get the memo perhaps than you have (slow learner)–not everybody is the same shade of happy as me. I’d rather go deep than wide…..God always seems to have the last word on that.
    Great post.
    (p.s. visiting from Cara S’s)

    1. Oh thank you, new friend. I am beginning to learn the nuances of friendship, to realize that it just might be better to go deep than wide. Thanks for the encouragement that I’m not alone!

  4. So many good people to know but so little time! I’m with you. I think I can be friends with everyone and sometimes I can be, um, a bit much. But my heart’s in the right place. What I’m finding is that God is very much at work in friendships. These days, I just try to be kind and let God cultivate the friendships. I’ve been blessed with some very dear friendships this way!

  5. I’ve been on both sides of this, aching because my overtures are unrequited and being the one who does not requite. I like how you put that friendships are organic, Cara, because things that grow do unexpected and even unwanted things. Friendship is beautiful, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

  6. The first time I read this, I thought, “Wow, she knows how to make friends that easily”, (with envy) and kind of missed the sadness behind your words–that you were missing something even as you tried hard to befriend. I just struggle so much to think people will want my attention–but sometimes that means I get the gift of people being lovely and reaching out to me anyway. It can be hard or blessed either way–for one who finds it easy to initiate and for one that struggles to. I’m with you, friend! And thanks for being honest here.

    1. Yes. There were about 1 million different thoughts running through my head and not always the clearest parallel from “I know how to make besties” to “but then I began to narrow them down” to “…friendship, unrequited.” Regardless, even if it could have been made clear with a night or two to sit on it, I think (like you’re saying) that you hear my heart in the matter and the sadness behind the words. Journeying toward wholeness!

      Cara Meredith

      writer, speaker, musician.

  7. It’s a hard balance isn’t it? I find myself on the other end of the spectrum in that if “given the choice… between having three worthy, true and real friends, and fifty nice, fluffy and occasionally authentic friends” I’d choose the former. But I always struggle feeling like I’m just not cut out to be “in” with those who I still consider dear, friends, but for whatever reason have remained on the periphery of my life. Of course, this is largely due to the fact that we (or perhaps I) can’t figure out how to keep up with that many people and remain healthy, remain balanced. I love these friends, the ones I bump into and always promise to call and set a coffee date with, the ones I really do long to catch up with, and I even know they love me back, and yet it always seems like we never make much headway. Such a hard spot :/

    But of course, the ones that are truly worth having around, will be the ones who stick around regardless! 🙂

    1. Yes, the good news is that I’m learning to let go of the need for the 50, even if I am still, always prone to it. I yearn for those 3 (okay, or maybe five;), but the three I choose aren’t always the ones who choose me back. It IS a hard spot, no matter what! thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

  8. Coming to you via Cara. Love this! I have totally been thinking this too – the disappointment of the ones we thought were lifers who float away. Totally with you. And ‘friend whore’ made me laugh – i think I am that! I am wondering if I am trying to be a friend to too many right now. It’s HARD, this stuff, isn’t it??

  9. Oh my heart, so wise, so wise. I am not a joiner and not easily in community, but I, too, have had friendship unrequited. And I have had to take the responsibility for having forced things that should have really been left alone. This is hard lesson, but so, so good.

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